The Coming Again of the Lord Jesus

A Bible Study

It would not be right to say that the coming again of the Lord Jesus will be two comings, yet it is clear from Scripture that it will be in two stages. The first will be His coming FOR His saints, the second His coming WITH them. The first is spoken of as THE RAPTURE, i.e., the catching up to the glory of those that are His; the second, as THE APPEARING, i.e., His manifestation to the world.

Question: Which of these two stages of the coming ought we to preach to the world?

The appearing is our testimony to the world; the truth of the rapture does not seem to have been given for public preaching to the world, but for the comfort of the hearts of the Lord's own in the world, as we shall see, but the appearing of the Lord in glory has been the testimony of His witnesses from the beginning. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the first of all the prophets, prophesied saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 14-15). From his day to the first coming of the Lord all the prophets bore witness to the certainty of this same appearance in glory, and He Himself took it up, for all His words as to His coming in the Synoptic Gospels have His coming in glory in view. In John's Gospel only is the coming FOR His saints alluding to and that was to comfort their hearts. When they sorrowed at the thought of His departure, He said, "I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also" (chap. 14). The Acts of the Apostles presents the Appearing and not the Rapture. It is the burden of the angelic message in chapter 1, which was the first message sent to earth from the Glory after the Lord had entered there. "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." Peter takes up the same witness in speaking to the Jews in chapter 3, and very specially in speaking to Gentiles in chapter 10. "He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He which was "ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and dead" (v. 42). And Paul also addressing Gentiles in chapter 17, says, "God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He has ordained, whereof He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead." It is extremely interesting and instructive that in these two great sermons to Gentiles recorded for us in the Acts, the coming of the Lord as the Judge is so prominent. Gospel preachers should make a note of that.

Question: You think that the angel's message in chapter 1 has in view the appearing of the Lord in glory?

I do not think there can be any doubt about that. It will be the fulfilment of Zechariah 14:4. "His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives," for it was from thence that He went up; and if we link up these two Scriptures with Matthew 24:16, "Then let him that is in Judea flee into the mountains," we shall see the reason for that instruction, and be impressed with the way that Scripture interprets itself.

Question: What place then has the Rapture?

When the Lord appears in His glory, we are to appear with Him (Col. 3:4), and it is by the Rapture that we shall be with Him first, in order to come with Him when He appears. To instruct the saints at Thessalonica as to this was the object of the Apostle in writing his first Epistle to them. They had turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to WAIT FOR HIS SON FROM HEAVEN, i.e., they were looking for the appearing of the Lord in glory, and knew nothing as yet of the Rapture. Meanwhile their friends were dying, some of them suffering martyrdom for their faith, and they were sorrowing for them, for they evidently thought that being dead they would miss the glory of the coming of the Lord. To comfort them in this sorrow and to remove it, the Apostle wrote, "I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that ye sorrow not as others that have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him," i.e., when God brings in Jesus in all His glory as the King of kings, and the Judge of quick and dead, those who have fallen asleep through Jesus are to come also, and appear with Him. God will bring them with Him; His word is pledged here as to that. But how will it come about? How glorious is the answer to that question! "For this we say to you by THE WORD OF THE LORD, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [shall not have any precedence of] them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, 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 be ever be with the Lord."

Question: That is a very wonderful word if we are to take it literally. Must we do that?

How else can we take it? It is the word of the Lord. It is such an astounding thing that in making it known the Lord has met the incredulity that would naturally arise in our minds as to it, by giving a special revelation from Himself as to it, so that in the passage we have more than inspiration by the Holy Ghost, we have that certainly, but what Paul was here inspired by the Holy Ghost to write he had first of all received from the Lord, and it is the Lord's own word that has been passed on to us to be received by us in simple faith.

Question: But it is said that such a thing is both unreasonable and impossible and some who would not deny the resurrection from the dead cannot accept the catching up of the living. It is said that the law of gravitation would prevent such an event. How would you meet that?

I should say first of all that even though we could not explain this word at all, yet since the Lord has spoken it we should believe it, for what is impossible with man is possible with God and the word of the Lord is greater than the law of gravitation. But the law of gravitation presents no difficulty to faith or to the one who humbly reads and studies the Word of God. It is a natural law, and operates according to the design and decree of the great Creator, but it operates in the physical world and controls natural bodies. It is not natural bodies, for the Word of God tells us that our natural bodies are to be changed into spiritual bodies. Let us look at the passages that speak of this Philippians 3:20-21, "For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile body of humiliation, that it may be fashioned like to His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself." And again in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, "Behold I show you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality." These Scriptures have to do with this great event, the changing and catching up of the saints of God to heaven, and at this point in our study the change is the important consideration. Natural laws control natural bodies, but our bodies are to be changed into bodies of glory like Christ's own body, the natural is to give place to the spiritual, and mortality is to be swallowed up of life (2 Cor. 5:4), and what sort of laws will control glorified and spiritual bodies, think you? Not natural laws surely, but spiritual laws, the laws of the glory of God, and the greatest of all spiritual laws is that Christ is the centre of God's universe, and He will draw us to Himself and hold us there for ever. So that the law of gravitation need not stumble our faith in the Word of the Lord. It will continue to operate, when we have clean gone from under its power.

Question: Are there any events recorded in the Bible that would help us as to this?

Yes. "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him" (Heb. 11:5). And Elijah was rapt up into heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by a chariot and horses of fire (2 Ki. 2:11). And our Lord Himself was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of the sight of His disciples. The law of gravitation did not hinder these three great witnesses to the power of God, that subdues death and every other force to His own will. And here the fact of His power should be emphasised. This change in our living bodies is to be effected by His power, the power of our risen, glorified Lord, and it is that power whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself, as Philippians 3:21 tells us. No force, whether natural or physical, in the heavens, or the earth, or in the nether regions can withstand that power.

Question: When the Scripture speaks of the spiritual body in contrast to the natural (1 Cor. 15:44), does it mean that we shall be simply spirits?

