What God has said on the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the present age.

There is a vast difference between taking up the word of God, to hear what HE has said, and taking it up to search out passages that seem to uphold any theory that one may hold. Now, all true Christians must feel that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most interesting subjects that can occupy our thoughts.

It is proposed then, in this small tract, to look carefully at what God has said.

First, at what God has spoken by His Son, in the four Gospels; and secondly, at what God has spoken by His Spirit, in the epistles of the apostles.

Before turning to the words of the Son of God, let us read, as introduction, the words of Gabriel, sent of God: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Surely every “shall” in this wondrous passage, must be as really and an literally fulfilled as was the birth of Jesus. God said He should be born: it came to pass. God says He shall reign over the house of Jacob: it will surely come to pass.

Let us now turn and hear what God has spoken to us by His Son, in the four Gospels. I would notice the seven parables in Matt. 13. The present period was then unknown, and Jesus only spake of it in parables. But we who now have the teaching of the Spirit of God, and know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, can read them more like histories than parables.

The first is the parable of the sower. Instead of God setting up that blessed reign of Christ, foretold in all the prophets, there is this time of sowing or preaching the word. And how searching the words of Jesus; only one part out of four even of those who professed to receive the word, are saved and bring forth fruit. “Some fell upon stony places,” “some fell by the way side,” “and some fell among thorns.” Oh! reader, beware lest thou art one of these classes, and thou perish for ever. Oh! beware of the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches.

But some will ask, does the Lord Jesus teach that this state of things will continue; or does He teach that, by and by, all will receive His word and be saved? Let the second parable answer that question. A man sowed good seed in his field, an enemy sowed tares. He explains it himself: “He that sows good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sows them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world (or age); and the reapers are the angels.” So that you see, my reader, plainly, whoever may preach the conversion of the whole world, Jesus taught the very opposite. That only one part out of four of the seed sown brings forth fruit to perfection; and that in the world, the wicked and the righteous would grow together, until the very end of this age. The wicked should then be “cast into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

The third parable, the mustard-tree, teaches, that when the professing body should have greatly increased, the wicked spirits who tried at first to pick up the seed would lodge in its branches. Judas was one of the first of these birds; but now their name is legion.

The fourth parable, the hid leaven. “The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” This, perhaps, gives the saddest picture of all; but not more sad than true. So far from the Church converting the world, the whole of professing Christendom has become leavened with the working in secret of this woman’s leaven of iniquity. Leaven in Scripture always denotes evil: the leaven of the Pharisees — leaven of Herod — leaven of malice and wickedness.

The fifth, sixth, and seventh parables teach the same truth. It is not the whole field, but the treasure in it: not the whole world, but the one pearl — the one Church of God, that is being taken out of the world. All are not converted, but in the great net of the present dispensation of time, there are good and bad. “So shall it be at the end of the age.” The wicked shall then be severed from among the just.

Matt. 24. In this chapter we find the plain teaching of Jesus to His little flock of Jewish disciples. It is the same subject as the seven parables, only in plain words, not in parables. In the first few verses Jesus foretells the destruction of the Jewish temple — which, we all know, came literally to pass. He was seated on the Mount of Olives — the very spot where His feet shall stand when He comes to reign. The disciples came and enquired privately, “Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (or age)?” Now read carefully from the fourth to the last verse, and mark, there is not one thought of the world’s conversion. He foretells there will be false Christs — deceivers — wars, and rumours of wars — famines, pestilences, earth quakes — persecutions, sorrows, death — iniquity abounding, and the love of many waxing cold. And instead of the world receiving the gospel, it is preached for a witness; and then the end comes. Much has been fulfilled; and much in this chapter has yet to be fulfilled.
Bear in mind, that all these words of Jesus were spoken to His Jewish disciples, and have special reference to what shall befall that nation. In the fifteenth verse He says to them, “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 them which be in Judea flee to the mountains,” &c. This evidently proves that the temple at Jerusalem has to be rebuilt; for the abomination of desolation is to stand in the holy place. And if you read Dan. 12:11-13, and compare it with 9:27, you see the fearful act of the head of the Roman power, who causes the sacrifice and oblation to cease in the midst of the week — then mark when the abomination stands in the holy place. Then the words of Jesus will be most valuable to the godly Jews, who believe His testimony in that day. The moment they see this take place, they take it as the signal to escape. They have not even time to go into the house to fetch their clothes.
Then takes place “the great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time — no, nor ever shall be.” The remnant who have escaped may count the days that are shortened, 1290 to 1260, or half a week of years. The angel, speaking to Daniel of these days, says, “And 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 (that is, the Jews) shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (12:1-2.) Clearly, then, the setting up of the abomination of desolation, and the time of tribulation, are both future. And in proof of this, our blessed Lord says, what will take place immediately after, the tribulation: “And 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.” (Ver. 29, 30.)
Most certainly, then, all tribes of the earth are not converted; or why do they mourn when Jesus comes? Jesus says, “Verily I say to you, This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” How remarkably this is so before our very eyes! Though scattered among all nations, the generation or race of the Jews still exists, and waits the fulfilment of all these things. The Lord then goes on to state, “As the days of Noah were, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” Oh, what a solemn thought, that this world is to go on eating and drinking — rejecting Christ, just as the world despised the preaching of Noah, “and knew not until the flood came and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be!” The most solemn warnings to watch and be ready are then given: “for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man comes.” Terrible will be the doom of that servant who shall say in his heart, My Lord delays his coming. Yes, he calls Him, “My Lord;” but his portion will be with the hypocrites, “where there in weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” Such are the solemn words of the Son of God. Oh! that my reader may be awakened to the solemn enquiry, Am I ready, and waiting for the Lord?

