of Gospel Tracts
F. B. Hole.
1. He Comes Again!
Do you doubt it? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has certainly been here once. Why should it seem to you a thing incredible that He should return?
About A.D. 30 He made His exit from this world by way of a malefactor’s cross, erected at Golgotha, just outside Jerusalem. Rejected by the world, stripped and dishonoured, He died. Is it likely that the violence then done to Him is never to be reversed? Is He to lie for ever under the shadow of apparent defeat? Is there no more to be expected?
A sober review of the situation in view of His greatness and glory leads us to expect that a day must come when He will assert Himself and make His power felt in the earth. But we are not left to an expectation based upon what is reasonable, since quite plainly before His departure He predicted His second advent. To his disciples He said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself” (John 14:2-3).
Again, directly He had left the earth and ascended to heaven, the message came to His disciples through angels, “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).
Nothing could be plainer or more definite than these two statements. The second has about it a fullness which reminds us of a legal document, which has its meaning hedged about with words, so as to eliminate all possible misconception.
“This same Jesus,” and not another; for indeed no substitute is possible.
The One who is to come is the very Jesus who “is taken up from you into heaven.” The disciples had just seen Him go. This makes the identification doubly sure.
He shall “come,” and moreover, He shall so come in like manner,” as He went.
How did He go? Was it an imaginary proceeding, or even something of a spiritual or mystical nature? No, it was not. Just before He left He had demonstrated to His disciples that He was not risen from the dead as a Spirit Being only, but that He was in a body of flesh and bones, and He even did eat before them. He went actually and bodily. Then He will come again actually and bodily. He went personally and visibly; then personally and visibly He will come again. This is what the Divine message, conveyed through angels, explicitly declared. Do you believe it? If not, why not?
Is it because such a visible and personal return of Christ would upset all your plans and disturb your life down to its deepest foundations? Is it because you are quite unprepared to meet Him, never having given Him any place in your life, never having believed in His name? Then your disbelief in the prediction of the Second Advent must be just a case of wishful thinking. You think it cannot be true because, if true, its consequences to you would be serious, and even disastrous.
But wishful thinking is always a foolish proceeding, and never more foolish than when indulged in as to matters of eternal import. Better, far better, face the fact that He is coming. And in addition, face the very strong probability that He is coming very soon.
Moreover it is your wisdom to do this, since now there is life and salvation through His name, offered to you in the Gospel. At His first coming He took up the tremendous question of human sin and guilt. He died not merely as a Martyr or Example, but as the great and never-to-be-repeated Sacrifice for sin. Then it was that, “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).
This great atoning work of His was crowned by His triumphant resurrection from the dead, which attested the efficacy of His sacrifice for sin.
So surely as He did this “shall He appear the second time without sin [or, apart from sin] to salvation” (Heb. 9:28). For those who trust Him, His second coming will bring not judgment but salvation in its full and final sense.
For those who refuse or neglect Him, it will precipitate a disaster of utmost solemnity, for He will be “taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8).
If you have never yet put your faith in Him, do so now. Then, instead of being sceptical or fearful as to His coming again, you will anticipate it with joy.
2. Someone is Coming, But Who?
It is fairly obvious by now that the world itself, and every nation in it, badly needs the advent of someone with ability and authority to put things right. Diplomacy and politics are a hopelessly tangled skein. The passions of men, whether individually or in communities, are running like a river in flood. A strong directing hand is an urgent necessity.
You may not be an observant person; your mind may be so absorbed with your own little concerns that you are hardly aware of what is transpiring many yards beyond your own doorstep. Still this matter concerns you. If you are asleep to the urgent needs of the world in this hour, the devil is not, and he will see to it that a man shall be found with apparent fitness for this great task; only, like everything that Satan does, he will be a colossal fraud.
Cast your mind back over the past. Recall all the great names of history as far as you know them. Of all these great ones, to whom would you most confidently commit your destiny and the destiny of the world? Would you say Napoleon, or Mohammed, or Julius Caesar, or Nebuchadnezzar? We think not. These were tyrants all. We should be pretty well unanimous in saying that all our concerns could rest in no better hands than those of Jesus of Nazareth, if only He should reappear.
Now this is exactly the good news we bring you. He is most certainly coming again.
Towards the time of His first coming men’s minds were in expectancy, and taking advantage of this the devil endeavoured to discount His appearance by raising up false Christs. To these He referred when He said, “All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep [i.e. those who were truly His disciples] did not hear them” (John 10: 8).