No, a spiritual body or a body of glory, is a body, and a body is substance, and spirit is not substance. It means that we shall have bodies suited to the Glory in contrast to our present bodies which are suited to the earth or natural life. We are to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven (2 Cor. 5), the character, power, glory and beauty of the changed bodies will be heavenly; it will be the beauty of the Lord. The flesh and blood life will give way to the spiritual and heavenly life, and our bodies will be in every way suited to that life, but they will be bodies. The contrast is not between what is material and what is unsubstantial, but between what is natural and what is spiritual.

Question: We intended to discuss the appearing of the Lord, but so many questions arise in regard to this side of His coming, that we ought not to leave it until they are answered. Some of us want to know whether all the saints will be caught up at the Rapture.

Most certainly Those who deny it do not rightly divide the Word of truth, and they have not perceived the greatness and the glory and the indivisible unity of the Church — Christ's own Assembly. Let us see what are the actual words of Scripture. 1 Corinthians 15 does not speak of the Rapture of the saints to heaven, but of the resurrection of the dead in Christ and of the changing of the living, which precede the Rapture. Verse 23 says, "Every man in his own order, Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ's at His coming — not a few of these only, or a selected company from among them, but "they that are Christ's". Again addressing the living saints, who shall be alive and remaining here at the coming of the Lord, he says, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall ALL be changed" (v. 51). 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 divides the saints into two classes only, those that are "the dead in Christ," and "we which are alive and remain." There are no saints outside those two classes, and they are to be "CAUGHT UP TOGETHER." None are to be left behind. One glorious eternally united company will be caught up to be for ever with the Lord, not because they have been faithful, but because, on the sure basis of His all-atoning blood, they have been made meet for that destiny by the sovereign grace of the Father (Col. 1:12-14).

The saints of this great period of grace are indwelt by the Spirit of God, and baptised into one body. They are the church, or assembly — which word more truly expresses the truth — and when viewed from this side the thought that only a certain selected, faithful few will be caught up, becomes most repugnant. "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it" — not that it might be a mutilated church, part of it in heaven, and part of it on earth passing through the tribulation in the day of His glory — but that "He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:25-27). Between the Rapture and the Appearing the marriage of the Lamb will take place in the Glory, and the Lamb's wife, which the Church is to be, must be in the Glory before the marriage can take place (Rev. 19).

Question: But what about such a passage as Hebrews 9:28, "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation"? Does not that seem to teach that He will only appear to the faithful watchers?

It most certainly does so teach, but it has in view just as certainly the Appearing and not the Rapture as it clearly states. While the Hebrews Epistle sets forth Christian doctrine, room is left here and there for the blessing of Israel as a people on earth. Several instances of this could be cited, but chapter 8 is a very clear and definite one. The covenant there is certainly not made with Christians; it is the new covenant that is still to be made with the house of Israel. And I believe that the statement in chapter 9:28 has Israel in view also. The Lord appeared once in their midst, not to deliver them from their enemies, but to be offered to bear the sins of many. The expression, "The sins of many" reminds us of the Matthew aspect of the Lord's Supper, which is distinctly Jewish in its bearing and different from the way it is presented by Luke; it carries us back to Isaiah 53, where the Lord is said to "bare the sins of many," and to "justify many," the "many" referring definitely to the saved remnant of Israel. He is to appear the second time, apart altogether from the question of sin, for their salvation. The thought is that of the appearing of the High Priest, after he had taken the blood of the sin offering to the Holiest. The people stood without earnestly looking for Him to appear, for they could have no assurance that propitiation for their sins had been made and accepted until He did appear to bless them. When the remnant of Israel is awakened to their sin and need, after the Rapture of the church to heaven, they will look for the appearing of their Messiah-Priest, and they will not know that He has made propitiation for their sins until He does appear. He has passed into the heavens — into the Holiest, and the Christian does not wait outside that place of high privilege until He appears, but he has the title to go in now, as chapter 10:19-22 tells us. Israel will never have this great privilege. But full of sorrow for their sins (see Zechariah 12:10-14), they will wait amidst the miseries of the Tribulation for the appearing of their great Saviour, and their repentance and faith will not be in vain, for as they look for Him He will appear to their salvation. He will not appear to take up the question of their sins, but to show them by His wounds that "He was wounded for their transgressions" at His first coming, and that He has made a full propitiation for them, and to deliver them from their oppressors. Consider that interpretation of this passage and I believe it will commend itself to you.

Question: But it is argued that if all Christians are to be caught up at the coming of the Lord irrespective of their faithfulness they may be quite easy and indifferent as to their lives and service. What about that side of the question?

It runs on the same line as the slander which was flung at Paul when he taught the sovereign, unmerited grace of God. He was charged with teaching, "Let us do evil that good may come," and again when he showed that where sin abounded grace did much more abound, the question arose, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" But grace works in the exact opposite way to that, and the Rapture will be the outcome of sovereign grace and divine love. Our responsibility is not overlooked, but that is taken up in relation to the Appearing, as we have yet to see, but the thought of the Lord's scrutiny of our lives, solemn and sobering as it is, is not the greatest incentive to holy living, and to devotion to Himself. "The love of Christ constrains us" Paul said, and it is His love to His own church that will be wonderfully expressed when He catches it up to Himself in the Glory.

The truth of the Rapture is more for the heart than the head. It is as a wonderful secret that we who love the Lord are to cherish, a secret that will keep us from conformity with the world and compromise with sin if we truly keep it. Take the words that are used to convey it to us "I will come again and receive you to MYSELF that where I am, there YE shall be also" (John 14:3). "So shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17). Truly he that has this hope in him will purify himself even as He is pure. At the Rapture the Lord will come as the Bridegroom and what could appeal to the heart of the Bride more strongly than that? It is as the Bridegroom that He says, "Surely, I come quickly Amen." His last word to His church in Holy Scripture. There can be only one response to that and it is, "Even so, Come, Lord Jesus."

Question: Regarding the coming of the Lord Jesus for His church which we have been considering four times in the Revelation we read, "I come quickly." Some of us can't understand this, for nearly 2,000 years is not quickly. How do you explain that?