Matt. 25. The whole of this chapter also is upon the same subject. The illustration of the ten virgins each most plainly, that instead of all being converted when He comes, half of those who profess to be His are shut out. All slumbered and slept. Oh, professor! if you should hear those words, “I know you not;” “Watch, therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.”

Another illustration is then given of this period, during which Jesus is away in heaven: “As a man travelling into a far country.” And again, the whole of his servants do not improve their talents. Then “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory.” Then to the end of the chapter the Lord most plainly describes the judgment of the living nations at his coming. You will notice, if you read carefully, that there is nothing said in this place about the judgment of the dead: that is quite a distinct event, as we shall find as we go on in the word.

Even when standing before the high priest, on the solemn night of his betrayal, Jesus said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man, sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Alas, man always refused this testimony. The high priest declared it blasphemy, and pronounced Him worthy of death. (26:64-65.)

I would now turn to Mark 13. The solemn warnings of Matthew 24 are repeated: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds, with great power and glory.” Not only the porter of the house is to watch, but to mark the uncertainty of the hour when Jesus shall come, all are to watch. Some will say, “Ah, you do not need to think about the coming of the Lord; it will not take place in your day.” Jesus says, “Watch ye, therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house comes; at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning, lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all, Watch.”

Oh, how near, then, the Lord’s coming must be. The present night of His absence is thus divided into four parts: — “even,” “midnight,” “cockcrowing,” and “morning.” Where are we? The evening of the dispensation is already past; yea, the midnight of the dark ages is past, or middle ages, as they are called. The awakening of the Reformation is past. Ah, the morning breaks. Watch! watch! the day will surely break. Oh, blessed are they who shall be found ready!

But perhaps my reader will ask, if Jesus does not teach that the world would be converted by the preaching of the gospel? Does He plainly say the contrary? Let us turn now and carefully examine the Gospel of Luke, and there we shall get a decided answer to the above question. Luke 12:35-48. In these verses there are two classes of servants. I would observe, a man may be a servant and not a son, as Balaam, and many others. Those servants are greatly blessed who are found watching when the Son of man comes. But the evil servant who said in his heart, my lord delays his coming — and especially that servant “who knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” Oh! is not this highly favoured England? Does any nation know the will of God as she does? Surely, then, as it was with Judea, so will it be with this land. The heaviest judgments of God’s wrath will be poured out on this now highly favoured land. Her doom will be infinitely worse than the dark lands of paganism, where the will of the Lord has not been known. Surely, then, this warning is not a light matter; and who knows how near.

But if you now turn to Luke 17:24-37, the Lord says here most decidedly, that he must be rejected. And this rejection goes right on to the coming of the Son of man. A rejection which He likens to the days of Noah and of Lot, “Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” Yea, so far from the world being converted, He says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” — 18:8.

Luke 19:11-27. In these verses the parable of the nobleman going into a far country is repeated, with the plain prophecy that great mass of citizens hate him, and say right out, that they will not have him to reign over them. And instead of these being converted, at the return of Christ, they are slain before him.

Luke 21. This chapter is in many respects parallel with Matt. 24. and Mark 13. We must bear in mind that the listeners to this discourse expected that the long-expected kingdom of God on earth should immediately appear. Instead of which, the Lord makes known a period of great suffering and persecution. What a contrast to all their thoughts. Instead of reigning over the nations, they should be hated of all men for His name’s sake. Then, in the 20th verse, a subject is named that is omitted in both Matthew and Mark: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” “Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Strange as this might appear, so utterly opposed to the hopes of the nation, yet we know it actually came to pass. The Roman armies did compass Jerusalem, and the Jewish disciples did flee to the mountains. A Jew might have said, oh, it is impossible; God has promised that this city shall be the metropolis of the whole earth.* Isaiah 2:1-4. Truly every promise of God shall be fulfilled, when the time of the kingdom comes on earth. In like manner some will say, It is impossible that these great destructions should take place, because God has said, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9. This shall certainly be the case in the days of the kingdom. But before those days come, let us closely observe these words of Jesus. The days of vengeance came on Judea; there was great distress in the land, and wrath upon that people. This prophecy, from verse 20 to 24, may be said to be condensed history — prophecy fulfilled before our very eyes. They (the Jews) fell by the sword; they were led away captive into all nations. Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles. For 1800 years this prophecy has been, and still is fulfilled. Though at the time Jesus uttered these words, His own disciples neither understood or believed what He said, for we find them afterwards asking Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel.” But does the Lord say how long Jerusalem is thus to be trodden down? Yes, distinctly: He says, “Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” And what then? Will the world be converted then? The Lord says no such thing. But then takes place, as in Matthew and Mark, the great tribulation, “Distress of nations with perplexity.” “Men’s hearts failing them for fear.” “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

