IV. CHRIST OUR COMING LORD.
"I will give him the morning star." Rev. ii. 28.
The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is a distinct and important part of the Apostolic Gospel. "I declare to you the Gospel," Paul says to the Corinthians, and then begins to tell them of the Resurrection and the Second Advent. It is, indeed, good news to all who love Him and mourn the sins and sorrows of a ruined world.
It is the glorious culmination of all other parts of the Gospel. We have spoken of the Gospel of SALVATION, but Peter says our salvation is "ready to be revealed in the last time." Then only, when we stand amid the wreck of time and secure upon the Rock of Ages,
"Then, Lord, shall we fully know,
Not till then, how much we owe."
We have spoken of SANCTIFICATION, but John says: "When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, and every one that has this hope in Him, self-purifies, even as He is pure." And we have spoken of DIVINE HEALING, but Paul says: "God has given us the 'EARNEST' of the resurrection in our bodies now," and Divine healing is but the first-springing life of which the resurrection will be the full fruition.
So that the truth and hope of the Lord's coming is linked with all truth and life, and is the Church's great and blessed hope. In the very beginning of human history God placed this great hope before His children. In the hour when humanity fell from Paradise, God erected in that fallen Eden in the majestic figures of THE CHERUBIM, the prophecy and symbol of human's future glory. The faces of the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle, were the types of royalty, the strength, the wisdom, and the lofty elevation to which redeemed people were to rise in Jesus. These figures run through all the dispensations. They are God's portrait of His redeemed child after redemption's work is done. God sets before Himself and before us His sublime ideal for his future, and He will never rest till it is fulfilled. It is, therefore, well that besides the Gospel for the present, we should understand, and live under the power of THE GOSPEL OF THE FUTURE and the blessed and purifying hope of Christ's glorious coming.
1. WHAT WE MEAN BY CHRIST'S COMING.
We do not mean His coming to the individual Christian's heart. He does thus come most truly and graciously, and this is the blessed mystery of which we have already spoken in connection with our sanctification. It is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." But this is not His second coming. Some persons are ready to say, with a great show of spirituality, I have the millennium in my heart, and the Lord in my heart; let those who have not, speculate about a material coming. Well, Paul had the Lord in his heart, and a millennium as near to the third heaven as these persons will probably claim; and John was about as near his Redeemer's heart as any of us can ever expect to get on earth; but they did speak and write in terms like this: "Then we which are alive, and remain to the coming of the Lord, shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." "We "We know that when He shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory." "Behold, He comes with clouds, and every eye shall see Him. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Indeed, the more we know Jesus spiritually, the more will we long for His personal and eternal presence in the fuller and more glorious sense which His personal advent will bring.
We do not mean His coming at death. It is doubtful whether He does really come for us at death. Lazarus is represented as borne by angels into Abraham's bosom; and Stephen at his glorious departing saw Jesus in heaven on the right hand of God, rising, it is true, to receive and honor His faithful servants, but not coming for him personally. The contrasts between death and the Lord's coming are very marked. We are not told to watch for death, but are delivered from its fear, but we are to watch for the Lord's coming. Death is an enemy; His coming a welcome visitation of our dearest friend. Death is a bitter bereavement to the heart; the Lord's coming is the very consolation of the bereaved, and the antidote of death. If death and the Lord's coming were identical, then the apostle would have said to the Thessalonian believers: "I would not have you ignorant concerning them that are asleep, that you sorrow not as those that have no hope, for the Lord has come for them, and will soon in like manner come for you in death, and you shall be sweetly united in death once more." Does he say that? No! But he does say: "The Lord shall DESCEND FROM HEAVEN *** and THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE first, and then we that are alive shall be caught up together with them, to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall be ever with the Lord." It is not death he points them to, but that which is to overcome death, and of which he says in writing to the Corinthians: "Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'" If the Lord's coming is to swallow up death in victory, it is very certain that it cannot be the same thing, or it would swallow up itself.
