The Coming and the Appearing of our Lord.

H. H. Snell.

Christian Friend vol. 14, 1887, p. 294.

Weneed all Scripture. All is given for our profit. One of our dangers is, being taken up with certain parts of the sacred writings to the neglect of others. In nothing has this been more apparent of late years than the acceptance of our Lord's coming for us as our hope, without being exercised also about the Lord's reign and judgments at His appearing and kingdom. It is this latter line of things to which Peter refers when he says, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn." (2 Peter 1:19.) No doubt the light of unfulfilled prophecy, when received in faith, casts its light back on the path we are now treading, and thus clear guidance and much blessing are vouchsafed to those who take heed unto it. The apostle Paul, in writing to Titus, by the Spirit says, "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." Here the Lord's coming and His appearing are connected, as being both looked for; not only "that blessed hope" of our Lord's coming to receive us unto Himself, but His also "appearing" after that in manifested glory, and taking His rightful place on earth as "Heir of all things" and "Lord of all."

It is not that many believers are not intelligent as to the events which will follow the Lord's coming for us, and able clearly to distinguish between that blissful moment and our subsequent following Him out of heaven, when "every eye shall see Him;" but for our hearts to be in conscious sympathy with our loving Lord Jesus in His present rejection, and to be therefore anticipating with joy, in deep fellowship with Himself, that glorious appearing, when He will have His rightful place of universal supremacy accorded to Him by all intelligent beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, is quite another thing.

The fact is, that while some have been holding and rightly contending for the truth of "the Church [or assembly] of God," they seem to have let slip the truth of "the kingdom of God." Paul was emphatically a minister of the assembly, but he tells us also that he testified "the gospel of the grace of God," and preached "the kingdom of God." (Col. 1:24-25; Acts 20:24-25.) Such a prominent place in the apostle's public ministry had the reign of Christ and its kindred subjects that, though his visit to Thessalonica probably did not exceed three weeks, we are told that he suffered persecution for having preached "another King, one Jesus." We know too that during this brief visit he not only instructed the young converts there as to the hope of the Lord's coming, but that they received it as the truth of God, and "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven." And in his second letter, when he referred to "the man of sin," and the Lord's destruction of him "with the brightness of His coming," he said, "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?" (2 Thess. 2:5, 8.)

It is a mistake, we believe, to suppose that we learn prophetic truth for soul profit by merely grouping events together as we would link together a series of political facts. It is easy for an active mind thus to occupy itself. But to have the heart and conscience so moved by the divinely-given "word of prophecy," because it so sheds its light on our present path as to produce walk and conduct suited to it, is a very different thing. For example, it is perfectly true that in a little while it will be said, "The kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord, and of his Christ." If then the Lord's interests are our interests, and we believe He will yet be manifested as Lord of all, how can we have any relish for the political excitement and party struggles of today? Why not rather wait till "He shall come whose right it is -" and who said, when nearing the cross, "Now is the judgment of this world"? We are also told that "the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10.) Do we believe this? How then can we be hankering after the possession of what we know ere long will be under the Lord's judgment? Again: If we hold that Jesus is "Lord of all," and that ere long He will reign till He has put down all rule and all authority and power for the glory of God, how can we desire to be now in the place of authority and power in a world that has rejected Him, and where Satan is its "god" and "prince"? If we receive the word that the Father has committed all judgment unto the Son, and that all should honour the Son even as they honour the Father, and that he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him, we have certainly a plain path opened out before us - the path of honouring the Son till we see His face.

And further: Is it not quite clear that this and other countries of Europe, commonly called the ten kingdoms, form the conclusion of the development of Daniel's image, and that a "stone cut out without hands" is yet to smite it, and break it to pieces, which will be carried away, so that no place shall be found for them, and that this will have its solemn fulfilment when the Lord comes to reign and establish His kingdom in the earth? How then can we fall in with the common cry of "peace and safety" when we know that such judgment and destruction are at hand? (Daniel 2:31-35.)