First, let us be impressed with the fact that it is the Lord Himself who is speaking, it is not even an apostle delivering a message from Him; the words are His own. "I will come again," He says in John 14. "I come quickly," He says in the Revelation, they are His last words to us. If we grasp the fact that they are His own words to those He loves we shall begin to understand them with the heart. Let me illustrate. A mother must leave her children for a while, as she bids them farewell she says, "I'll be back soon," and if she has the opportunity of sending them a message the burden of it is, "I'll see you soon." If she writes a letter to them, instructing them as to what to do during her absence, she does it with the words, "I'm coming quickly." Why? Because she knows that there is a great yearning in those young hearts, they won't be fully happy and satisfied until they see their mother again and she knows that no word that she could send them will be more prized by them. But there is another and a deeper reason. Her children are in her heart, she yearns for them, nothing will satisfy her but having them with her again, and nothing will hinder her when her business is done from hastening to them, she will not tarry then. It is thus, we believe, with the Lord. The "quickly" is in His heart, He will not tarry a moment longer than is necessary. "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb 10:37). Do we understand that? Unless we have left our first love we shall understand it and we shall cherish these last words of His to us, and continually in our hearts there will be this response, "Even so, Come, Lord Jesus."

Question: What about the Old Testament saints, will they have part in this coming of the Lord?

We cannot doubt that, "they that are Christ's at His coming (1 Cor. 15:23) must include them. They have died in faith, and will be among the "blessed and holy" that have part in the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6). They will be those who will be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb, the friends of the Bridegroom (Rev. 19:9). All that are in their graves are to hear His voice and will come forth, some to the resurrection of life and some to the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29), and Revelation 20 tells us that there will be a thousand years between these two resurrections. All the saints of God — those that have done good, will have their part in the first resurrection at the coming of the Lord.

Question: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 speaks of the shout of the Lord, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God. What are we to understand by these three things?

We shall have no difficulty as to the shout of the Lord. It is the Lord's own shout. As a captain commands his army, so the Lord will command and assemble the countless number of His saints, dead and living, to meet Him in the air, and there will be "our gathering together to Him" (2 Thess. 2:1). There will be authority and triumph in that shout, but more. I listened with great pleasure to a servant of the Lord, insisting that it would be a shout of joy. For nearly 2,000 years the Lord has waited for this moment, for the moment when He shall receive and present to Himself, His blood-bought church — this is the hour of His patience — but the waiting time will be over when He rises up in His power; and the shout will be a shout of joy, of long pent-up desire, if we may speak thus in deepest reverence. The shout of the Lord will have His saints solely in view, and that shout will have an instant answer; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye we shall be with Him.

The archangel is Michael (Jude 9), and he is Israel's prince (Dan. 10:21): the great spiritual power that stands for Israel. Whenever he is mentioned by name it is in relation to events in the career of that nation (see Jude 9 and Rev. 12). I suggest then that the voice of the archangel will have to do with the gathering of Israel. The trump of God seems to be more universal, it will affect all mankind. If this is the interpretation, we have here three widening circles. 1. The Church, 2. Israel, 3. All men. All will be affected by this great event. The effect will not be simultaneous in these circles, the wheels will move slower in regard to Israel and mankind, but they will begin to move then. There will be as I have said, an instant response from the church; the work will be slower in regard to Israel, but from that moment the nation will begin to move towards the land of Canaan and their preparation for the return of the Messiah will begin; and every nation will be affected also. It will not be until the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, that all nations will be gathered before Him, but the trump of God, which sounds forth at the coming of the Lord, will secure that.

What I should like us all to see is, that everything awaits the catching up of the church out of this world; until that takes place all the promises of God in regard to Israel and the nations of men are held up, they cannot be fulfilled, but when that does take place, events will move swiftly to the great and glorious appearing of the Lord, and the voice of the archangel and the trump of God will have accomplished their great work. We need a fuller conception of the importance of the church in God's ways. It is the brightest and most cherished prize that Christ will secure from among men, and until He has secured it — complete, perfect, glorious, without spot or blemish — nothing of God's plans proceed to their appointed end, but when it has been secured, to share with the coming King all His glory, then God will make no more delay, and Israel and the nations will bow the knee to Christ; God's kingdom will come.

Question: Why are the saints not caught right up into the Father's house? Why should the Lord come to meet them in the air?

They will be caught right up into the Father's house, of course. John 14 assures us of that, but the Lord will come forth to meet them to conduct them into that place that He has prepared for them. His coming forth to meet them shows the love He has for them, and the honour that He puts upon them. As a king goes forth to meet his royal bride when the news reaches him that she has left her own land for his, so will the Lord come forth to meet His bride.

But that He should meet her in the air is full of significance. The air is the seat of Satan's power; he is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2). It is from the air — the heavenlies — that the principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world and the spiritual wickedness, operate (Eph. 6:12), and it is there that the Lord will meet His own. Suppose a great king at war with another were to send a message to his army in a distant field of operations, saying that he would meet them in the capital of the enemy's country. Well, we should say, he will need to crush the enemy's power before he can do that, and if he does it, it will be the most conclusive evidence of his complete victory. It is just so in this matter. The enemy is a defeated foe; the power of the devil has been annulled. Would he not, were he able, prevent the Lord from receiving His own into glory? He certainly would; but it is in the very capital of his dark dominion, in the region from which he now operates against the church, and holds men in darkness, that the Lord will meet His saints, and they, sharing His triumph and joy, will pass through the air and into the Father's house to be for ever with the Lord.

Consequent upon this manifest triumph of the Lord over him, the devil is to be cast out of his present seat of power in the heavenlies. Revelation 12 tells us of this, and that he will come down to earth "having great wrath." We can understand that; since Pentecost his power and subtlety have been concentrated on the church. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ," and this is true of the whole church, but, he added, "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." This has been Satan's endeavour; with this end in view he has changed himself into an angel of light, and when this has failed, be has gone about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. His counsels and determination and efforts have been to rob Christ of His church, but the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, said the Lord, and here we see that word fulfilled, and in spite of the utmost that Satan can do the church passes clean through His domain, holy and without blame, having neither spot nor wrinkle nor any such thing, to be for ever for Christ, as a bride adorned for her husband. When the devil sees that and realizes the fullness of Christ's victory, he may well have great wrath.

Question: What would you say as to the fixing of dates as to the coming of the Lord?