We do not mean the spiritual coming of Christ through the spread of the Gospel and the progress of Christianity. This is nowhere recognized in the Bible as the personal coming of Christ. "Behold, He comes with clouds, and EVERY EYE SHALL SEE HIM, and they also which pierced Him, and ALL KINDREDS OF THE EARTH SHALL WAIL BECAUSE OF HIM." Now, that is not the way they do when they receive the Gospel. They rejoice. But now they are startled and discouraged. And they cry, as represented in another place, to the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. So, also, the angels, speaking of this event to the eleven disciples, say: "This same Jesus SHALL SO COME IN LIKE MANNER AS YOU HAVE SEEN HIM GO INTO HEAVEN." This cannot be the publication of the Gospel, but must be HIS PERSONAL, VISIBLE, AND GLORIOUS APPEARING. The Gospel is to be widely diffused; His truth is to prevail; His cause is to triumph, but He is coming personally, and He is infinitely more than even His truth and cause.
2. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE MILLENNIUM?
Some persons have stated that the doctrine of the millennium is a modern invention, and that the word itself is not found in the Bible.
The word millennium is not English, but is the Greek word for a thousand years. It is used repeatedly in the twentieth chapter of Revelation to denote the period during which Christ shall reign with His saints on the earth after the first resurrection. It is a time of victory, joy and glory. Seven especial facts are recorded concerning it here:
The resurrection and re-union of the saints.
Their reward and reign.
The complete exclusion of Satan from the earth.
The personal and continual presence of Jesus with them on earth. The suppression of all enemies and the universal reign of righteousness. The duration of a thousand years.
The immediately succeeding revolt of Satan and sinful human race, and the final judgment of the wicked.
If there was no other reference in the Bible to this time of blessing, these elements alone would be sufficient to constitute a state and time of exalted glory and happiness. Much more do they suffice to identify it as the golden age of which former prophets wrote and spoke, when righteousness, truth and peace shall "cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."
3. THE ORDER OF THESE TWO EVENTS.
This is the next question to be settled, and upon it hang most of the issues of the question. Is the coming of Christ to precede or follow this millennial period?
The most obvious reason for believing that it precedes it, is found in the very passage just referred to where these events are both described. There can be no question that here the coming of the Lord precedes and introduces the millennium. His coming is minutely depicted in the whole procession from heaven to earth. Then follows the conquest and punishment of His earthly foes, the binding of Satan, the resurrection of the saints, the reign of the risen ones and the thousand years. The only way it is attempted to set this aside is to represent it as figurative and spiritual. Dean Alford's strong sense and honesty is the best answer to this. If this be so, he declares, then adieu to all definiteness and certainty in the Scriptures. If this be not a literal coming, resurrection, and millennium, then we do not know what our Bibles mean about anything.
The next argument for Christ's premillennial coming is the emphatic use of the word, "WATCH," in connection with it. Many times are we told to watch for it. Now if it is to be preceded by a spiritual millennium, the Lord would have told us to watch for this. How could the early Church watch for His coming, how can even we if we know that it is to be preceded by a clear thousand years?
The very word watch means immanency, and it is not immanent, if ten whole centuries must intervene. If it be objected that as a matter of fact Christ's coming did not occur during more than ten centuries, this does not alter its immanency. An event may be liable to occur at any moment for years, and yet be long retarded. That is quite different from its being understood as not to occur until the later period. Although God knew just the moment when His Son should appear, yet He wanted His Church to be always expecting it-at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning. The announcement of a fixed previous millennium would have been fatal to this design, and the Church would have gone to work to make her own millennium without Him. This is just what the Romish Church did, when Pope Hildebrand announced in the tenth century that the millennium had begun, and that Christ was already present through His vicar. And some Protestant teachers have the assumption to tell us today that this century of progress is the first age of the millennium.
The next proof of a premillennial coming is found in the picture Christ gives us of the condition of things as they were to be down to the close of the Christian age, and up to the very hour of His coming.
Just glance at a few bold touches in the picture.
Some seed fell by the wayside and the fowls of the air devoured them; some fell on stony places and perished; some were choked by thorns, and some fell on good ground and bore fruit.
But soon the enemy sowed the tares, and both grow together till the harvest.
The Church, externally, grows up into luxuriant strength like the mustard plant, but internally is full of leaven. The true and pure are like the hid treasure and the pearl, so hard to find. The net gathers of every kind and only the angels can separate the evil at the last.
As the ages roll on, there looms up the picture, not of a millennium, but a "Falling away first." "Wickedness shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold." "Many shall depart from the faith, giving heed to doctrines of devils." "In the last days perilous times shall come." There shall be plenty of church members, "having a form of godliness"; but these shall be the very enemies of the Cross of Christ, "denying the power thereof." A holy, happy world will not be waiting to welcome its King, but "as a snare shall He come to all that dwell on the earth." "When they shall say, 'Peace and safety, then sudden destruction.'" And when it bursts upon them, it shall find them "as it was in the days of Noah and of Lot"; and the Master even asks, "When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth?"