It is well known that when, some fifty or sixty years ago, the truth of the coming of the Lord was connected with such faithful testimony and unworldliness, that the coming and the appearing of our Lord were both firmly held. In fact there was then little intelligence as to dividing between the coming of our Lord and His appearing; so that while hearts were lovingly looking for God's Son from heaven, there was also a solemn sense of the coming judgments and kingdom of God. God's truth as to these things was so believed that, with many, there was no other thought than dropping every thing contrary to God's word, and getting practically ready for the Lord. No doubt our Lord's coming for us will be the crowning act of divine grace in giving us a body of glory like His own, and taking us to the Father's house; but, after this, we are to be manifested in glory with Him as His joint-heirs, and reign and share His inheritance with Him. How wonderful! "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? … know ye not that we shall judge angels?" Suffering here now no doubt if we are faithful to our Lord, but then to share His glory. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him;" and again, "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." (2 Tim. 2:12; Rom. 8:17.)

Formerly the truth of our Lord's coming, and also of His appearing and kingdom, were believed, and therefore had not a little practical power. It was a question of honouring the Lord at all costs, as His loved ones who would soon reign with Him. The question has often been asked lately, "Why has not the truth of the Lord's coming more power now?" The answer surely is, first, Because the truth is more assented to than received into the heart as God's testimony, therefore there is not the getting ready practically for our Lord's coming; and, secondly, because the heart is in little sympathy with the Lord in His present rejection, and therefore is little exercised as to His appearing. Truth is so common at this time, that it is often trifled with; or it may be accepted as reasonable and self-evident, without much exercise of heart and conscience before God.

The fact is that these truths are eminently sanctifying. How can they be otherwise? To suppose, therefore, that we can really hold them as divinely-given doctrines, and go on in worldly and carnal associations, is to do the greatest violence to them. If we really believe that it is possible the Lord may come for us before midnight, could we go on with anything today which we knew would be displeasing to Him? Should we not rather choose to suffer for His sake, and do what we know would suit His mind? If we are truly waiting and watching for His return, could we spend a day without caring in some way or other for some of the members of His body? And is not caring for His household one of the special marks of a wise and faithful servant? (Matt. 24:45.) Moreover, if we believe God's word, that the world lieth in the wicked one, and is under judgment, and the Judge soon coming in flaming fire to carry it out, and judge the quick and the dead, how can our hearts but rejoice at the thought of the once humbled Nazarene having His rightful place on this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords?

Do we really love His appearing? Do our hearts burn within us at the thought that in a little while He will be publicly manifested as "Lord of all"? We doubt not that the comfort of accomplished redemption, the consciousness of His present ministry and care of us while He is hid in the glory, and heartfelt sympathy with Him as to His present rejection, will accompany loving His appearing. How strange it must appear to the authorities and powers in heavenly places, who know by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, that we are so little moved and acted on by the prospect of the Saviour's appearing and reign? But when we are stirred in our inmost souls to be practically getting ready for His coming, then will the hope be known in brightness and power; and the more we ponder what He has told us about our reigning with Him, the more we shall realize His present rejection, and love His appearing. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and of things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11.)

Does it not fill our hearts with joy to see Him now crowned with glory and honour? Are we not assured that His exaltation has been merited, for having glorified the Father on earth, and finished the work that He gave Him to do? And can we view Him there, where angels, authorities, and powers are all subject to Him, without delight springing up in our souls? Made "Lord and Christ" in ascension, He is surely "Lord of all;" though as to the earth He has not yet taken to Himself His great power and reigned. Still, it is only a question of time, and the present long-suffering is salvation; but what will it be to see His face, and to be with Him, and like Him for ever? What will it be to follow Him out of heaven, when He comes forth in power and great glory, wearing His many crowns, to judge first the living, and afterward the dead? No doubt "every eye shall see Him" then; the nations too will be angry, and all the tribes of the land shall wail because of Him, but come He will; for Jehovah has said unto Him, "Sit Thou on my right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool." And again we are told, "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever [or in perpetuity] sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool." (Heb. 10:12-13.) How soon we may hear the shout! May we meanwhile seek to serve and honour Him, in living "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing [or the appearing of the glory] of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." (Titus 2:12-14.)

"Oh, may the glorious vision fire
Our hearts with ardent love,
Till wings of faith, and strong desire,
Bear every thought above!"
H. H. S.