It is evident that similar tactics are again being employed by the powers of darkness. On all hands it is being felt increasingly that unless some great one does appear who can successfully tackle the giant problems which are being created, the world will soon be hardly worth living in.
Various false religious cults all agree in promising the advent of such a great one, for whom in these later years the term “super-man” has been coined. Satan will take care to raise up in his time the man who will make a show of fulfilling the expectations he has fostered.
Of this one—the antichrist to be—the Saviour Himself spoke when He predicted as follows: “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43).
It is not difficult to see why he will meet with such general acceptance. With great natural powers and attractiveness, he will unite Satanic allurements. There will be every kind of natural beauty which appeals to men’s senses and passions, why they should desire him. He will be, in short, the exact opposite to the gracious Saviour of whom it was said, in view of His first coming, “He has no form nor comeliness [or, lordliness], and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:2-3).
Our message, however, is that this rejected One will not remain rejected and despised for ever. He is coming, and coming quickly, in glory and power. “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” (Rev. 1:7).
This glorious sequel to His first coming is proclaimed in the Bible in the clearest and most constant fashion. It is necessary to the vindication of God’s plans. It is unthinkable that the lonely cross on the little hill outside Jerusalem should be the last word of His story. No! He who died for our sins as Son of Man must be revealed in majesty as Son of God. Then will the solution of all earth’s sorrows and warrings be at hand.
But this hope raises at once a pointed and personal question. How do I stand in regard to the Christ who is coming? How do you? He will put all things to the test. Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appears? for He is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap (Mal. 3:2). His appearing will also mean the instant overthrow of Satan’s nominee Antichrist. That lawless one shall be destroyed “with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thess. 2:8).
We do not so much urge upon you the question of how you will stand in relation to Christ then, as how you stand in relation to Him now. The former might only lead you to speculation or the making of resolutions to be attempted by-and-by. The latter can be decided at once. You need but an honest and sincere conscience to settle in an instant whether you are for Christ or His foe; and if the verdict of your conscience is that you are wrong, you may get put right without a moment’s delay.
Faith in Christ now, means glory with Christ then.
The believer looks forward with joy and not fear. He knows who is coming, and that before the moment of His public display in the clouds of glory He will come into the air to receive His saints to Himself according to His own promise in John 14:3, and as described by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
If you believe in His name, you too may cherish this blessed hope for yourself, and rejoice also in the expectation of being with Him in His bright appearing. You are His and on His side. When the world talks boastingly of the great ones to come, you will say with faith and a burning hope, “Yes, Someone is coming, and who that Someone is I know—my Lord, my Saviour, and my God!”
3. Will He really return?
(Extracted from Simple Testimony, Vol. 35, 1918-19, page 201.)
If the Bible be carefully read, and its words as to Christ's second coming accepted in their obvious meaning, there can be but one answer — Yes.
Doubt, however, exists in the minds of not a few Christians as to this hope in spite of the plainness of Bible testimony. The age in which we live was ushered in by the most wonderful displays of divine power and goodness, first in Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, and, secondly, in the coming of the indwelling Spirit on the day of Pentecost. After ample testimony had been rendered to the fact of the Spirit's presence by signs and wonders, these visible manifestations of divine power ceased, and for these long centuries heaven has been absolutely silent, and the world has pursued its way without any divine interference. God has said all He had to say in the way of grace, and for the present, while the Gospel is still being preached by His heralds, He contents Himself with indirectly over-ruling the affairs of men.
The fact is, we have got so accustomed to this non-interference on God's part that we find it difficult to imagine a fresh and mighty intervention, nay, more than difficult, impossible, apart from faith.
Will Christ really return then? we ask. He will, firstly, because He said so. "I will come again" (John 14:3).
God's predictions in the past have always been fulfilled literally, actually, and to the very letter.
He announced long ago a flood upon the world of the ungodly. Did it come? At the end of one hundred and twenty years it did. He was not speaking figuratively and poetically. He did not mean the gradual loosening of a flood of new ideas in the world of men. A literal, actual flood swept the habitable earth, bringing destruction in its train. Traces of that flood, and more or less distinct reminiscences of it, are found in many quarters to this day.
Thousands of years ago the coming of the Christ in humiliation to suffer was announced. These prophecies were amplified as time progressed. Details were gradually revealed. The way of His coming — born of a virgin; the place of His coming — Bethlehem Ephratah; the date of His coming — see Daniel 9:26; the result of His coming — despised, rejected, led as a lamb to the slaughter, hands and feet pierced, His soul made an offering for sin; all this and much more was foretold. Foretold and fulfilled to the very letter.
