The Testimony of the Lord
1. Christ has been here.
2. He is no longer here.
3. He is coming hack again.
These three great facts with what is involved in them make up “the testimony of the Lord,” and it is incumbent upon us who own His Name to understand the full force of them, and to maintain them without shame or fear.
They formed THE TESTIMONY OF PETER in Acts 2.
1. Christ has been here. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (v. 22).
2. He is no longer here. “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it” (vv. 23-24).
3. He is coming back again. “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand until I make Thy foes Thy footstool” (vv. 34-35). “And He shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you” (chap. 3:20).
JOHN BEARS WITNESS to these facts in Revelation 1.
1. Christ has been here. “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful Witness.”
2. He is not here. “The First-begotten of the dead.”
3. He is coming back again. The Prince of the kings of the earth” (v. 5).
He has been here, for God sent Him.
He is not here, for men rejected Him.
He is coming back again, to establish His rights in power in the place of His rejection.
He has been here; in this the love of God was declared.
He is not here; in this the sinfulness of the world was manifested.
He is coming back again, to execute the judgment of the God whose love He declared upon the world that gave God only hatred for love.
TO PAUL as to none other it is given to bear witness to these facts and to teach the results of them. He determined to know nothing among the Corinthians but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He proclaimed that He had been here, but was no longer here, for the princes of the world had crucified the Lord of glory, and he declared that He was coming back again, and that in view of this fact God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.
Christ has been here. His presence in the world was the last and the supreme test for man. God, “having yet therefore one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also last unto them, saying they will reverence My Son. . .” And in Him there came into the world every beautiful human trait according to God’s standard, and God was revealed to men in Him. He loved the Lord His God with all His heart and His neighbour as Himself, nay, He went beyond the law in this latter respect and stooped down to be the Servant of all; but His life was taken from the earth, He was cut off and had nothing.
He is not here, “they took Him, and killed Him and cast Him out.” The cross of Christ has clearly proved that there was not a chord in the heart of the flesh that would respond to God’s most tender touch; that cross of shame was man’s defiant answer to the most blessed advance that God could make to him; the best that God could do only disclosed the full hatred and incorrigible rebellion of man’s nature. When the princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory they acted for Adam’s race of men; they were the heads of that race for the moment, and they fully showed that the race was so blinded by Satan, the deceiver and adversary, that it could not discern infinite goodness, when it saw it; that it loved darkness rather than light because its deeds are evil; its very nature was to prefer Satan to God, even though God is love.
Nothing could be gained by putting man to any further test. The coming of Christ had brought everything to the light, and the cross was the end of the history of God’s testing of man, and the result of the testing is clearly stated in the Scripture; “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
What a scene of desolation this world was when Jesus hung dead upon the cross and lay dead in the grave! Could there come out of that desolation any glory for God or blessing for men? Yes. For Christ, whom men slew, God has raised up again. “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.” It is God’s intervention for His own glory and our blessing. Christ is not here, He is risen. This is the dominant note in Paul’s gospel. Christ is the first-begotten from the dead. God has not only given His answer to man’s foul act, and justified His Son whom men condemned, but He has in the risen Christ His new beginning, the beginning of the creation of God.
The hopes of the faithful were ever centred in Christ. Of Him the Old Testament Scriptures spoke continually, and those who loved and had these ancient words looked forward with a great longing to His coming, being assured that He only could bring in full deliverance from every oppression. And when He came great joy filled the hearts of the watchers. They said, “We have found the Messias,” “We have found Him.” “Come...is not this the Christ?” “Thou art the Christ”. Then in a moment all their expectations seemed to perish, their hopes lay broken and dead by the sealed tomb of Him whom they loved. Panic seized them, and like sheep without a shepherd they were rudely scattered. But the news of His resurrection gathered them again, and He revealed Himself to them as alive from the dead, and they were glad when they saw the Lord.
Still He did not stay with them. As He stood in the midst of them upon the brow of Olivet He was parted from them and a cloud received Him out of their sight, and yet, though He had gone from them, they had not lost Him, they were united to Him by the Holy Ghost who came down from Him, and their hopes were centred in Him now, not as the lowly Nazarene treading the rough road to the cross, but as death’s Conqueror, exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high. Their hopes and affections, their very life, were transferred from earth to heaven, for He is not here, but He is there. He was here, but He is no longer here, He has gone over to the other side, and those who love Him will pass over with Him; actually and bodily they cannot do this yet, but in heart and spirit they will do it, like the Ethiopian eunuch, to whom Philip preached Jesus, who when he learned that His life had been taken from the earth, immediately responded, saying, “See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Jesus, who had been here, had won his heart, and he desired to part company with the place in which Jesus died and the race that crucified Him, that he might have part with Him in the place where He lives.
This is the blessed privilege of all who know Christ. In the purpose of God they are to be conformed to His image that He may be the Firstborn among many brethren. That is their sure destiny, but even now He is not ashamed to call them brethren, for He is their great Leader and they belong to a resurrection race of which He is the head. In the thought of God the death of Christ has cut them off from Adam’s race that lay under condemnation and death, and in their baptism they are committed to the death of Christ, that they might live in His life; not the old life of sin and shame in which God could find no pleasure, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
These bear witness to the fact that He is coming again. This was the witness of the first prophet who ever spoke the word of God. “The Lord cometh,” cried Enoch, the seventh from Adam. This was the first message that came out of the glory after Christ had entered into it. “This same Jesus . . . shall so come as ye have seen Him go,” said the angels. It is the last word of the Lord to His church on earth. “Surely, I come quickly,” He says. He is coming back again. No testimony to the world is complete that leaves this out, for in it are involved the rights of Christ, who is Heir of all things. The rights that were refused Him when He came in grace, will be secured for Him by the power of God when He comes in glory, for God has said, “Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” God grant that these great facts may live in power in our souls, and be our effective testimony to others.