{*Now what was the cause of the Jews' darkness and mistake? They knew not the doctrine of the cross, man's need of the death of Christ and a new resurrection-existence in Him. And I often think it is the same now. Men do not understand the cross. They think, just as the Jew thought, Judaism would become the kingdom. So men now utterly mistake the gospel by thinking Christianity is destined to improve humanity. If this were the case, there would be no need for the coming of Christ. But the cross is death to humanity. The cross says humanity cannot be improved. Death to it. The resurrection unfolds God's only principle of blessing, the new creation.}

Now, my reader, from all these words of Jesus, can we come to any other conclusion than this — that the millennium cannot possibly take place, before the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven; until then, wars, tumults, on Judah days of vengeance; on all nations distress. Read, then, carefully the solemn warning, 34-36, “Take heed to yourselves.” Oh, do not be deceived by the cry of peace and safety. “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the earth.” Ah, you see that professor going to the world’s concert, or to the world’s feast, to eat and to drink with the drunkard. There goes another with anxious brow and keen piercing eye, grasping at the world’s deceitful wealth. Ah, these, and thousands more, are saying in their hearts, “My lord delays his coming.” “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (36.)

You may have observed, that all the words of Jesus so far, have reference to this earth, or His coming again to this earth. Jerusalem in Judea has been the centre of his instruction. This was suited to the nation in the midst of which these prophecies were delivered.

We now turn to an entirely new subject. (John 14:1-3.) I say new subject, for I am not aware of a single verse, from Genesis to this very passage, where this wondrous fact had ever been fully revealed. We forget this when reading these divine words of comfort. Every hope in the disciples around the blessed Lord, in this night of sorrow, was centred in Jerusalem, as the place of His reign. But now, His last words having been spoken to the nation in John 13, He unbosoms the secrets of His heart, for the comfort of His chosen few, during this time, or period, when He should have left them in the world alone. Chap. 13 unfolds the tender grace of our High Priest on high. In the east it is customary for one servant to hold the basin, and for another to pour the water. But Jesus did not ask Peter to hold the basin, and John to pour the water. No, the precious Jesus did it all: He took the towel, He took the basin, He poured the water, He washed their feet. Oh! that we better knew that tender heart. Cheer up, my drooping brother Christian; it was Jesus' work alone to atone for sins on Calvary. It is Jesus' work alone, as thy Great High Priest, to keep thy feet clean. Worthy alone art thou, O Lamb of God. Thou art the author and the finisher of my salvation.

My reader, art thou a believer? Then thou art justified from all things — through the precious blood of Christ, clean every whit. Then do not forget He lives to keep thee clean.

Then, in this chapter 14 the precious Jesus can hide from His loved ones no longer the amazing secret — “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” Of course, this was so new, they could not make out either whither He went, or the way. They had heard of the future glory of Jerusalem; but mansions in the Father’s house on high, and a place prepared for them! What, poor sinful fishermen to have a place with God the Father! Oh, amazing grace! Man, through sin, lost the garden of God; but Jesus was about to give His heart’s blood, that He might bring us to God Himself in heavenly glory. And mark the certainty. As surely as He has died and risen again, and gone to the Father’s house to prepare a place for us, even so sure is it, that He will come again and receive us to Himself. Ah! what would the soldier give, in the midst of the battle’s roar, to have the certainty of reaching the home he loves — or the mariner in the midst of the raging storm? What comfort, then, these words of Jesus give! However fierce the conflict — however dark and loud the roaring tempest, the blest home of His presence is sure. Oh, think of this, ye tried and desolate ones — ye fellow-believers, who are widows, or orphans, in a cold world! Oh, cheer up, ye afflicted ones! A little while: your home is certain. Is Christ your portion now? Then your home, sweet home in His presence, is most blessedly certain. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Think not when ye see him, to meet an angry Judge. He comes to receive you to Himself, who has loved you, and washed you in His own blood. He says, “That where I am, there ye may be also.” Perhaps you say, That may be true to them who deserve it. Did those who sat and heard these new words of wondrous grace deserve it? Ah! full well did He know. Yea, this wondrous disclosure of eternal love, was reserved to the very night on which they all forsook Him and fled. The Lord deepen in our souls the sense of this untold grace!

