Signs of His Coming
Question: What do you say as to fixing 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 knoweth 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 cometh, 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 hath 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.
Will the World be Converted by the Gospel?
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 cometh 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" (Revelation 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 cometh 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 Thessalonians 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 bond man, and every free man, 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 sitteth 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?" (Revelation 6:15,16,17). Could the Lamb be wroth 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 the 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 (Galatians 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" (Hebrews 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 unto His own body of glory, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:21). At the first stage of His coming again, when He will catch away from the world His bloodbought 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 Scriptures, nor rightly divide 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" (Hebrews 3:1). Our blessings are in "the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:3). Our hope is laid up for us in heaven (Colossians 1:5), and we are to set our affections upon the things that are there (Colossians 3:1-4). 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 realise 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 unto an holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 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).
Signs of His Coming
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 divers 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 imagination 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 Antichrist 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 (Revelation 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 Timothy 1:5). "Knowing this first, that there shall 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 Timothy 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, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels" (Malachi 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." Nothing will promote holiness of walk and separation from evil men like this great hope of the coming of our Saviour. It will make us like unto men that wait for their lord.
The Difference Between the Rapture and the Appearing
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" (Colossians 3:4), "The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:13), "Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" (1 Thessalonians 4:14), "The Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints" (Jude 14). "They that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:14 ), "The armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Revelation 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, as we have seen, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17.
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 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 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" (Isaiah 66:5). "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 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" (Matthew 24:30,31).
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