Thousands of years ago prophets also began to speak on God's behalf of a day when this same Christ should be publicly and manifestly glorified; when He should "be exalted and extolled and be very high"; when, coming with ten thousands of His saints, the shining forth of His appearing should be the overthrow of every enemy, the deliverance of a groaning creation from the bondage of corruption, and the establishment of a kingdom founded upon righteousness that should endure as long as the sun. Are these predictions fulfilled? Certainly not. Will they be? Assuredly they will. Fulfilled with as much exactitude as were the predictions of His first coming.
Will He, then, really return? He will, indeed. And secondly, the very fact that it is now fashionable to insist on the reign of unvarying law in the universe as a conclusive proof that He will not return, is really conclusive proof that very SOON He will. Read 2 Peter 3:1-7, and see.
In recent years the teaching that "all things continue as they were" has become orthodox, according to science — falsely so called. Its exponents maintain the doctrine of evolution in the slowest imaginable stages, and ridicule what they are pleased to call "catastrophic changes." And when men, scoffers at heart, do teach thus, it is plain proof that a very catastrophic change is not far ahead, the last days are come — so says the Word of God!
Yes, He will really return, for, lastly, it is plain that the only hope of real peace upon earth is that He — the Prince of Peace — should be supreme. Let the world deceive itself into thinking that peace and a millennial condition of things is to be reached by democracy if it will. Let not us, my fellow-believer, fall into so foolish a snare. For peace to be established the Peace-maker must appear. For righteous government to be founded universally, there must first be the coming of the Righteous One, of whom it is said, "the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6). Under His beneficent sway the golden age of this world's history will be reached, and not before.
One question, my reader. This mighty change, catastrophic indeed for the world of the ungodly, infinitely blessed in the way of previous translation to glory for believers — how does it appeal to you?
Does it mean the spoiling of all your worldly pleasures, and overturning of all your plans, or is it the gladdest and brightest hope your heart can entertain?
Does it signify arraignment in justice before the Judge who is coming, or glad union with the Bridegroom of the heart?
Is it all darkness and no light, or all light and no darkness, for you?
He is really coming. Exactly when we know not, as He Himself said. It may not be this year or next year or next half century. On the other hand, today may see the setting in motion of the mighty wheels of judgment as He rises from the Father's throne to fulfil 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, and long ere the half century is up all Scripture relating to His second advent may be fulfilled.
Be sure, then, that you are ready, having been cleansed in His blood and forgiven, and that as cleansed you are practically ready by holiness of life and devoted service for His Name.
4. God's predicted programme
God's programme, as foretold in the Old Testament, had two great events in view — the first and second comings of Christ. Until He came the first time, over nineteen centuries ago, it was not possible to distinguish clearly between the two, for many of the prophecies pass almost insensibly from things accomplished at His first advent to those which await accomplishment at His second. Some pious students of the prophecies, who lived in the centuries before Christ, noticed discrepancies, and tried to account for them by the theory that there must be two Messiahs: One who suffers, and One who reigns in glory. The true solution, as we now know, is that the one and only Messiah was to come first to suffer and afterwards come again to reign.
The programme that was outlined for His first advent has been marvellously and minutely fulfilled. It is safe to say that in the 24 hours, ending at sunset on the day Jesus died, at least 24 distinct predictions were fulfilled. That part of the Divine programme is completed. What is the programme for the future, when He comes again?
We will attempt to answer this question in small compass by referring to a part of one verse — Isaiah 51: i6. In this chapter the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and calls to awake and to act One whom he addresses as "the Arm of the Lord." By this great and powerful "Arm" the heavens had been stretched forth and the foundations of the earth laid in the bygone days of creation. Now again He is to act, and lay "foundations" in another sense. The predicted programme is as follows:
"That I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art My people."
The three things specified will be brought to pass when Jesus Christ, who was once rejected by men, comes forth as King of kings and Lord of lords, acting as the strong Arm of the Lord to accomplish His will.
His first action at His second advent will be to "plant the heavens." Are you aware that at the present moment the Gospel of God's grace is being preached among all the nations that out of them may be gathered a people whose ultimate destination is heaven? If not, may this booklet awaken you to it. Everyone brought by the Gospel to repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is sealed by the Holy Spirit and incorporated with the Church of God — that Church which is destined to share Christ's glory and have heaven as its home.