Perhaps my reader may ask, Does not the Lord mean death, when He thus speaks of His coming again? If we turn now to John 12:18-21, we here find the distinct answer to the question. The Lord plainly did not mean death; for after speaking of the death, whereby Peter should glorify God, He speaks of another disciple and says, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” “Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die; yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” Now does not this passage prove that Jesus did not mean death, when He spake of His coming again? Indeed, I do not know of a single passage in the Scriptures where the coming of Christ means death. It is indeed very blessed that when the believer falls asleep, it is to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Far better to depart from a body of sin and death; but this is quite a different thing from the coming of the Lord.

I would observe, the Lord did not in this precious promise, in John 14, explain how this receiving them to Himself, would take place. The explanation how, we shall find in the Epistles.

Having found by the words of Jesus that the coming of the Lord does not mean death, it may be asked, Is it as clearly proved, whether the coming of the Lord will be spiritual or personal? Let us for this purpose turn now to

Acts 1:9-11. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? 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.”

How could words be more plain than these? Did Jesus go into heaven in real person, the very body that hung on the cross; or did He leave that body in the grave and go to heaven in Spirit only? If so, our preaching is vain, and ye have believed in vain. (1 Cor. 15.) All depends on this, if He who died on the cross as our substitute, is not raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven, a real man, as our surety man in resurrection, — then if He is not thus risen, there is no gospel for us. How can I possibly know that I am justified from all things, if my surety is not raised from the death due to me, and as my surety, justified? I fear there is a sort of indistinct notion abroad that Jesus is only a spirit. This notion undermines the very foundation of the whole gospel. Hence what pains Jesus took to convince His disciples, that He was not a spirit; for, says He, “A spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Now does not the idea of a spiritual coming of Christ spring from that deadly error, that He is now only a spirit? He went to heaven and is there, a real, risen man. And in like manner will He come again, as real a person surely as he was on the cross. Will not the Jews say, What are those wounds on thy hands? And oh, my fellow-believer, what will it be to look at those hands that were pierced for you? He is risen. He will come again in person.

But it might be asked, Can you point out a passage that distinctly proves whether the Lord will come at the beginning, or after the Millennium, or the times of blessing promised in the Old Testament? Let us turn and see as to this.

Acts 3:19-21. The Jews through blindness had crucified the Lord. Peter tells them to change their minds, and their sins shall be blotted out; and God shall send Jesus again, “whom the heavens 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.” Now, if the prime minister of England was said to be gone to France, and would remain there until the time of assembling Parliament, would not that simply mean that he would return before or at the commencement of Parliament? Then does not the word “until” in the above passage distinctly prove that Christ will be in heaven until the beginning of the millennium, or times of restitution of all things? Then He will surely come before, or at the commencement of the kingdom of God on earth. Indeed, how can it be the kingdom if the king is not there? Surely Scripture explains itself. This one passage removes every difficulty from the teachings of Christ in the gospel. It might have been asked, How can the wicked and the righteous live together until the harvest or coming of Christ? And how can it be, in that day, as it was in the days of Noah and Lot — the earth full of wickedness — seeing that so many scriptures of the prophets have to be fulfilled, which describe the righteousness and blessing of the earth — when all shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest? Well, I say, this one word “until” explains it all. That time of the earth’s blessedness cannot take place before, but after, the Lord comes.

Let us now, in the second place, hear the words of the Holy Ghost in the Epistles. the first passage I turn to is Rom. 8:19-23. We must mark well the change; it is not now Jesus speaking to Jewish disciples, in the midst of the Jewish nation; but the Spirit of God speaking to us believers, members of the redeemed church of God, so that now every word concerns us. Hence, in this passage, creation in waiting, with earnest expectation, “for the manifestation of the sons (not the nation) of God.” “The glorious liberty of the children of God.” Creation groans and travails in pain together. “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” We do not wait for the spiritual reign of Christ, or for Christ in spirit; we have that now. “Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his.” (Ver. 9.) But having this, according to this passage, we wait, not for the death of the body, but for the redemption of the body — being justified — having peace with God. (Rom. 5:1.) Enjoying the certainty of no condemnation. (Rom. 8:1.) Yes, being thus everlastingly saved, still, whilst in this body of sin and death, we hope and long for, and wait for, the “manifestation” — “the glorious liberty” that will take place, both for us and creation, at the redemption of the body.

When, then, will this glorious redemption of the body take place?