This is God's picture of the future of earth until Christ's coming. It does not look much like a previous millennium.
No, nor does the story of eighteen centuries move towards a spiritual millennium. New York with half the proportion of church goers and nearly double the ratio of drunkards, has not grown any nearer to it in two hundred years; London, with three million souls who never enter a church; Berlin, with one minister to fifty thousand people; these three capitals of the three great Protestant nations of earth hold out no signal of its coming. And what shall we say of wicked Paris, and rotten Constantinople, and idolatrous India, and conservative China, and savage Africa? When is there coming to them as much millennial light as we have? When will the Christian nations begin to move toward their golden age? Oh, if this be the best God has for us, then prophecy is an exaggeration and the Bible a poetic dream. Thank God, He is coming and His Kingdom shall transcend our brightest hope, and His own most glowing picture.
The strongest objections that are made to this doctrine are:
It dishonors the work of the Holy Ghost, as if He were incompetent to fulfill His administration, and were represented as having failed in His great mission to convert the world, and some other means had had to be provided. In reply it is enough to say that the Holy Ghost has not undertaken to convert the world, but to call out of it the Church of Christ and prepare a people for His name, and when this is done, and all who will accept Jesus as a Saviour have been called, converted and fully trained, the time for the next stage will have come, and Jesus will come to reign and restore His ancient people for their privileges and opportunities. The work of the Holy Ghost will not cease then, for He shall abide with us for ever, and the ages to come shall afford unbounded and more glorious scope for His grace and power.
It is objected that such a doctrine discourages Christian missions, and saps the foundations of the Church's most glorious hopes and prospects. On the contrary, it opens a prospect of far grander glory to the Church at her Lord's appearing, and bids her go forth, rapt with the desire to hasten it, to prepare the world for His appearing; for as an incentive to this work, He Himself has told her that when the message of salvation has been proclaimed to all the world, then shall the end come. The fact is that a large majority of the missionaries now in foreign lands believe and rejoice in the blessed hope of the Lord's coming, are animated by it to labor for the world's evangelization, and cheered by the blessed thought that their task is not to convert the whole human race, but to evangelize the nations, and give all a chance to be saved if we will; and they would, indeed, be distracted and dismayed at the prospect they behold, did they feel that the world must wait until the present agencies have created out its full salvation, while meanwhile three times its entire population every century is swept into eternity unsaved. The coming of Christ is not going to suspend mission work. It will bring the most glorious and complete system of evangelization earth has ever seen. And under its benignant influence the heathen shall all be brought to Jesus; all nations shall be blessed in Him, and all people shall call Him blessed. The most ardent friends of lost humanity must long the most for this, the world's best hope.
It is objected that this doctrine leads to fanaticism. Anything may be abused, but in the sober and Scriptural faith of this doctrine there is nothing fitted to minister to rashness, presumption or folly. Let us very carefully avoid all attempts to prophesy ourselves, or be wise above that which is written; but let us not be intimidated by the devil's howl, from the fullness of God's truth and testimony. This truth will make us a peculiar people. It will take away the charm of the world, and separate us from it. It will make us very unlike many selfish and comfortable Christians, and will set our soul on fire to serve God and save men. And if that be fanaticism, then welcome such fanaticism.
It is objected that it is gross and material, tending to promote earthly and carnal hopes in the heart and the Church, like the earthly ideas and ambitions of the primitive apostles which the Master reprimanded, and taught them rather to look for a spiritual kingdom and a heavenly home. That was the extreme then, may not the opposite be now? Is not the true need the spiritual first, afterward the material, the resurrection life of the soul first, then the resurrection of the body? We do not hold nor teach any gross or material idea of the material idea of the millennial age. The bodies of the saints will be spiritual, and like His own. But if He was pleased to take such a body into the heavenly world and make it the center and crown of creation, is it anything but an affectation to try to be more spiritual than our Lord? No, it is all spiritual, and the true purpose and end of redemption is that "our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," and "the whole earth be filled with His glory."
5. THE SIGNS OF HIS COMING.
While the day and the hour shall be unrevealed, yet His children "are not in darkness that that day should overtake them as a thief." "None," as the end approaches, "none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand."