Do you belong to that Church? Or, to put the question in another way, Is Jesus your Saviour and Lord? If He is, you may look forward to the great transplanting with confidence. But remember, your turning to Him must be real, for the Lord Himself said, "every plant, which My heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15: 13). Only if you have been by the hand of God planted in grace here, will you be planted in glory there, when Jesus comes again.
Secondly, at His coming He will lay the moral and administrative foundations on which God's "New Order" will securely rest, All the new orders, that men devise, fall in ruin because they rest on rotten foundations. Their authors may be sincere and well-meaning, but they are a patchwork of justice and injustice; and they rest for their realization upon unrighteous men, whose wills are in conflict at every turn. God is not now commanding men to frame new orders, but rather, as Paul said to the wiseacres of Athens, He "commands all men everywhere to repent; because He has appointed a day, in the which He will judge [or administer] the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead (Acts 17: 30, 31).
Thirdly, what we call "The Jewish question," is going to be finally and properly settled. Zion is a figurative and poetic name for Israel, and at the second coming of Christ He will acknowledge them as His people, and make them to be what He from the outset intended them to be. "Ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God" (Isa. 61: 6). Through them all the nations will at last be led into the true knowledge of God. The Christ-rejecting Jew of today is a different proposition. Paul (himself a Jew) had in his day to write, "They please not God, and are contrary to all men" (1 Thess. 2:15), and it is not different to-day. We have seen Palestine torn with strife and misery, but when Jesus comes it will be "a delightful land," as the prophet has said.
Is not God's programme a good one? Make sure that you enjoy its realization at the second Advent, by obeying Christ as Lord and Master to-day.
This is a day of programmes. Every party, every federation, every government has one, and each is very wonderful according to its authors and supporters.
It may never have occurred to you that God has a programme. All history, whether Biblical or secular, may seem to you like a meaningless tangle, and so indeed it is if the silver line of God’s purpose, running through it all, be not perceived. Most people fix their eyes on the noisy surface waves of human strife and overlook the great tide beneath the waves. That tide is created by the flowing current of God’s will and purpose, and it is true that —
“The waves may break in failure
But the tide is sure to win;”
God has a programme. Its foundation lies in the great redemption work accomplished by His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, when at the consummation of the age of man’s testing He appeared, a Man amongst us men, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). Its climax will be reached when that same Jesus appears in glory to assert God’s rights, and establish His kingdom
At the present moment God’s programme involves the taking out of the Gentile nations “a people for His name” (Acts 15: 14), but that work concluded, and the Church of God, which is composed of all those so taken out by conversion and the reception of the Spirit of God, thus completed, the present gospel age will terminate. God’s house will be filled
What will signalize that great moment? In other words, what is the next event on God’s programme? We have no hesitation in replying. The translation of the church, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; when “the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Read those words again, slowly and with care. A great event like that may happen in your lifetime. We do not say that it will, but it may.
Do not denounce that Scripture as an impossible and incredible prediction. Quite impossible, quite incredible, of course, if the first advent, the incarnation, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead, were impossible and incredible things. If, however, you accept those, then there is nothing unbelievable about this.
Further, do not overlook the fact that translation has already happened twice. First before the flood when Enoch was God’s witness and prophesied of the appearing of the Lord in judgment. He witnessed to judgment, as recorded in Jude 14, 15, but he never saw it—not even the first drops of the coming flood. He was safely housed in heaven before it came, being translated by faith “that he should not see death” (Heb. 11:5).
Again it happened when, the northern Israelitish kingdom having gone utterly to the bad, Elijah the Tishbite was raised up. He witnessed to judgment also and was even commissioned of God to anoint Jehu the king who should execute judgment on Ahab’s house, and Hazael, king of Syria, who should execute judgment on the guilty people. Yet he himself saw not one stroke of that judgment. He was translated to heaven previously, without dying, in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2).
Exactly thus will it be on a third occasion. Only this time not one saint alone, but the myriads of the redeemed will be in question. It will be the great migration and not like an early swallow or two, lonely pioneers in advance.
Sound out the glorious tidings—Jesus is coming again! He comes as the glorified Lord to reign, but first He comes into the air to call His own. Mark the order revealed in those verses in 1 Thessalonians 4, coupled with the corresponding passage 1 Corinthians 15:42-54.
First, the raising of the dead, or sleeping saints, in glorified bodies.
Second, the changing of the living saints into an equally glorified condition in the twinkling of an eye.
Third, the catching up, or rapture of all together into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and once with Him, to be with Him for ever.