The fixing of dates as to the coming of the Lord is a pernicious thing, and those who do it are presumptuous people. The Lord Himself said, "But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, nor the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). Yes, says some one, but we know the year. Indeed. Then why did the Lord add, "Watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is" (v. 33), and again, "for ye know not when the Master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning" (v. 35). To the apostles who have given us the Word of God by the Holy Spirit's inspiration, the Lord said, "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power" (Acts 1). If this knowledge was withheld from them in the Father's wisdom, where is there any indication in the Word that it would be revealed to us? These sayings of the Lord have to do with His coming in glory, and they surely abide true in regard to it. The church period has intervened, it will close with the Rapture, but not a word or a hint is given in relation to the Rapture that the time of it may be known. Days, months, years and numbers are given in the Scriptures, but they have their relation to Israel and the earth, and are all in abeyance until the heavenly company is secured and caught up, then the clock of prophecy will start again, and God's calendar will justify itself. Meanwhile we must accept the words of the Lord, and wait and watch and work.

Question: It is a popular notion that the world is to be converted by the preaching of the gospel or by the spread of righteousness, and that then, and not till then, the Lord will come. How does that fit in with the Scriptures?

It does not fit in with the Scriptures at all; it has no foundation or support in them. To quote a few texts will be enough to show how false it is. "Behold, He comes with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him" (Rev. 1:7). If it is to a converted world that He comes, why should all kindreds of the earth wail because of Him? If they were all converted they would most surely rejoice at His coming, and receive Him with acclamation. But it is because He is COMING AS THE JUDGE that they will fear. "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of this, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds …" (Jude 14-15). He is coming to judge because the world has not been converted by the gospel, and because the only way in which righteousness can be established on the earth is by judgment. This is made solemnly clear by another Scripture, "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:7-9). There are a host of confirmatory texts, but one other will be enough. "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne, and from THE WRATH OF THE LAMB: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Rev. 6:15-17). Could the Lamb be wrath with a converted world? And would converted men cry out for a hiding place from Him? Yet here men in every station of life are reduced to the common level of abject terror at the very thought of His coming.

Question: Then what is the gospel for if not to convert the world?

It has been sent into the world to gather a people out of the world for the Lord's Name. This comes out clearly in Acts 15:14, "God at first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name." Those who believe the gospel are delivered from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (Gal. 1:4). The distinction between the disciples of the Lord and the world is clearly given in the Lord's own words, "Because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19), and throughout the chapters 14-17 of John's Gospel. Every true believer on the Lord Jesus is a "called out" one, sanctified in Christ Jesus, and belongs to His church that He is soon to catch away out of the world for ever; they look for mercy and salvation at His coming; while for the world there is judgment — "a certain looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:27).

It is of the utmost importance that we should understand that the gospel has called us out of the world to heaven; having believed it, our names are written there; our citizenship is there, and it is from thence that we look for the Saviour, who shall change our bodies of humiliation, and fashion them like to His own body of glory, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself" (Phil. 3:21). At the first stage of His coming again, when He will catch away from the world His blood-bought saints, He will get something out of the world, at His Appearing in glory with His saints He will do something in the world.

Question: Why do you stress the fact of our being called out of the world so much?

Because the true character of the church cannot be understood unless this is understood, and unless we understand the character of our calling, we cannot be true to it; and neither shall we understand the prophetic Scripture, nor rightly divine the word of truth, if we fail to see the unique character of the church and its calling. We have been made partakers of "a heavenly calling" (Heb. 3:1). Our blessings are in "the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:3). Our hope is laid up for us in heaven (Col. 1:5), and we are to set our affections upon the things that are there (chap. 3:14). And finally the Lord said in His prayer to His Father, "They are not of the world even as I am not of the world" (John 17). If the church had held fast to this great fact it would not have settled down in the world, and it would have kept free from those entanglements that have bound it a captive to the world's schemes and ways and made it grind at its mills, like blinded Samson at the mills of the Philistines. Thousands of earnest Christians are wasting their energies and time in efforts to improve the world that cannot be improved, because they do not see and realize their heavenly calling, when they might be building for eternity — building in relation to the chief corner Stone, which has been rejected by the world (Acts 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:6-8). That building, which groweth to an holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:19-22), is most surely nearing its completion; when it is completed it will be caught up to heaven. The door will be closed, and all those who have had nothing but an empty profession, will be shut out and will knock without success at the closed door (Luke 13:25-30).

Question: We have heard much talk about signs of the Lord's coming again, especially during the war and since. Ought we to be looking for such?

There are certainly sure signs that we are in the last days, but these are not "wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes in diverse places and famines and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs" (Luke 21). All these are to take place before the Appearing of the Lord in His glory and have nothing to do with the coming of the Lord for His church. Some have allowed their imaginations to run riot as to such things and as to sensational events in the political world. So, in the rise of Mussolini, and the efforts of the League of Nations, they have seen the Beast of Revelation 13 and the ten kingdoms. It is a superficial knowledge of Scripture that leads them into these errors, and the inability to rightly divide the word of truth. The Beast is to rise up out of the anarchy and confusion that will follow the catching up of the church to heaven. 2 Thessalonians 2 clearly shows us that neither he nor Anti-Christ can be manifested until that event has taken place, and the kings will have their power given to them at the same time for one hour — a brief period (Rev. 17:12). The presence of the Holy Spirit in the church on earth holds back the full development of these evil forces, and He will continue to hold them back until He be taken out of the way. Signs of this sort and such as are given by the Lord in Matthew 24, and Luke 21, will be a help to the godly Jewish remnant awaiting the coming of their Messiah.

But the Scriptures do instruct us as to the character of the last days — "Men shall be lovers of their own selves … lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim. 1:5). "Knowing this first, that there shalt come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:3-4). And this state of things is in the professing Church. Leaders in the "Christian world" lead great campaigns for Sunday pleasures and scoff at the teaching of the coming again of the Lord; these turn away from truth, having itching ears (2 Tim. 4:4); and their presence in the professing church and their activities are a sure sign that we are in the last times. Sad signs indeed they are, but there is another and a brighter one; it is the awakening of desire in the hearts of multitudes of the saints of God to see the Lord; they are being recovered to the truth of His coming again. The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Whenever there is recovery to first love to the Lord, there will be this longing for His return, and it is for this recovery, this true revival, that we should be praying and labouring, for this is the surest of all signs that His coming is near. The more definitely we are recovered to this true, normal Christian state, the more we shall talk of the Lord, and it will not be signs that will occupy our thoughts but Himself — the Bright and Morning Star.