1 Cor. 15:23-25. “But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then comes the end,” &c. Most clearly, then, the Spirit of God teaches that the resurrection of the sons of God, they who are Christ’s, will take place at His coming. And for this event all believers waited at Corinth, as well as at Rome. “Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:7.) Mark, it does not say, all shall rise together; but “every man in his own order.” Christ has risen — the first-fruits. Blessed pledge of certainty! Then “afterward.” Who would have thought 1800 years were in that word “afterward?” Now, if there have been 1800 years, at least, between the resurrection of Christ, the Head, and the body — they that are His, may there not, as assuredly there will be, 1000 years between the resurrection of the saved, the first resurrection, and the rest of the dead, who live not again until the 1000 years are fulfilled? (Rev. 20.)

It may be asked, But how does the resurrection of the dead in Christ at His coming, affect the question of the redemption of our poor groaning bodies, who are alive in them, seeing we are not yet fallen asleep? How can we and all believers be waiting for the redemption of the body at the coming of Christ? As to that, “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,” &c. (Ver. 51, 52.) To this agree the words of the Spirit, 1 Thess. 4, on which I hope to speak shortly. Now, as we go through the epistles, we shall find, it was for this very event that all believers, in all places, in the days of the apostles waited. Not for the unclothed state of the soul, blessed as that is. The apostle says, “Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (2 Cor. 5:4.)

The epistle to the Galatians, being the defence of the blessed truth of justification, this subject is not dwelt upon. Also, as the Ephesians presents that aspect of the Church, as already raised and seated in Christ in heavenly places, of course, the subject of the Church’s hope is not introduced. But in the Philippians, where the Church is looked at more in the service of the Gospel, and pressing forward through a weary world, then this blessed hope, and no other, is distinctly presented, “for our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself.” Phil. 3:20-21. Those who know the Greek tell us, that this passage should be, “We look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour,” &c. Oh! what a contrast this blessed hope of primitive days, to the modern dread of Jesus as a terrible judge.
How sweet it is to a mother’s heart, when she returns from a journey, to see her little child’s longed-for face at the window; it claps its little hands, and would fly through the window to meet her. Surely, no mother would have her child dread her return as a terrible tyrant. When Jesus left His chosen ones on Olivet, He lifted up His hands and blessed them, and as He blessed them He was parted from them. In like manner will He return; whilst to the rejecting world He comes as a terrible judge. Yet, oh, sinner saved by grace, the first sight thou shalt have of Him who loved thee, and washed thee in His own blood, will be with uplifted hands of blessing. Oh! view Him coming as Saviour, to claim thee as His prize, bought with His own blood. In one moment, thy body of humiliation, sorrow, and sin, shall be fashioned like to His glorious body. What a moment! Thy last tear shall be gone. Thou shalt grieve Him no more. Thou shalt sin no more. Oh, what will it be to see His very face — to hear His voice; that face once wrung with deepest anguish, bearing thy sins on the tree! And, as thou risest in the air, by thy side, the glorious form of one (once thy prodigal wayward child) for whom thou wept and prayed, but saved at last; and loved ones, parting with whom once crushed thy heart with earth’s keenest sorrow. Oh! ye believing widows and orphans, who feel the world’s cold blast, oh, then! oh, then! “for ever with the Lord.” Ah! affliction is but for a moment, but joy in His presence shall never end.

Surely the certainty of all this is very precious. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:4.)

Is it not strange, that the Church of God should have so sadly forgotten her blessed hope? whilst in the apostles' days, it was the immediate hope of the youngest converts, as we find in the 1 Thess. 1:9-10, “How 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 the dead.” Thus we see these young converts (for the Church of God at Thessalonica was not more than about a year old) were not waiting either for the conversion of the world, or death and departure to be with the Lord; but for the Son of God from heaven. Indeed, the apostles had no other hope. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (1 Thess. 2:19.) Great appearances on earth — swelling the numbers of a society on earth, raising funds, and building elegant (so-called) Christian temples; for these things the apostle had not a thought, much more a hope. His eye was fixed on the appearing of Christ. For this he laboured night and day, that he might win souls to Christ; that they might be the crown of his rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet men say the coming of Christ is not a practical truth. The Lord give us more of this practical waiting for Christ.

If there be one thing more powerful for practical holiness than another set before us in the word, it is the constant expectation of Christ. This was the prayer of the apostle, for these young converts, night and day. “To the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness, before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” (1 Thess. 3:13.) This is the desire of every minister of Christ, who longs himself for the coming of the Lord; whilst others forget the conection there is between conversion and the coming of Christ. He will think of it night and day, and pray night and day, that every convert may be found unblameable in holiness in that moment.

Some have a very great difficulty as to waiting for Christ. They would say, How can I wait for or expect Christ this very day, seeing so many things have yet to be fulfilled? I am told the Roman Empire has to he reconstructed. The Jews have to be restored to Judea. The man of sin has to be manifested, reigning at Jerusalem — and all this before Christ comes to this earth again. Must I not, then, of necessity, say in my heart, “my lord delays his coming;” at least, until after all these events. I cannot make it out how I am to be waiting for Christ to-day, since all these things have to take place.