There is a distinct order revealed. He will first come for His own waiting ones, and they, with the holy dead, shall be caught up to meet Him in the air. The wicked world shall be left behind; a formal church and a multitude of nations shall live on and scarcely miss the little flock that has just been caught away. Then will begin a series of judgments and warnings, ending at last in the descent of Christ in power and glory, the revelation of His righteous judgment against His open enemies, and the beginning of His personal reign. There will thus be two appearings of Jesus Christ-the one to His own, the other, later, to the entire world; the first as a Bridegroom, the second as a King and Judge. The signs of the one do not therefore apply to the other. The first of these appearings is not so sharply defined as the other. It is more immanent and uncertain, and may come at any hour.
Many of the most important signs of the Lord's coming have already been fulfilled. For example:
The political changes and developments of Daniel's great visions have apparently all occurred. The great empires have come and gone, and the minor kingdoms which were to succeed them are now covering the regions which once they swayed.
The predicted "Falling away," has long ago begun, and the man of sin has sat in God's temple already the full time of the prophetic cycle, and the process has begun which is to "consume and destroy to the end." The Papacy has fulfilled almost all the lineaments of its marvelous portrait.
The Mohammedan power has waxed and waned, and the waters of this great spiritual Euphrates are being dried up every day to prepare the way of God's kingly people.
The Jewish signs have not been less remarkable. Jacob is turning his face again to Bethel, and Jerusalem is preparing to put on her beautiful garments again. Her sons are slowly gathering, while jealous nations are hastening the exodus, and fulfilling unconsciously the voice of prophecy.
The intellectual signs are not less marked. Knowledge is indeed increased, and many run to and fro, while human philosophy talks of evolution and declares that all things continue as they were, and nature is immutable and only material.
The moral signs are even more marked than Daniel's picture. "The wicked shall do wickedly," was never more true than today. Portentous forms of wickedness startle the moral sense every day, and invention is as ripe in evil as it is in material art.
The religious signs are growing more vivid. Lukewarmness and worldliness in the Church, intense longings after holiness on the part of the few, and a mighty missionary movement are the features of the age, and the signs of prophecy, that point to the day of the Son of Man.
And finally, an earnest, a growing and a world-wide expectation of His coming on the part of all those who love His appearing, is as profound today as it was in Judea, and even the Gentile world in the age preceding His advent at Bethlehem. The morning star is in the East. "The children of the day" have seen it. The cry has gone forth, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand"; and soon the Sun will fill the sky and cover the earth with millennial glory.
6. THE BLESSINGS OF HIS COMING.
I. It will bring us Jesus Himself. This is the best of its blessings. Like all the other sections of this Gospel, this, too, is the Gospel of Himself. Not the robes and the royal crowns, not the resurrection bodies or reunited friends will be the chief joy, but
"You are coming, we shall see You,
And be like You on that day."
It will bring us our friends. "Them who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." They shall be alive, they shall be recognized, they shall be gloriously beautiful, they shall be ours forever. Not only the old ones, but such new ones, the good of all the ages, the men and women we have longed to know. What a family!
"Ten thousand times ten thousand,
In shining garments bright,
The armies of the ransomed
Throng up the steps of light;
O then, what rapturous greetings
On Canaan's happy shore,
What knitting severed friendships up,
Where partings are no more."
It will bring us perfect spirits, restored to His image, glorious in His likeness, free from fault, defect, or imperfection, removed above temptation, incapable of falling, and overflowing with unutterable blessedness. We shall wear His perfect image; we shall know as we are known; we shall be as holy as He is holy; we shall possess His strength and beauty and perfect love. The universe will gaze upon us, and next to the glory of the Lamb will be the beauty of the bride.
We shall have perfect bodies; we shall possess His perfect resurrection life; we shall forget even what a pain was like; we shall spring into boundless strength; our hearts shall thrill with the fullness of immortal life, and space and distance be annihilated. The laws of gravitation will hold us no more. The streets of the New Jerusalem vertically and horizontally, the length and breadth, and the height thereof are equal. Our bodies shall be the perfect instruments of our exalted spirits, the exact reflection of His glorious body.