Those who have this hope in Christ will purify themselves, even as He is pure; they will separate themselves from those evil men whose presence in the professing church are a sign of the last days, and they will draw together as those did at the close of Old Testament history: "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His Name. And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels" (Mal. 3:16-17).

But notice, in this connection, "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not" (v. 18).

Nothing will promote holiness of walk and separation from evil and evil men like this great hope of the coming of our Saviour; it will make us like to men that wait for their Lord.

Question: Your last sentence is a quotation from Luke 12. And you said that the Synoptic Gospels do not present the Rapture of the Church, but the Appearing of the Lord. has that chapter no application to us then?

It certainly has a most definite application to us. It covers in its most wonderful sweep the whole period of time between the Lord's rejection by the world and His Appearing in glory. There is not a more important chapter in the New Testament for us who through grace are the servants of the Lord. It shows us our responsibilities as being left in the world to serve Him and care for His interests during His absence, and how He will reward His waiting, watching and working servants on His return. Everyone who has taken the place of being His servant, whether real or otherwise, will be scrutinised by Him in that day when He will take all to account. It is a solemn matter, but must be left for consideration later, if the Lord will.

Question: What bearing has Luke 12:34-48 upon us, who are looking for the Rapture of the church at the first stage of the Lord's coming?

It sets before us in the Lord's own words, our responsibility during His absence from this world, and the rewards for faithfulness. Three things are to mark us: readiness, expectancy and activity; we are to be waiting, watching and working.

Question: What is the meaning of the figures used: loins girded and lights burning?

The lights burning show that it is night, the night of the Lord's absence, and the tendency is to ungird and go to sleep at night, but in a spiritual sense we must not do that; for while we are in the night we are not of it, but "we are children of the day … therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thess. 5:5-6). The loins girded and the light burning indicate readiness to move at the word of the Lord; there must be no scrambling and scurrying when He comes; we are to be like to men that wait for their Lord.

Question: Does the watching of verse 37, to which a special blessedness is attached, indicate something better than simply waiting?

Both have their place, but watching means expectancy, the heart is engaged. A servant might be quite ready for his master's return, as simply obeying a command, but if he is watching, it shows that his master's return is absorbing his thoughts. But with the Christian the two must go together; if the heart is not right towards the Lord, the loins will become ungirded and the light will grow dim.

Question: What of the next section, where the faithful servant feeds the household, and is also called, "blessed": is that evidence of greater devotion?

It shows us the servant in his activities and runs on with the waiting and watching; the three things give a complete description of a servant altogether pleasing to the Lord. I might illustrate these three things. The mother of a family has been compelled to leave her home for a while, and it and the younger children are left in charge of Mary, her mother's trusted daughter. She has told them that she will not tarry when her business is finished, and they are expecting her daily. With this expectation bright in her heart Mary keeps the home clean and tidy, so that when the mother does return she may find everything ready, the home clean, the children dressed and waiting. But they are not only ready but expectant; often they run to the door or peer out of the window for the first sight of the returning mother, and as the days go by Mary becomes more eager than them all. Yet she does not forget her mother's wishes; she sees that the children are fed and she does not allow them to forget that mother is coming; she actively cares for her mother's interests, idling not for a moment. Between her journeys to the door and window, she slips first into this room and then into that, to see that nothing is out of place, and she keeps her eye on her brothers and sisters, for she does not want to be ashamed of them before her mother when she returns; she waits and watches like them all, but she diligently works as well. She does everything as she feels her mother would if she were there. She is faithful to her trust. Blessed is Mary when her mother returns. She has a twofold joy; her mother is back again, and smiles her approval on her little daughter.

Question: Do the rewards of which the Lord speaks show the measure of His appreciation of the faithfulness of His servants?

Yes. I will continue my parable to illustrate this. Mary has the joy of her mother's presence and the satisfaction of her mother's approbation. But now the mother's turn has come. She makes Mary sit down at the table, and all the children, for they were all alike longing and watching for her return, and she brings out the good things she has brought for them; they feast together, but the mother serves. Her delight in being with her children, and the pleasure in their love that made them long and watch for her return, makes her their servant now. But what a reward that feast is to Mary; she has it as a secret understanding between her mother and herself, and a special mark of her mother's approval. This is the way the Lord proposes to recompense His watching servants in verse 37. "Verily I say to you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them."

Question: What is the difference between that, and "he will make him ruler over all that he Has" (v. 44)?

The service of love rendered to His watching servants, seems to be inside the house. It is a private festival that the world won't see. It is love answering to love. It is love in the hearts of His servants. that leads to this expectancy and watching, and love in the heart of the faithful Lord will lead Him to show His appreciation of that love that did not forget Him during His absence. But the making him ruler of all that He Has, is a public honour for public service; the servant is rewarded openly for his faithful service by a place of trust in the kingdom. Both are blessed, but the latter would not be greatly valued without the former.

Question: Before leaving this Scripture, please explain what the Lord says about the unfaithful servants in verses 45-48?

The servant evinces his reality by his conduct and vice versa. Many are servants by profession who are not so in reality and in heart, but a man's conduct shows what is in his heart. This servant says in his heart, "My lord delayeth his coming." He does not openly deny that He will come, but he defers the coming and casts off the true servant character, and lords it over God's heritage, as though the day of reckoning would never come. To such a servant the Lord's coming will be sudden, unexpected; He will come as a thief in the night to him, as He will to the world. He is an evil servant (Matt. 24), and shall have his portion with the unbelievers, because he is an unbeliever. The solemn words stand as a warning to each and all, yet how clearly there is foretold in them the unfaithfulness of the professing church; how soon in its history it lost the hope and desire for the Lord's return, and left its first love, and settled down in the world to eat and drink with the drunken, as though it belonged to the world and the night (1 Thess. 5:7), and then to lord it over kings and princes, and to persecute the faithful servants of the Lord. It is the spirit of the world in the professing church and must be a grief to the Lord and all who are faithful to Him, and it will meet with His unsparing judgment at His appearing.