This is the moment of the first resurrection—that resurrection out from among the dead for which Paul looked (Phil. 3:11). The wicked dead will sleep on in their graves for at least a thousand years. The unsaved, who are living upon earth at that moment, will be left behind for the outpouring of the pent-up wrath of God upon the earth, then ripe for judgment.
Oh, the bliss of the glorious moment when Jesus comes for His own! What a consummation! What a prospect both for our adorable Lord and for us! No wonder His word is “Watch”!
A glorious prospect indeed: but only for the believer. If you are unsaved you have no part nor lot in this bright expectation. It is all light for us; it is all darkness and gloom for you. It will be the drawing of the line; the final closing of the door of mercy behind your back. Then shall be brought to pass that saying, “And the door was SHUT.” Why risk that? Why not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ now?
When He will come we do not know though all points to this grand consummation being very near. That He will come, we do know, for we have His word for it. “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3), and His word never fails. Perhaps it will be to-day, and then in the twinkling of an eye —
Out of the partings, there to part no more,
Into the glory of the golden shore;
Out of the conflict to where conflicts cease,
Into His presence, which is rest and peace,
Even so, Amen.
6. Coming with all His saints
When we state that the Lord Jesus Christ is actually going to reappear in physical presence at His second advent, we are not advancing a new-fangled idea. It is as old as Scripture, and according to Scripture it dates back to the time of Enoch some hundreds of years before the flood.
It was that remarkable man who prophesied, saying, "Behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 14, 15). We are safe therefore in saying that for at least 4,800 years this great coming event has been an open secret.
The Old Testament abounds with predictions of the advent of the Deliverer, though it was not until the added light of the New Testament reached man that it was possible in many cases clearly to distinguish whether the reference was to His first coming to suffer, or to His second coming to reign.
From that point of view the Old Testament was like an ordinary photograph, flat and indefinite as to questions of distance. Add the New Testament and at once you get the stereoscopic effect. Everything stands out distinct and clear. You can judge of distance perfectly and see in how many passages both advents are referred to, though the centuries roll between them.
As examples of such passages we may cite Isa. 42:1-4; 53:10-11; Micah 5:1-4. In these and many kindred passages the predictions as to His first coming in humiliation have been perfectly fulfilled. Who then shall say that there shall not be as perfect a fulfilment of His second coming in glory?
Is it likely that the wonderful story of how God in Christ entered into the midst of His ruined creation ends with His being rudely rejected by His sinful creatures by way of the cross on the little hill outside Jerusalem? No! A thousand times, No! It is simply incredible that it should be so. Thank God, it is not so. The Bible abundantly foretells His re-entrance, not this time in such fashion that men can reject Him, but in overwhelming power and glory. He comes not to stand at man's unrighteous bar, but that men may stand at His throne of justice. He will "execute judgment upon all."
When will He come? We can tell you; though we cannot fix the date. He will come when the cup of human iniquity is filled to the brim. God never smites until iniquity is fully manifested. Of old the Amorite nations polluted the land of Palestine with their sins, still in Abraham's time their iniquity was not yet full (see Gen. 15:16), and not till 400 years later did God launch Israel against them like a thunderbolt. History will repeat itself. The cup of human evil is fast filling. When it is full the blow will fall.
What will His coming mean? In one word — JUDGMENT. The idea that He will come as a kind of climax to the successful labours of missionaries and the triumph of the gospel is a mere dream. "He comes with clouds, and every eye shall see Him" — and the effect is what? Great enthusiasm? Immense jubilation? Thunders of applause? Not at all. "All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him" (Rev. 1:7). Immense and universal WAILING would be nearer the mark! Men's pet schemes and vices shattered! All opportunities for self-gratification ended! A reign of righteousness begun!
How will His coming affect you? A crucial question indeed. All hinges upon a previous question, which is this: Is He your Saviour? — do you believe in His name, and confess Him as your Lord? Can you answer Yes? If so, you will indeed be affected beyond words. It will be inconceivable glory.
In order that His saints may be with Him and share in His triumphs, He is coming for them first of all, according to 1 Thess. 4:14-18. Having caught them up to be with Him, and reviewed them before His judgment-seat so that each may be allotted an appropriate place in His kingdom, they share the glory of that day.
What a moment that will be! Have you been tried and even persecuted? It will be rest for you and trouble for your persecutors (see 2 Thess. 2:5-7). Have you been defamed here? Then the Lord will be "glorified in His saints" and "admired in all them that believe" (see 2 Thess. 1:10). You and I shall then stand forth so clearly as His handiwork that men will look upon us and admire HIM as the Master-Workman who has wrought so great a work in those who were once but undone sinners.
