"Behold, He Comes"

Address given at Bangor, N. Wales, at a Conference for the help of younger Christians, 1933

"And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And has made us kings and priests to God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 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. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:5-8).

We are gathered together as those who have believed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and yielded ourselves to Him, and as such we do not belong to "this present evil world," for He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from it, according to the will of God and our Father (Gal. 1:4). We do not belong to this dying dispensation; we are children of the day; we are waiting for God's Son from heaven; we belong to the new era, which has as its chief feature joyful submission to the will of God. This era has not yet been introduced and established publicly in power in the world — for we see not yet all things put under the feet of Jesus — but it most surely shall be, for the will of God must be done on earth and His kingdom must come. Christ must have the glory and dominion according to God's decree and Word and in answer to the countless prayers of His saints for nearly 2, 000 years.

We have already entered into the kingdom of God; we were "born again" for this, and it is right that we should understand what things are necessary to its establishment on the earth. They are three in number. 1. God must be glorified. 2. Death must be defeated. 3. There must appear One who shall be the all-wise, all-sufficient Leader of the nations of the world. And these three things meet in our great Saviour, they are the triple crown that He wears as He appears at the opening of this Book which unrolls for us the way that God will take to His foreordained end. Of these three things I speak with the earnest desire that they may have a definite effect upon our present lives.

Let us consider Him. He is the faithful Witness; the First-begotten of the dead; and the Prince of the kings of the earth. He has glorified God on the earth; He has conquered death, and He shall rule over men with justice, and lead princes in the way of righteousness.

One of the leading statesmen of this country used to quote in his speeches a part of the Angel's declaration at the birth of the Lord. His aim, he averred, was, "Peace upon earth with men of good will." I suppose that that is the aim of all statesmen, but he overlooked the first part of that declaration, "Glory to God in the highest," and there can be no peace on earth as long as God's glory is left out of men's scheme. But who can glorify Him? Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, has done it. The first man did not do it, though he was created in the image of God, which meant that he was created to represent God in this lower creation and fill it with what God is, and so glorify Him. He did the exact opposite; he magnified himself and has filled the world with pride and lust, but Jesus Christ came, the second Man, and He is the faithful Witness. He did always the things which pleased His Father; He glorified Him on the earth, and finished the work which He gave Him to do.

I am sure that we all have found pleasure in retracing the path
"Which He on earth has trod."

We wonder at the deep humility and extreme poverty of His birth in the manger, and discern in it the fact that the world into which He had come would give Him no place, and that neither would He seek a place for Himself in it, though He was its true and rightful Lord. He might have had a place in it and become the head of all its kingdoms by the easy way of subservience to the Devil — at least, that was what the Devil proposed in the Temptation, but then the Devil is a liar and a deceiver, as multitudes have proved by a bitter experience and as our Lord knew well. But Jesus Christ was the faithful Witness and would not compromise with evil to exalt Himself. He was unmoved by Satan's subtle wiles, and the great enemy, grown insolent and strong by his forty centuries of success over men, and with the world at his disposal and the powers of darkness at his back, was baffled, beaten and bound by one solitary and hungry Man in the desert.

His witness was to men. He had come to declare the acceptable year of the Lord; the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him for this mission, but how strange was the reception that the men of His home town gave Him, when first He declared His mission. Being the faithful Witness He could not tone the truth to their prejudices, and they, enraged at His faithfulness, attempted to hurl Him headlong over the precipice upon which their town was built.

He did not come expecting to be popular in the world, and His path of faithfulness to God was
"Uncheered by earthly smiles."

And though He felt this with a holy sensitiveness, yet it did not deter Him, or turn Him from His mission. In spite of the contradiction of sinners against Himself He blessed their children, fed the multitudes with bread, healed the sick, cleansed the leper, bound up the broken-hearted and preached the gospel to the poor. Never word or act of His was out of place; His words were the Father's words and His works were the Father's works. No man had seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father He has declared Him, and that so perfectly that those that looked on Him saw the Father.

But if that witness was to be complete, and God was to be fully revealed, the faithful Witness must go to the cross, and from this He did not draw back. He set His face as a flint and went, as it was determined of Him in the Counsels of God and as it was written in the Infallible Scripture. At His cross the thoughts of many hearts were revealed. What man was was manifested; there was no pity in his heart; never before had he been permitted to go his unrestrained way. Always had God kept a check upon his wickedness, saying, "Thus far shalt thou go and no further," but at the cross the reins were thrown free, and the evil of his heart was unbridled that he might fully declare himself. Then his hatred of God rose up in a mighty wave to overwhelm and annihilate God's faithful Witness; but the tide of love rose higher when Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Nor was that the end. He gave Himself and died for His foes. "And God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Thus was He faithful to death, that God might be fully revealed and that men might know that "God is love." Thus has God been glorified, and the work that glorified Him is the foundation of the new era, and what was revealed there will be the light and the glory of it.