The words as to the faithful and wise steward are an encouragement, for they show that until the Lord does come there will be such, who shall care for His interests and feed His household with wisdom and love. He cares for His household, and has provided abundant food for their spiritual health and strength, and this food has been committed to His stewards. There could be no greater sin on the part of any of His servants than the withholding of this food from those who need it, and no greater service to the Lord than the diligent dispensing of it. Blessed are those servants, whom his Lord when He comes shall find so doing. Awake ye stewards of the Lord; the time is short; the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Question: You think that the Scriptures teach that the manifestation of the servants of the Lord as to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness will take place at the Appearing and not at the Rapture?

Yes, the Rapture of the saints to heaven will be according to the sovereign grace of God, and will usher us into the Father's house, while our responsibility and rewards for faithfulness are generally bound up with the Appearing and Kingdom. It will be at His appearing that the Lord Himself will be publicly vindicated and then His servants will be vindicated and rewarded also. We read of "them that love His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:8), and every faithful servant and saint is looking for it. The true and proper hope of the church is the Rapture, to be for ever with the Lord; it is this that is spoken of as "that blessed hope," but the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2) must not be left out of our thoughts; the heart that is faithful to Christ could be satisfied with nothing less than this. This has its place in our hope, and will be the answer to our prayer, "Thy kingdom come."

Question: Will you cite texts to show that there is this distinction between the Rapture and the Appearing, and that when the Lord does appear His church will not be on the earth? In 1 Timothy 6:13-14, Paul exhorts Timothy to "keep this commandment … until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ," which seems to support the idea that the church will be here until the Appearing.

There are many passages of Scripture which show that when the Lord appears in glory His saints will appear with Him. Some of these are: "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4), "The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1 Thess. 3:13), "Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" (1 Thess. 4:14), "The Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints" (Jude 14), "They that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14), "The armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Rev. 19:14). It is clear from these Scriptures that He does not find His church on earth at His Appearing, but that it comes with Him; how this is possible is unfolded in 14:16-17. He first catches it up to Himself and then it comes forth with Him in His glory.

The charge to Timothy in the passage quoted, emphasizes the responsibility of the Lord's servants to hold the fort for the Lord until He returns, to establish His kingdom and authority. This is one side of our witness and service; we represent Him while He is absent from the world because we know that He is coming back to it. This is a most important part of our testimony to the world. Our testimony is really threefold: He has been here in grace, He is not here for He was rejected, He is coming back again in power and glory to judge and to rule in righteousness. Meanwhile His servants, of whom Timothy was a pattern, must hold the truth in its spotless purity, without compromise, in subjection to the Lord. When the church has been taken out of the world, God will bring to light others who will hold the standard aloft and keep the light burning until the Appearing of the Lord.

Question: You think then that the Lord will find faithful servants on the earth when He appears. If these are not of the church, who will they be?

He will, but they will be saints of the Jewish people, a remnant in whose hearts the Spirit will work after the Rapture of the church. He will appear for their salvation. With the Rapture of the church, the Spirit who dwells in it will also be taken out of the way. Then the man of sin and Antichrist will be revealed (2 Thess. 2; Rev. 13), and the great tribulation will begin. All the world will be tried by it, but the Jewish nation, because they rejected their Messiah, will suffer most, and in this nation, a faithful remnant will appear, who shall turn to God and suffer more than all, and that even from their compatriots. The Lord will appear for their salvation, as many Scriptures tell. "Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His word; your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified. But He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed" (Isa. 66:5). "Unto them that look for Him shalt He appear the second time without sin to salvation" (Heb. 9:28). "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:30-31).

Zechariah 13:8-9 describes this godly Jewish remnant in the Tribulation, and "they shall call on My Name, and I will hear them; I will say, It is My people, and they shall say, The Lord is my God," and Daniel 12, speaking of the same time says, "There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." One more passage from the Old Testament is well worth quoting in this connection. "Behold the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble, but to you that fear My Name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall" (Mal. 4).

As to their faithfulness during the terrible persecutions of the Tribulation, this is described, and the recompense for it in Revelation 14:14, Zephaniah 3:12-13 and other Scriptures.

Question: Have we any information in the Scriptures as to what will take place in heaven between the Rapture and the Appearing?

Yes, I think we have. 2 Corinthians 5 clearly indicates that we shall be manifested before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and it is equally clear that the church will be presented to Christ in glory (Eph. 5). The marriage of the Lamb precedes His coming forth in glory (Rev. 19). Our time of responsibility must have closed before our manifestation before the Judgment seat, and the rewards must be apportioned before the coming of the Lord in glory. This I think is clear from such Scriptures as Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-17, and 2 Corinthians 5. At that judgment seat all our works will be finally tested; our whole lives will pass in review; and we shall see everything in the light as our Lord sees it. It should have a sobering effect upon us, but should create no alarm or dread in our hearts, for the One before whom we shall stand is our Saviour, who gave Himself for us, and we shall stand there in our spiritual bodies of glory. It will be then that we shall receive our rewards or suffer loss.

Question: How can a Christian suffer loss, what will he lose?

Well, he will lose nothing that has been the gift of grace. All spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ are his, by God's sovereign gift, and these can never be recalled or forfeited. His place in God's family, and as having part in the church, which is to be the wife of the Lamb, are his, for ever; he could not gain these things by his works and he cannot lose them by his failures. They are his not because of his conduct but as the gift of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The loss will be in relation to his life of responsibility and its results. Suppose two men are employed by one master: one labours faithfully and hard for six days in the week; the other works for three days only and spends or squanders the rest of the week in idleness and folly. Those men will be very differently placed at the end of the week; one will receive his master's approval and a full recompense; the other will suffer the loss of what might have been his in the way of wages, and receive the censure of his master. It will be in this way that reward or loss will be received at the judgment seat.

Then think again of the two workmen: to both, carefully written instructions as to what the master wishes them to do are given and of the kind of material that they are to obtain for their work. One workman, not leaning on his own understanding, pays great attention to his master's wishes and consults his instructions as to every detail; the other thinks he knows what is needed and how to do it and pays scant respect to the master's written word. When the master comes to inspect the work, one man receives a reward, the other man's work is rejected; he suffers loss, and this is just what is taught in 1 Corinthians 3. "If any man's work abide which he has built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."