There will be no neutral ground in that day. If you are not among His rejoicing followers as He descends from heaven, you will be amongst His wailing enemies on earth. There is, as a matter of fact, no neutral ground to-day. As your eye scans these lines, you are either amongst His followers or His enemies. Which is it? The difference lies in this, that now your real attitude towards Him may be more or less hidden, whereas then it will be manifest for every eye to see.
In the great day of His appearing you will either as an enemy be made the footstool of His feet, or as one of the elect company which shall form His Bride you will be seated with Him on His throne. How vast the difference.
If as yet you do not know which it will be for you, do not delay another moment. Make matters sure by receiving Christ as your Saviour Now.
Yet a little while — and He comes with all His saints.
"Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train, Hallelujah!
Jesus comes, and comes to reign."
8. An everlasting Dominion
All earthly dominion carries within itself the seeds of disintegration and decay. Hence the sun has never yet shone upon an empire that was destined to permanently endure. Great civilizations have crumbled into dust, and are still crumbling before our eyes. When Macaulay pictured the New Zealander of a future day sitting upon a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral amid the solitudes of the forsaken metropolis, he wrote quite within the bounds of possibility.
In spite of this utter instability of all earthly order, we are, however, bold to affirm that a bright day is yet to dawn, which shall witness the establishment of a dominion and glory and a kingdom which shall last for ever. For this, we have the Word of God.
Daniel, the wise old counselor and viceroy of Eastern potentates, had a glimpse of that glad day. His lot was cast in stirring times when one empire after another fell into ruin, and by a vision he was permitted to see the end of it all.
He learned that the time of Gentile ascendancy, consequent upon the overthrow of Israel and David's kingly line, was to be covered by the history of four great world empires, pictured as wild beasts (see Dan. 7). These empires — the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman — have passed into history, and yet, according to the vision, the Roman was to be in evidence at the time of the end. What he was not told was that the Roman Empire was to suffer a period of eclipse and be Satanically revived at the end to receive its well-merited judgment at the hands of God. This fact does not appear till nearly the end of the Bible is reached (Rev. 17:8). The Roman Empire did collapse about A.D. 450. It has yet to revive. The idea of a federation of Western European nations is already abroad and has taken its place in practical politics.
When at last a revived Roman empire becomes an accomplished fact, it will continue but a little space. It will then be utterly destroyed at the appearing of Christ in glory, and its destruction will clear the way for the establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth. The authority of that kingdom is to be centred in the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore it will endure.
"I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13, 14).
In these two verses the universality of the coming kingdom is clearly stated, and also its permanency. This latter fact is emphasized three times within the compass of the last twenty words. Only that which is perfect is destined to abide.
Upon what is this kingdom to be based? Of what does its foundation consist? The answer is found in one word, Righteousness.
"Behold a King shall reign in righteousness" (Isa. 32:1).
"He shall judge the people with righteousness" (Ps. 72:2).
"God . . . will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance unto all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
And what will be its characteristic feature? The answer may be summarized in the one word — Peace.
"The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever" (Isa. 32:17).
"In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures" (Ps. 72:7).
The peace then to be enjoyed will extend even to the brute creation.
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid . . . and a little child shall lead them" (Isa. 11:6) .
A beautiful picture, truly! An alluring forecast! You may well enquire, Does it hold out any prospect for me?
If you are righteous, i.e., justified before God, it does. If otherwise, how can it? The very first action of the Son of Man will be to "gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and them that do iniquity" (Matt. 13:41), and that means that He will begin by making a clean sweep in judgment of every foe. In that day His foes will be made His footstool.
How then do you stand as to Him? There is no neutral ground. You are either against Him or for Him. Nor may you bolster up yourself by saying that in that day you will be for Him even though you are not for Him now. On the contrary, if you are not for Him now, you will not be for Him then.
You must remember that destinies will be fixed in that day and not subject to change. This world is the world of change, and now is the day of salvation.
If, however, you are for Him, and therefore His, you may well rejoice. When He comes in glory to establish His everlasting kingdom, you will come with Him; not indeed to be again living upon earth and reigned over by Him, but rather to abide by His side in heavenly glory and reign with Him. Such is the destiny of the true Christian. If you are one you may well be filled with bright anticipation. For you it will be glory, and, better still, it will be the glad day when JESUS, the once humbled Servant of Jehovah, "shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high" (Isa. 52:13).
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