It will give us the sweetest and highest service. It will be no idle, selfish ecstasy, but will bring a perfect partnership in His kingdom and administration. We shall, perhaps, be permitted to fulfill the ideals of our highest earthly experiences, and finish the work we have longed and tried to do-with boundless resources, infinite capabilities, unlimited scope and time, and His own presence and omnipotent help. The blessed work will be to serve Him, to bless others, and to raise earth and humanity to happiness, righteousness and Paradise restored.
It will banish Satan. It will bind and chain the foe and fiend, whose hate and power have held the world in ages of darkness and misery. Oh, to be free from his presence for even a day! to feel that we need no longer watch with ceaseless vigilance against him! to walk upon a world without a devil! Lord, hasten that glorious day!
And it will bring such blessings to others, to the race, to the world. It will stop the awful tragedy of sin and suffering; it will sheathe the sword, emancipate the captive, close the prison and the hospital, bind the devil and his henchman, Death; beautify and glorify the face of the earth; evangelize and convert the perishing nations, and shed light and gladness on this dark scene of woe and wickedness.
There shall he no more crying,
There shall be no more pain.
There shall be no more dying,
There shall be no more stain.
Hearts that by death were riven,
Meet in eternal love;
Lives on the altar given
Rise to their crowns above.
Satan shall tempt us never,
Sin shall o'ercome no more,
Joy shall abide forever,
Sorrow and grief be o'er.
Jesus shall be our glory,
Jesus our heaven shall be;
Jesus shall be our story,
Jesus who died for me.
Hasten, sweet morn of gladness,
Hasten, dear Lord, we pray;
Finish this night of sadness,
Hasten the heavenly day.
Jesus is coming surely,
Jesus is coming soon;
O let us walk so purely,
O let us keep our crown.
Jesus, our watch we are keeping,
Longing for You to come;
Then shall be ended our night of weeping,
Then we shall reach our home.
7. THE LESSONS IT LEAVES.
Let us be ready. "The marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife has made herself ready, and to her it was GRANTED that she should be arrayed in fine raiment, clean and white." Thank God that the robes are given. Let us have them on. WHITE ROBES. When the Bride is dressed, the wedding must be near. So let us hasten His coming.
Let us be watching. "Behold, I come as a thief: blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." Let us not put off the wedding robe for an hour. Let us remember His words.
"When these things begin to transpire, then lift up your heads and bend YOURSELVES BACK (Dr. Young), for your redemption draweth nearly." Keep your faces turned heavenwards until your whole being shall curve heavenwards, like a dear, old colored saint we know, whose body, when she speaks and prays, describes a circle bending towards the sky.
Be faithful. It is to bring the reward of faithful servants. Let us "look to it that we lose none of the things which we have created, but may receive a full reward." "Hold fast that you have that none take your crown."
In the ancient Church there was a noble band of forty faithful soldiers in one of the Roman legions who were condemned to die for their faith in Jesus. They were all exposed on the centre of a frozen lake, to perish on the ice, but allowed the choice of recanting from their faith at any moment during the fatal night by walking to the shore and reporting to the officer on duty.
As the night wore on the sentinel on shore saw a cloud of angels hovering over the place where the martyrs stood, and as one by one they dropped, they placed a crown upon the martyr's brow and bore him up to the skies, while all the air rang with the song, "Forty Martyrs and Forty Crowns." At last they had all gone but one, and his crown still hung in the sky above and no one seemed to claim it. Suddenly the sentinel heard a step, and lo! one of the forty was at his side. He had fled. The sentinel looked at him as he took down his name, and then said: "Fool, had you seen what I have seen this night you would not have lost your crown. But it shall not be lost. Take my place, and I will gladly take yours;" and forth he marched to death and glory, while again the silent choir took up the chorus, "Forty Martyrs and Forty Crowns. You have been faithful to death and you shall receive a crown of life."
God help us to hear that chorus when He shall come!
Be diligent. There is much to do. You. can "hasten the coming of the day of God." The world is to be forewarned. The Church is to be prepared. Arouse you, O Christian. Give Him every power, every faculty, every dollar, every moment. Send the Gospel abroad. Go yourself if you can. If you cannot, send your substitute. And may this last decade of the nineteenth century mean for you and for this world, as nothing ever meant before, a time of preparation for the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
From the Fourfold Gospel by REV. A. B. SIMPSON, D.D. with an Introduction by REV. FREDERIC H. SENFT, D.D. Published by CHRISTIAN PUBLICATIONS INC. in 1890. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Fourfold Gospel - A.B. Simpson
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.