The results will have their answer in the kingdom. He that has been faithful in that which is little, will be entrusted with much there. We must distinguish between our place in the Father's house, which is all of grace, and the place we shall occupy in the kingdom.

Question: In respect to the Marriage of the Lamb, what is the meaning of "she has made herself ready"?

There seems to be two sides to the marriage of the Lamb. Ephesians 5:25-27 gives that side on which we have the full and perfect work of Christ, not only for, but in His church — she will be a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but holy and without blemish; that is certainly all sovereign grace, and perfect divine work, and what she is as in the beauty of Christ. But in Revelation 19:7-9, we learn that "His wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints." This shows what she herself has wrought in her life of responsibility here, and it is to have its place on that great day.

This "fine linen, clean and white" will silence the voice of the accuser, and that specially in view of the public manifestation of the saints with Christ. Apart from it, it might have been said to the Lord, "Produce practical righteousness in your church, your wife, before you attempt to establish it in the world." The fine linen will be evidence that it has been produced in that circle which is nearest to Him, and these same saints who are the wife of the Lamb, will come forth in this same "fine linen, clean and white" when He comes forth to judge and make war in righteousness.

The apostle Paul laboured and prayed for this in the saints in view of the day of manifestation. He prayed that they might be "sincere and without offence till, or for, Christ's day," and again, he was confident that God would complete the work He had begun in them, with that same day in view (Phil. 1). May we also be deeply concerned about these things for our present living and service are to have important results for us, for Christ, and to the glory and praise of God.

There is an illuminating word in 2 Thessalonians 3:1. The great Apostle Paul begs the young Christians at Thessalonica to pray that the Word of the Lord may have free course — or that it may run. If we remember that the subject of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians is the coming again of the Lord Jesus, we shall realize how striking and appropriate is this figure of speech. The King is coming, and His herald runs before Him announcing the fact. The Word of the Lord is the herald. It is the gospel, of course, but not the gospel as it is so poorly understood and preached by many preachers in these slack days. The gospel of God is concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is raised up from the dead and set in the place of supremacy at God's right hand, to administer the grace of God from that place of power to all who will receive the Word, until the hour arrives when He shall appear in glory and God shall set Him on His throne in Zion. This was the word that the apostles preached, with the result that those who believed it "turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, our Deliverer from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1). This word of the Lord, the herald going before the Lord to announce His coming, is indeed a word of grace, the gospel of our salvation, giving all who believe it heavenly hope, but it is also an imperative word, it claims and commands obedience. It is like the herald that went before Joseph in Egypt, crying, "Bow the knee" (Gen. 41:43), and those that refuse to obey it, "that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" are to be punished with "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" at His appearing (2 Thess. 1:8-9).

Question: You want us to understand that the Word of the Lord proclaims the coming of the Lord in glory — His appearing, can you give Scripture for it?

Yes. I will give three from the Apostolic preaching in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter said, "Repent … And He (God) shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached to you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:20-21). Again, "And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He which is ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and dead" (chap. 10:42). Paul said, "God … now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He has ordained; whereof He has given assurance to all men, in that He has raised Him from the dead" (chap. 17:30-31).

Question: One of those Scriptures speaks of blessing, and the others of judgment, which is it that the appearing of the Lord will bring?

God's purpose is the blessing of men, and Christ is coming for blessing and to fulfil the Scripture, "I have set Thee to be a light to the Gentiles, that Thou shouldest be for salvation to the ends of the earth" (Isa. 49:6; Acts 13:47), but judgment must go before the blessing, because of what men are. It is the persistent rebellion of men against God, that makes judgment a necessity. Yet judgment is God's strange work; He does not delight in it, He delights in mercy. This comes out in the very language that Scripture uses. When it is a question of judgment, we read "a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Rom. 9:28), but when it is a question of mercy, "He is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9). When vengeance is in view it is "the day of vengeance, but when mercy, it is the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4). It is because God's terms of grace are rejected, and because the world will not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and because men will not receive the knowledge of God when they may, that judgment must come, and it surely will come, though long delayed. The blessing will also come, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass" (Ps. 72:6). The rain speaks of the blessing, but "the mown grass" means that the scythe of judgment will have swept the field before the blessing descends.

Question: But the Lord will not come in judgment as long as His Church is on the earth?

No, because evil will not come into its full manifestation as long as the church is here, and God withholds His judgment until evil reaches its climax, that none may charge Him with unrighteousness. That is plain from 2 Thessalonians 2. The mystery of iniquity is already working, and those who are taught of God can discern it; indeed it is obtruding itself everywhere, in the increasing lawlessness, the impatience at authority, the disdain of God's claims and the diminishing of His fear in the world, the rejection of the great truths of the Word, the spread of ritualism and modernism, and the substitution of "Science falsely so called" for the gospel in professed Christian circles; yet there is a restraining power here. There is that which withholds, or restrains, and "He who now lets, or hinders, until He be taken out of the way" (chap. 2:6-7). He that hinders is the Holy Spirit of God who dwells in the church. As long as He is here it will be said to all the pride and purposes of men, "Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall all thy proud waves be stayed." We have often seen it especially during the last quarter of a century; when evil forces have seemed to be rising up in irresistible waves, threatening to overwhelm all law and order, they have been checked and have subsided, and Christians have still been able to "pray for kings and for all that be in authority, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty." But when the church is completed and taken up to heaven, the Holy Spirit will go with it, and God will allow men to have their own way. Then "that man of sin," "the son of perdition" (v. 3) and "that wicked one" (v. 8) will be revealed. In these two men — the Beast and the false prophet, who is also called Antichrist, and of whom we read in Revelation chapters 13, 17, 19, — Satan will find vessels of wrath, through whom he will work his will, and by them he will make his most desperate attempt to hold the world against God and Christ (see Revelation 16:13-14; 17:14). It is against these and their deluded followers, that the Lord will appear in judgment. Revelation 19:11-21 describes this appearing. Every name and character that He bears in that vivid description of His appearing is consistent with the event. He is the Faithful and the True, in contrast to the false pretensions of men and the lie with which the devil has deceived them (see 2 Thess. 2:9-11). "In righteousness He will judge and make war," against all "the deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish." He is called "the Word of God," for He will reveal God's holy wrath against sin in its completeness, as once He revealed His love to sinners. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and will assert and establish His rights by the sharp sword of His mouth and with the rod of iron. There will be no mercy for those who oppose Him, for He will tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Question: Does 2 Thessalonians 1, where we read of the Lord being revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, refer to the same time as Revelation 19?