There is no doubt the Roman Empire has to be reconstructed — (I shall have to speak of these things shortly). The Jews have to be restored: the wicked man of sin has to be revealed. Europe has to sink in grossest darkness — to become worshippers of devils or idolaters again. But let us look at the next chapter, and every difficulty will vanish.

1 Thess. 4:15-18. “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 them who 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 we ever be with the Lord.” Now, observe, in the gradual unfolding of prophetic truth, up to this passage, the coming of the Lord, in a general sense only, has been presented. But in this place there is a point of detail never noticed before. The special object of the apostle was evidently to comfort the hearts of these young converts, who were sorrowing because some of their number had fallen asleep. Bear in mind, they had only had three weeks' preaching. (Acts 17:2.) Paul’s manner was always to set forth the passing away of all things of the old creation, in the death of Jesus; and Jesus the beginning and head of the new creation, as raised from the dead. Thus these young converts were filled with joy — being raised from the dead, and in God the Father (See chap. 1.) As we may imagine, these newly converted heathen were sorely perplexed at the death of the body. Well, this passage is evidently written to show them the resurrection of the saints who sleep in Jesus — that they will lose nothing, but be raised first; then we who are alive and remain — changed in a moment, as noticed in 1 Cor. 15. And then a new fact is revealed — we shall be caught up together, to meet the Lord in the air. Now this may take place before any of the events which have to be fulfilled: yea, we shall find this event is the very first that will take place; and therefore the last elect soul being brought to God, may take place whilst you read this paper. No person can quote me a single verse, which has to be fulfilled, before the sleeping and living saints, shall be caught up to meet Christ.

Let me give a plain illustration. Suppose Rotherham were in rebellion against Her Majesty, just as the world is in rebellion against Christ. Her Majesty makes known that she is coming in judgment, with her whole army, to destroy Rotherham. But there are a hundred royalists in the town. She sends word to them that they shall meet her at Derby — shall be taken by the Midland Rail, to meet her, and be with her at Derby; and then shall take place the day of vengeance on Rotherham. That, as the hour is uncertain when Her Majesty shall come by express from Euston Square to Derby, the royalists are to be waiting for a telegraphic message, at any moment, to meet her. Now many things might have to take place at Rotherham before Her Majesty actually entered the town — digging of trenches, cannonading the place, &c. In like manner, the Lord Jesus Christ is really coming in judgment to this earth, which once murdered, and still rebels against, him. Every child of God on earth is a royalist, and every royalist of Christ shall be caught up to meet Christ in the air when He comes. Then begins the day of vengeance on this doomed age. Now if this be so, we should expect the Spirit of God, having made known this new fact, of believers being caught up to meet Christ; then to speak of this day of the Lord, which shall follow that event, the taking of the Church to be ever with the Lord. And this is exactly what He does do. (1 Thess. 5.) As the believer’s hope is to be caught up to meet Christ, there is no need of writing on times and seasons. In fact there are no dates of Scripture that refer to this event (the moment of taking the saints) at all. All dates refer to Israel. “For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and ye shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief,” &c. Thus this day of destruction and vengeance is introduced in dark contrast with the bright and blessed hope of the Church. The Church may be taken at any moment, then sets in the day of vengeance. The acceptable year of the Lord shall close; the day of vengeance begin. (Isaiah 61.) Seeing this, how earnest the apostle was in prayer: “And I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5:23.) We find persecution and tribulations soon overtaking these dear young converts, and to add to their deep distress, deceivers come, as though sent by the apostle, to tell them the day of the Lord was come. Their trouble and sorrow seemed to favour the report. They seemed to have been greatly shaken by this stratagem of Satan.

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written to deliver them from this mistake and sorrow. Instead of the coming of the Lord being a day of trouble to them, the apostle says, “And to you who are troubled, rest with us; when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels.” (Chap. 1:7.) So far from the world persecuting you in the day of vengeance, you shall rest with us, caught up; as he had taught them. Flaming “vengeance shall be taken on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Punished with everlasting destruction from his presence, “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, (because our testimony was believed,) in that day.” (Ver. 10.) Still further to assure them, he says, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by Spirit, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.” (Chap. 2:1-2.)

To return to the illustration. Suppose, before the royalists were called out of Rotherham to meet Her Majesty at Derby, a panic were to take place amongst them, by a report that the day of vengeance was come on Rotherham, and the cannonade about to open — an officer of Her Majesty were to write and say, I beseech you, all ye friends of the Queen, by the certainty of her coming first, and your being gathered together to her, do not be afraid. Cannot you depend on Her Majesty’s word? Not a cannon-ball shall be shot, before you are happy with her at Derby. Just in this manner did Paul comfort and assure the panic-stricken converts at Thessalonica. Two things were certain before the great and terrible day of the Lord — His coming for them, and their gathering to Him, as taught them in the first epistle.

