Nothing is more prominently brought forward in the New Testament than the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the first comfort of the angels to the sorrowing disciples: "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," Acts 1:11.
And if you turn to 1 Thessalonians you will find it presented in the end of every chapter as a common doctrine. It was not at all a strange thing - immediately after conversion to the living God - "to wait for his Son from heaven, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come."
Again, in Hebrews 9 we read that "He appeared once in the end, of the world, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself . . . and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
In 1 Thessalonians it is presented in the way of warning as well as the object of the blessed hope of the saints: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape."
From this we see the amazing difference between the coming of Christ for this world, and for those who trust in Him. To the world He comes as a judge of both quick and dead (see Malachi); but in this John 14 we find a wonderful difference in the whole principle and spirit of a believer's expectation of Christ.
"Behold, he cometh with clouds and every eye shall see him, and they who also pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him," Rev. 1. "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?" Mal. 3.
Dear reader, let me ask you, Can you stand before Him at that day? Do you think that you would have confidence before Him at His coming? Could you say, "Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him?" This is He whom I have loved and longed for? Men always judge according to what is suited to themselves. In 1 Thessalonians 4 it is said, "So shall we be ever with the Lord." Now, are you suited to be ever with the Lord? Have you this confidence? If it is founded on anything good in yourself, it is a vain ground of confidence. Peter, as soon as he found himself in the presence of the Lord, felt that he was not suited for the Lord. I am too corrupt, he said. This was a true judgment of Peter; and love for the dignity of the Lord and for holiness. If you are content that holiness should be lowered that you may get off, you do not care for holiness, though you do for getting off. The moment I have seen the holiness of the Lord, and that happiness is in holiness, there is the immediate feeling of my unfitness for that holiness; though there may be the longing for it, which the Lord will doubtless in mercy answer.
307 Two things are needed thus to meet the Lord. First, the conscience must be right: I may have the kindest father, yet if my conscience is not right, I cannot be glad to meet him; and, secondly, affections must be there - the Lord must be my portion. If my heart is on literature, or on anything else here, I shall not like to be where Jesus is. I shall rather be here for a time. If you like the world, you are fit for the world. Heaven is just the contrary, and you know it; and therefore you do not want to go there, because it would take you from being here in the world. There is the comfort of the gospel. It did bring down to men's consciences all that would attract God. But alas! men no more desired the Lord's company here, than they do there. The coming and rejection of Christ here is the plain proof that the world is not fit for Him, and He is not fit for them.
But now to turn to John 14. We find persons here the opposite of all that is in the world. "Let not your heart be troubled." About what? His leaving them. Their happiness, comfort, and joy was in having Christ with them. But now, he says, I am going, but I am not going to be happy without you. There is plenty of room for you. The thing with which He at once comforts their hearts is this, "I will come again." I cannot stay down here in this vile place, I am going to prepare a place for you, but I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am there ye may be also. The Lord reckons on this satisfying their hearts; and their consciences did not hinder. "The Father's house!" Oh! they could go there. "I will receive you unto myself." He knew the chord that rung in their hearts: to be with Himself, the source of all blessing. Thus we get the character of these disciples: they were persons whom the absence of Jesus distressed, and whom the presence of Jesus would comfort, not here, but with Himself.
308 There we find what begot this character. It was all founded on His own word. We do not care for what does not concern us. But as soon as we see a thing that concerns us, it becomes important; and then we want certainty. Now it is very blessed to have God's own word for the basis of our certainty.
For instance, I am a sinner - how then can I get into the Father's house? Because God has said "Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more." Well, God is true, and He will not remember them. Do you say I am presumptuous to say so? I do not say so; God says so; and again in John 5:24, "He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation"; and John 3:33, "He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." Thus when the power of the Spirit brings home the word, I have certainty. Faith is in the word, but it is about something. Christ is presented, and man is brought to the test. People always judge by their inclination, and not by their reasoning. Now the effect of the testimony of the Spirit of God when Christ is revealed is that men are not fit for Him, and their hearts do not like to be with Him.
These disciples had loved the Lord. Christ had attraction for their hearts. There at once we see the object of their hearts' affections. Christ had fixed their hearts. Take Mary Magdalene, for instance. She was all wrong in her intelligence, yet Christ had attraction for her heart. So with the rest of the disciples. They all ran away for fear; but it was love to Christ that brought them into the place of fear. Thus we see that Christ Himself was the object of their hearts. They were the companions of Christ - all fear being gone - according to His love and grace. "Ye are they," He said, "who have continued with me in my temptations." Why? He had continued with them; but He speaks as if indebted to them for this fellowship. And being in companionship with Christ in heart, He brings them into all joy into which He is going - nothing less than the Father's house. What attracts me is found in Christ, and then I get from Him the certain assurance that He is coming - and coming for me. Now when the heart is on Christ, what a thing it is to know that He is coming! Am I afraid? No, I am looking for Him. And it is to His Father's house He is to bring me. All that makes heaven a home to Christ will make it a home to me. O come, Lord Jesus. If I have learnt to love Christ, I have learnt to love holiness, to love God. God, in Christ, has brought down to my soul all that God is. What shall I get in heaven? Another Christ? Another God? No. It is the one we have seen and known. "Whither I go ye know." I am going to the Father, and you have seen the Father in me.
309 Ah! but He has not given up His holiness, perhaps you reply. No, indeed, He has not. But Jesus knew all that is needed for me to be with Him. And if He will make the heart to love, He will put the conscience perfectly at rest, that I may love Him. Will He do that by dulling it? No. He will do something that will enable me to stand in the presence of God in whose presence I am to find my joy. He reveals fully God in His holiness, and takes away the sin that would hinder my being in the presence of that holiness. And not only does He put sin away, but He purges the conscience here, so that I am enabled to enjoy God, in full and free affection.
Nothing is more attractive than the death of Christ; but, besides that, it puts away the sin of which I was guilty: an act in which I had no part, an act the proof of perfect love, while it meets perfect righteousness. I had done the sins, and I could not undo them. Jesus said to Peter, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." This touched Peter's heart. If you are not cleansed according to My cleansing, according to what suits God's presence, you have no part with Me. O what a comfort! Instead of saying, Depart from me, Jesus said, "Now you are clean." And in Peter we see the proof of a good conscience. He said to the Jews, Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, the very thing he himself had done fifty days before. Now a man will talk of every sin but what he is guilty of; he will shirk that. But here Peter was in perfect peace about the very sin he was guilty of; his conscience was perfectly purged.
The happiness of the heart that is touched is to be with Christ; and conscience is purged for being in His presence. Between the Lord's saying this, and coming for them He had put away sin from God's sight, and from their conscience. "I will come again, and take you unto myself, etc., and whither I go ye know." There is no uncertainty. We know where we are going to. The soul has found fully the object that has set it at rest, and that will satisfy it up there without fear.
310 Could the Lord thus address you? Could you say, O that is what I am wanting? Or, are you saying I've got here what I would like to enjoy? Is that being a Christian? A Christian may vary in strength of affection, never in object. I am sure I do not love the Lord enough, but I am sure it is the Lord I love. I have no confidence in my own heart, but all confidence in Him. He has died for me; that is what I count on: He has put away my sins; that is what I need: He is coming again; that is what I am longing for.
Dear reader, let me ask you, was it ever a trouble to you that you had not Christ? Do you know where you are going? It may be you have hope; but have you present certainty? Now we, Christians, have; for Christ is known, and when He is known, there is perfect rest in His word. "I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." "Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus."