The Hope of the Gospel

"The hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel" (Colossians 1:5).

The patient efforts of the peace-loving rulers of the nations and the prayers of multitudes of God's children have failed to hold in check the dogs of war, and this fact has brought into fresh prominence the truth of the coming and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only hope for righteousness and peace in the earth. Many are asking, "Is this the beginning of the end?" and "Is the coming of the Lord near?" It ought always to be near to those who love Him, to them it is the next thing. It was near to His heart when He sent to His Church that last message, "Surely, I come quickly, " and it is the heart of His Church that respond with words that must be dear to Him, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." One thing is sure, we are nearer the fulfilment of that last word of His than ever before.

His coming again to receive "His own" to Himself (John 14), is "that blessed hope" and we heard of it in the gospel that we have believed, if indeed the gospel we heard was the full and true gospel. It told us of our certain translation to heaven at His coming, there to be conformed to His glorious image, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. The hope of Israel is an earthly one to be realised when He shall appear in great power for their deliverance, ours is a heavenly one to be realised at the rapture of His saints to His own glory, before He appears to judge the world and deliver Israel.

In the first of his Epistles, Paul wrote to his Thessalonian converts. "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God: and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from among the dead, Jesus, our deliverer from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1:10, N.Tr.). That was the beginning of the hope. In one of the last of his Epistles he wrote, "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:25-27). That is the end, the high peak of the hope of the gospel, to be followed by His appearing in glory to judge the world in righteousness, when His glorified saints shall appear with Him.

It is evident that there is the danger of being "moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1:23). We must watch against this. Many have been moved away from it; their eyes have been turned from heaven to earth; they are not looking for the Saviour, but are hoping to "build a better world" when the war is over, just as they hoped that the last war would end all war. Such a hope is vain, but the hope of the gospel is not vain, it is a hope both sure and steadfast as a strong anchor, and it holds the soul steadfast and true though "the foundations of the earth are out of course, and the mountains be carried into the depths of the seas."

There is a remarkable word in Ezekiel 12. The prophet had been sent to the people with a word as to coming judgment; it had not been immediately fulfilled and the mockers said, "He prophesies of times that are far off" and their jest became a proverb in Israel. The prophet had an answer to their mocking, given him by the Lord, it was, "There shall none of My words be prolonged any more, but the word that I have spoken shall be done, says the Lord." We have what answers to that in our day, we are warned as to it in Peter's second Epistle. "There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying. Where is the promise of His coming?" Our answer is "Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:37); and the word that He has spoken shall be done.

The question is asked, Why does not God deal in summary judgment with the men whose ungovernable and devil-inspired ambitions break up the peace of the nations? But if God were to judge all the bad men in the world, how many would escape? "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Ps. 130:3). God is not indifferent to the unrighteousness of men, He has said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, " we may rest in that, but this is not the day of judgment but of mercy: it is the day of God's long-suffering, and "we account the long-suffering of our Lord salvation." "The Lord is not slack concerning this promise as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3).

If God is long-suffering with men, we may well be, especially as we consider that this long-suffering has been shown in all the grace of it to us, but we need patience, or endurance while we wait for the Lord.

The Scriptures recognise this. Paul rejoiced in "the patience — or enduring constancy — of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, " that was one of the evidences of the true conversion of the Thessalonian believers, and he prayed for them that "the Lord would direct their hearts into the love of God and the patient waiting for Christ, " or as a better reading gives it, "the patience of Christ." The thought is a moving one. "He is waiting with patience for the hour of His supreme joy and for the glory of His universal throne, and we share His waiting time: we have part in His patience as we shall have in His glory. But the power of God only can maintain us in this patient waiting, apart from that power we are sure to be moved from our hope, hence we read "Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all PATIENCE and long-suffering with joyfulness" (Col. 1:11).

We do not now speak of the signs of the last days that abound, we are not looking for signs but for Him, and the most blessed sign of all that His coming is near would be an increased desire in the heart of His church for His coming. It is the Spirit and the Bride that say Come, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." If the distresses of these days turn our thoughts more thoroughly to Him it will be well, and will hasten the day of His appearing. He cannot appear to judge the world in righteousness and bring peace to the nations while His church is here. And while we look onward to His appearing and pray "Thy Kingdom Come," we wait for the realisation of our hope which is to be for ever with the Lord.