Oh! could one think it possible, as we walk the streets, and watch the busy crowd, that destinies so vastly opposite await that crowd — the believer to be caught up to meet the Lord, (perhaps this very day,) the unbeliever to be left to the fierceness of that day of vengeance.

In verses 3-12 we have some of the terrible features of the end of this age. “The falling away first.” However sadly the professing church has departed, yet what will it be when the real Church of God is taken up! The full character of this falling away is described in Rev. 17. One terrible feature is the revelation of the wicked one, “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (Ver. 4.) Some, not observing that this fearful character appears on the closing scene of human wickedness, after the true Church is taken up to be with the Lord, have thought this man of sin is Popery, or the Pope. But do not you see this passage says, the man of sin shall sit in the temple of God. Now God never has, and never will have, a temple built on earth in any place except Mount Zion, or Mount Moriah — the place in which he appeared to Abraham. But that temple is now destroyed. It must, then, be rebuilt, as many scriptures show it will. And the terrible man of sin is evidently one of Daniel’s people, that is, a Jew — who shall come in his own name whom the Jews shall receive. (John 5:43.)

As Satan entered into Judas, so will he enter into this son of perdition. I cannot, then, allow St. Peter’s at Rome to be the temple of God; neither can the Pope be this man of sin. Daniel plainly describes him as the wicked Jewish king at the time of the end: “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.” We all know the Pope is not the King of the Jews. It is quite clear that all this is Jewish, and cannot take place whilst the Spirit and the Church are here. As Paul had well taught these converts, he reminds them how he had told them, “And now ye know what withholds, that he might be revealed in his time.”

“The mystery of iniquity doth already work” — the leaven foretold in Matt. 13. “Only he who now lets (or hinders) will let until he is taken away.” But, oh! what will it be when the Spirit of God is taken, and the Church caught up to meet the Lord? “And then shall that wicked one be revealed.” And, now, how clearly this proves this wicked one is not Popery, for it is he “whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” Popery, and the whole of the ecclesiastical apostasy, will be destroyed by the ten kings. (Rev. 17:16.) But this wicked one “is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs, and lying wonders.” The present work of Satan, in leading men to have to do with devils, and familiar spirits, by table-turning and the like, may be preparing the way. But these terrible events cannot possibly take place during this day of gospel grace. For in those days of darkness, God will send them strong delusion, that they may believe a lie, that they may all be damned. This will be assuredly the case when this day of mercy closes. God will arise and shake terribly the earth. “For this cause God shall send them strong delusion;” that is, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. Man is damned because he receives not the truth. These are God’s words as to the end of the present age. Fellow-believers, we are saved “because God has from the beginning chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” (Ver. 13.) Oh! it is this that makes the coming of the Lord so precious — God’s eternal love. The apostle closes the subject in this epistle with these words, “And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” (2 Thess. 3:5.)

Still, whether writing to an assembly, or to an individual saint, with the apostle it is the great practical truth. In fact, just as opposite to modern thoughts of men as possible. With men, the appearing of Christ in the least practical, their most distant thought. With the apostle, it is the great practical truth — the ever-present theme of hope. He says to his son Timothy, after telling him of the sad departure and iniquity of the professing church in the last days, his concern for him was, “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” &c. (1 Tim. 6:14-16.) And again, though misjudged and forsaken, and fully aware of the terrible character of these last days, yet what was the stay of his heart — “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8.)

And again, writing to Titus, be says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Ah! this is very precious. God does not expect to find anything, except sin and misery, in a poor sinner. But grace brings. Christ has died, Salvation is all of grace: that gives all and asks for nothing. Then the effect of this grace is to teach us holiness of life in every way, “Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13.) Men now look for death; and so “it is appointed to men once to die and after death the judgment.” But how blessed the contrast, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin to salvation.” (Heb. 9:27-28.) Have you, my reader, this unspeakable consolation, that Christ has once borne your sins on the cross, and consequently, that He having borne the full judgment due to you once, there can be no more condemnation to you? And that He has made full atonement is proved, in that God has raised Him from the dead. Then you are justified in Him, the risen Christ, from all things; yea, so justified that God says He will remember your sins and iniquities no more. Then how can you be judged for your sins again! Impossible, unless Christ has died in vain. Oh, what blessed, settled peace this gives to the long-perplexed soul!

But you ask, Shall we not all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ? We shall do so. Yes, it is most happy for us who live in a world where the nearer a man lives to God the more is he misjudged and hated. Yes, I say, it is most blessed that we shall soon stand before the Beemah or seat of Him who will reward every man according to his works. Yes, whilst the whole question of sin, and judgment due to sin, has been eternally settled by the blood of the Lamb; yet He who gave His blood for us, has promised that the gift of a cup of cold water shall not lose its reward. “To them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin” — no question of sin then, but — “to Salvation.” What encouragement to confidence and patience this gives. “For yet a little while and he that shall come will come and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:37.)