Yes, but in that passage the judgment takes a wider sweep, it has more than the armies of the Beast and false prophet in view. The flaming fire, which is figurative of judgment, is against all who know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have not obeyed the gospel, are those who have heard it, and would apply to Christendom, and those who know not God are those who have had the opportunity of knowing Him, but who have not availed themselves of it. The judgment will fit the crimes and the conditions in which men are found; it will be a discriminating judgment, executed in absolute righteousness. Another passage that fits in with those already cited is Revelation 1:7, "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." That word plainly describes the Lord's appearing, not to any section of mankind, but to the whole world, and it is a parallel word to Matthew 24:30, where the Lord Himself says, "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." He comes thus to judge the living at His appearing, the dead will not come before Him until the great white throne (Rev. 20), which judgment will take place after the close of His millennial kingdom.

Question: There will be many who will enter into blessing under the reign of the Lord in the Millennium, if the judgment is to be worldwide, who will these be?

They will be a remnant of Israel, and a great company of Gentiles, and as God's dealings with these two will be different, it will be well to consider them separately. For this the Lord's words in Matthew 24 will help us. Under the godless, devil-inspired domination of the Beast and Antichrist there "shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (v. 21). These words are from the Lord's own lips, which fact gives them a special force. But in the midst of that tribulation which will beat more fiercely on the Jews than upon any other people, the Lord will have His elect, and for their sake the days will be shortened (v. 22). The elect of this verse will be found among the Jews, and in verse 31 there are others who are to be gathered together from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other; these are probably not only Jews, that is, men of the tribe of Judah, but also of the whole of Israel. They are elect, which means the Sovereign mercy of God has chosen them. But how will they be distinguished from the rest of the rebellious people? God's way has always been to bring such to light by a testimony from Himself, and the testimony then will be the gospel of the kingdom. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come" (v. 14).

This gospel will not be the gospel of the grace of God, which tells of full redemption in Christ, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit and of heavenly hopes, which we have heard and believed; though it will be a gospel of grace surely, and Christ will be the theme of it, or it would be no gospel at all, but it will tell of the coming of the Lord as King, of His kingdom to be established on the earth as John the Baptist and the Lord Himself and His disciples proclaimed when He was here. It will be the proclamation of His supremacy over all, and the test will be, whether this Word of God and testimony of Jesus is received or rejected. Those who receive the mark of the Beast in their foreheads and hands and worship his image, will not receive it, but those who refuse that delusion of the devil will; and by this testimony, not only the nation of the Jews, but all nations will be sharply divided. And as those who will be for the beast and Antichrist will at that time be in the ascendancy, those who are for Christ will suffer great persecution. Many will be martyred, and have a heavenly reward, for they will have part in "the first resurrection and shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). Others will be preserved and sustained by the Lord through the tribulation and will endure to the end, and they shall be saved for the Millennium kingdom (Matt. 24:13). We must bear in mind that Matthew 24 has this time of tribulation in view and does not apply to the present time.

Question: Two questions arise in the mind from what you have said. 1st. Does it mean that there will be a second chance for those who reject the gospel now and may be alive then? 2nd. Who will preach this gospel of the kingdom?

There will certainly be no second opportunity for those who have refused God's salvation as it is now preached, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" The gospel of the grace of God is God's best; if the best does not appeal to the heart of a man, nothing else will. But there are hundreds of millions in the world who have never heard the gospel, and who know nothing of the Christian faith, except as some of them have seen it, so horribly corrupted as in Roman Catholic and Greek church lands. Pernicious books have been published in which it has been taught, that some who do not receive Christ as Saviour now, will refuse to yield to antichrist and suffer martyrdom, but the Word says, "Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:10-12). That surely is conclusive, as are many other Scriptures.

As to who will proclaim this gospel, we learn from Revelation 11 that a new testimony to God will be given in Jerusalem by two witnesses, raised up and empowered by God, and though the majority will rejoice when they are slain, we may be sure that their witness will not be in vain. The Spirit of God will use it and the remnant will be born again. They will be "an afflicted and poor people and they shall trust in the Name of the Lord" (Zeph. 3:12). The Lord's words to His apostles in Matthew 10 and Luke 21 will have a special reference to them, and they will go forth to speak with "a mouth of wisdom" that He will give them. In Matthew 25:40 the Lord speaks of them as "these My brethren." "The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it."

Question: How will the Lord appear to this elect remnant?

He will appear when the tribulation-persecution of the Jewish nation under the Antichrist will have reached its height, and His coming will bring it to an end. All nations will be gathered against Jerusalem and the city shall be taken, "then the Lord shall go forth and fight against those nations" (Zech. 14). His appearing will be the destruction of those foes, but it will be the deliverance of the godly Jews … who are looking for Him. "To them that look for Him shall He appear to their salvation" (Heb. 9:28). "His feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley … and they shall flee the valley of the mountains … and the Lord God shall come and all the saints with Thee" (Zech. 14:4-6). This passage throws light on the Lord's words in Matthew 24:15-16. "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso reads, let him understand), then let him that is in Judea flee into the mountains." And it will be the fulfilment of Acts 1:11, "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." He will return to the very spot from which He went up, His feet will stand again upon the mount of Olives.

As Joseph revealed himself to his guilty brethren of old (Gen. 45) and they confessed their sin in selling and persecuting him, so will the Lord reveal Himself to Israel who betrayed and sold Him into the hands of the Gentiles, and they will repent and mourn and confess. "The spirit of grace and supplications" shall be poured out upon them, and they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourneth for his only son and is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zech. 12:10). "And they shall ask what are these wounds in Thine hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends" (Zech. 13:6). It is thus that they will be brought to own the once crucified Jesus as their great Messiah. And it shall be said in that day of Him, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is the Lord: we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9).