But God's faithful Witness the sinless Sin-Offering, could not be holden by the power of death. The great king of terrors has been made to yield to a greater than he. Death has met its Master; it is now a crownless king, without a sceptre, without a throne. Our Lord has triumphed; He is the First begotten from the dead. He lives! I was delighted recently, in reading somewhere of an answer that a Christian gave to the challenge of a Mohammedan. Said the Mohammedan, "You Christians have no tomb, where is your Jesus? how do you know He ever lived? The tomb of our prophet is with us to this day, we know that he lived, and his tomb is the Mecca of every true Moslem, but you Christians have no tomb." The Christian answered, "We have no tomb because we have no corpse; our Jesus is not a corpse but a Conqueror." Yes, that is it; we do not preserve a tomb, we celebrate a triumph. The faithful Witness is the First-begotten of the dead. O Christians, do we sufficiently appreciate and glory in the triumph of our Saviour? If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. If Christ be not raised, the devil has triumphed and death is supreme. If Christ be not raised, God has lost His Son and we have no Saviour. But now is Christ risen, and death is defeated; the power of the devil is annulled, the grave has been robbed of its victory, and Christ has become the Firstborn from the dead, and His being the Firstborn means that others are to follow and to share in His triumph.

But see the place that this triumph has in relation to the coming kingdom of peace. I quote from Isaiah 25. First, the faithful witness of Christ will be the light and the power that will "destroy the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations": they will know the Lord from the least to the greatest; but second, "He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces." That could not be unless the power of death had been broken. It has been broken, thank God, for Jesus Christ is the First-begotten from the dead.

And He is "the Prince of the kings of the earth." Not yet is He acknowledged as such, but to this place has He been ordained, and in view of it "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." The One who was perfect in His obedience shall be absolute in His power, and apart from Him there can be no peace upon earth. The world ought to have learnt this long ago, but it will not learn it; it prefers its miseries and confusion to His intervention, for it has not yet repented of having crucified Him. And lest the glamour of the world's leaders and their plausible words and efforts should blind us to the true condition of the world, let us remind ourselves that it was the princes of this world that crucified the Lord of glory. Not the rabble led in this greatest of all crimes, but the princes, the leaders, the best that the world could produce; they were so blind, so foolish, that they did not recognise the Lord of glory, and they crucified Him. Every effort that the world's leaders can make to patch it up after such folly as that can only make it worse. The faithful Witness, the First begotten from the dead, is the only hope. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other Name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved." In Him infinite wisdom and omnipotence reside, and when He takes the throne He will rule in righteousness, and the effect of righteousness shall be peace.

The praise that pours forth from His blood-washed people in this Scripture is an interruption in the declaration of His glories, if we omit that for a moment, the declaration runs on. "Behold, He comes with clouds." It must be so, it is inevitable, nothing can be right for the world until He is accorded His rights in it. The kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of God and His Christ The first prophet that ever prophesied bore witness to this Coming. "The Lord comes," said he, "with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment." That word must be fulfilled. And the fact that He is coming to judge, exposes the delusion that the world is to be converted by the gospel and so prepared for His coming. If it is to a converted world that He comes, why should all the kindreds of the earth wail because of Him? If the world were a converted world it would surely receive Him with glad acclamation, but because it has rejected Hun, and refused the mercy of God through Him, it will wail at the sight of Him when He comes.

But we who believe are not afraid of Him, we shall not wail when we see Him. We can sing even now this song of triumph "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood." What cause for praise is this! We stand clear of all judgment, and it is the coming Judge who has cleared us, and that by His own blood, and He has done this because He loved us. He who will judge the world in righteousness, has not passed lightly over our sins, He has paid the price of them an His own blood. And He has done this that He might bring us nigh to God and His Father — cleansed, clothed and crowned. Can we do other than exult in His greatness and ascribe to Him glory and dominion for ever and ever?

But if we do that sincerely we shall be willingly subject to Him now. Nothing can be right in the world until His supremacy is owned in it, nothing can be right in our lives if we are not owning His Lordship over us. It would be gross hypocrisy on our part to sing this song and yet live to ourselves.

Brethren, we belong to the new era, we are children of the day. The faithful Witness has brought the light of it to us. As the First-begotten of the dead, He has imparted to us His own life, in Him we live the life that belongs to the day, and He must be our Leader, our Prince. If we yield our lives to Him He will direct us and we shall live wisely and walk wisely, and the peace that belongs to the day will be in our hearts and the light of the day will shine in our lives to enlighten those who are groping in the night. And meanwhile we shall look for His coming. And if we are challenged as to this our hope, we can answer that we have it on the authority of the Lord God Almighty, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, who must have the last word about all things. It is He who says, "Behold, He comes with clouds … Yea, Amen."