Indeed nothing gives the soul more quiet patience, in the midst of sore trial and temptation, than this blessed hope; “Be patient therefore, brethren, to the coming of the Lord. Be ye also patient; stablish your heart; for the coming of the Lord draws nigh.” (James 5:7-8.) “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7.) “Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (13.) “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.” (v. 4.)

Now, is it not strange that, with Scripture so full of this precious subject, men should say it is a dark, mysterious, bewildering subject, and that those do well who never look into it? What God says is this, “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” Men would say our reasoning on the future is light. God says it is all darkness. Men say prophecy is all darkness. God says it is a light. But, alas! men will even go so far as to say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:1-15.) In this chapter we have a glorious view of the whole future in a general way, right onward to the creation of new heavens and a new earth — more in reference to the world, than the Church.

One thing is very manifest in all these words of the Spirit of God — the coming of the Lord is not looked at as a mere doctrine. It is either a blessed hope — that is, Jesus Himself is presented as the object of the hearts utmost desire; or a terrible fact, fast approaching to a doomed world. Of the former, we have a sweet example in the next words before us, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3.) Ah! it is not he that believes this doctrine — our precious Lord claims the heart. Oh! is this the one desire and hope of my reader’s heart, — to be like Him, to see Him as He is? Then sure it is sweet “to abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28.) Surely nothing can have a more purifying effect upon the believer, than his constant looking, longing, desiring, the coming of his precious Lord.

And as to the fact of judgment on an ungodly world, even Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold the Lord comes with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all,” &c. (Jude 14.) And how solemn are those words, “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.” (Rev. 1:7.)

In the seven addresses to the churches, these are searching words in the midst of much outward profession — “Hold fast till I come.” (Rev. 2:25.) And again, “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Rev. 3:3.) And again, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Rev. 3:11.) Woe be to the carnal worldly professor, who sets light by these solemn warnings, so suited to the state of the Church, during its sevenfold history, of the things that are now. In Rev. 4, things are revealed that will take place after these — “I will show thee things that must be hereafter,” or after these. (Rev. 4:1.) And then, in blissful vision, in chap. 4 and 5, the redeemed are seen gone from the earth, and seated around the glorified Lamb.

Chapters 6 to 19 contain the words of the Spirit of God as to the end of the present age, the Church being at that time taken to be with the Lord. Then sets in the great and terrible day of the Lord God Almighty. Peace is taken from the earth “that they should kill one another.” (Rev. 6:4.) Who can describe the terrors of that fearful day!

I do not go into the detail of the woes and judgments of this day of vengeance, answering to all the prophets have said, and all the passages we have read, in the words of Jesus, as to this time of great tribulation, such as never was — no, and never will be again. More gifted servants of the Lord have written on these things. I would refer the reader to the Bible Treasury and other tracts by the same publisher.

I may just remark, in perfect keeping with every other part of Scripture, the whole scene becomes Jewish in character during this day of wrath. Satan is cast down to the earth in chap. 12 and persecutes the Jewish remnant. In chap. 13 Satan is worshipped, and the head of the Roman Empire, to whom Satan gives his power, is worshipped. (3-8.) In chap. 17 the ecclesiastical apostasy, having lost her temporalities in the empire, now in her last most blasphemous character, sits upon the beast; that is, guides the imperial head in its last acts of wickedness. The Roman Empire which was, and is not, shall again appear in its most terrible character. Ten kings are seen confederate with the imperial head; and as England was one part of the empire, when it was, so assuredly shall it be again. It would seem, however, not by conquest; for the ten kings or kingdoms give their power to the beast. The reconstructed empire for a time carries the whore; but being infidel at heart, throws her off, and the ten kingdoms which will exist in that day “hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” (16.) Chap. 18 is occupied with a description of her burning.

The Church having been with the Lord from chap. 6 now returns with the Lord in chap. 19. The full number of the first resurrection being completed in the beginning of chap. 20, then takes place the millennium, or thousand years' rest, with Christ. The rest of the dead live not until this thousand years' rest is completed. During this thousand years, every promise of blessing to this earth will be fulfilled — Satan bound — sin not allowed, but immediately judged. Then comes the end. Satan is loosed a little while; and then the great judgment of the dead takes place. (Chap. 20:11-15.) And this over, the eternal state of inexpressible blessedness sets in — new heavens and new earth,

Where God shall shine in light divine,

In glory everlasting.

I will conclude with the last closing sounds of the words of God on this solemn subject: — “Behold I come quickly: blessed is he that keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” (Chap. 22:7.) “And behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be!” (Ver. 12.) “He which testifies these things says, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.” (Ver. 20.) C. S.

Sequel to the above Tract,

What God has said on the Millennial Reign of Christ.