Caught up by the Bridegroom

 •  36 min. read  •  grade level: 8
DEAR READER, are you aware of it? The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again!
Thousands on every hand are being awakened to this solemn, yet blessed fact; and though the latter-day "scoffers" are asking, "Where is the promise of his coming?" (2 Peter 3:44And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2 Peter 3:4)), and the "evil servant" saying in his heart, "My lord delayeth his coming" (Matt. 24:4848But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; (Matthew 24:48)), yet "He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:3737For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. (Hebrews 10:37)). "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 24:4444Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 24:44)).
There is an unmistakable and growing conviction in the minds of God's people all over the world-a conviction, moreover, based upon the truths of His word-that the Church's history on the earth is about to close; that the Lord Jesus is coming to take His bride away to the Father's house on high.
Reader, are you yet alive to the reality of this solemn matter, and what it involves? If not, may the Holy Spirit use these few pages to awaken your precious soul, "lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping" (Mark 13:3636Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. (Mark 13:36)).
There are four things, in connection with this subject, which I desire to briefly bring before you: 1st. The promise of His coming. 2nd. The Person who is coming. 3rd. The purpose of His coming. 4th. The preparation for His coming.
The Promise of His Coming Time Was, When His Coming As the Humbled Sufferer Was Still an Unfulfilled Prophecy. Many a Generation Had Come and Gone; Empires Had Risen, and Again Crumbled to Dust; Israel and Judah Had Been "Scattered," or Carried Away Into Captivity; and a Remnant of the People Had Been Again Restored to Their Land; but No Promised Messiah Had yet Appeared. the Great Majority of Those Who Returned From the Babylonish Captivity Had, No Doubt, Settled Comfortably Down, and Well-Nigh Forgotten the Promised Coming One; When Lo! One Morning There Was a Great Stir in Jerusalem. Strange Visitors Were Come-Come With the Wondrous Tidings That the Long-Promised King Was Born. From Herod's Palace to the Priests in the Temple, and From the Priests to the People, the News Must Have Spread Most Rapidly.
But what was the result of this intelligence? Was it a united shout of praise to God from the sons of Zion for at last fulfilling His word, and sending the Messiah? Did not every face beam with delight, and every heart dance for very joy? Alas! no. The very opposite. Sadness filled the city. "Herod the king... was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matt. 2:33When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)).
But how was this? Well, if, from the Scriptures, they knew anything about the matter at all, they must have known that Isaiah had foretold that the king should reign in righteousness (Isa. 32:11Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. (Isaiah 32:1)).
Now, though there was in Jerusalem at the time plenty of self-righteousness, there was, no doubt, in the minds of most, an inward consciousness that they were not ready for the righteous One's presence, and therefore the tidings which ought to have filled every bosom in Jerusalem with thankfulness and joy only produced trouble and dismay.
Still, whether they were prepared to welcome Him or not, He was come; come to reveal the Father; come, not only as Israel's Messiah, but as "Savior of the world." The solemn sequel you well know. God's Beloved was hated and rejected, and His wondrous pathway on earth brought to a close at Calvary-"by wicked hands... crucified and slain" (Acts 2:2323Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: (Acts 2:23)).
Before His death, however, the Promised One became Himself a Promiser.
He had gathered around Him His beloved disciples. The traitor Judas had just left the little company. The dark shadow of the cross was but a few paces ahead, and He had been giving them a hint about it. What a moment it was!
Think of those sorrowful and bewildered faces as they eagerly bend to catch these farewell communications! "Let not your heart be troubled:" He says, "ye believe in God, believe also in me." As though He had said, 'You trusted in God without seeing Him, and now that I am going away from you out of sight, put the same confidence in Me. God made you a promise by the prophets, and He faithfully fulfilled that promise in sending Me. I, too, am going to make you a promise, and you must just trust Me for the fulfillment of that also.'
But what was this new promise?
Read John 14:2,32In 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. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2‑3), and you will see: "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 unto myself; that where 1 am, there ye may be also."
A grosser mistake could not be made than to suppose that this second "coming" of His means "death." Let me give you an illustration of the difference. A kindhearted father takes his son for the first time to some distant boarding-school. On parting with him, he plainly sees what a struggle is going on in the poor little fellow's breast as he tries hard to hold back the tears. So, to comfort him, the father says, `Come, cheer up, my boy. I must leave you now, and return home; but when the day comes round for school days to end and holidays to begin, / will come again myself, and take you back home with me.'
Now, could there be any mistake, think you, as to what the father intended to convey to his troubled boy by these words? And yet the language of the blessed Lord to His sorrowing disciples, at the eventful crisis just alluded to, is no less plain and unmistakable.
It was not, 'I am going away to heaven, but you shall die and come to Me there;' but, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself."
If believers are called to die, Scripture speaks of them as being "absent from the body," and "present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:88We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)). Whereas when the Lord's coming takes place, instead of being "absent from the body" (or, as verse 4 expresses it, "unclothed"), their bodies will be fashioned "like unto his glorious body" (Phil. 3:2121Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21); see also 1 Cor. 15:5252In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)). "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," the "dead in Christ" will be "raised," and the living "changed." So that, instead of the coming of the Lord being death, it will be the undoing of all that death has done to the bodies of God's people for nigh six thousand years. What a morning of victory both for Him and for those who know Him!
But let us now consider the second part of our subject, viz.,
The Person Who Is Coming.
Many, who know something of the doctrine of the Lord's coming, seem to get their souls engrossed with 'events' which they think have been, or are being, fulfilled, rather than with the blessed Person Himself who is coming.
A widowed mother stands upon the pier-head of a seaport town, eagerly gazing seaward. She has heard that transport ships, bringing Her Majesty's troops from a foreign battlefield, are soon to arrive, and in one of them she ardently hopes to see her much-loved son. Preparations for a `grand review,' to take place soon after the brave men have landed, are being made on a large scale. But these things have very little attraction for her. Military bands and waving banners, and triumphal arches may gratify the mere observer of passing events; but it is for her own dear lad that she waits. Day and night, since he departed, has she longed and prayed for his return; and what could really give her so much joy as getting him safely back? not that she has any objection to seeing him honored at the coming `review'; for she believes him to be well worthy of all the honor they will give him; but even this will take place after he has landed. The uppermost thought in her heart now is this-'He is coming.'
Now, dear reader, there may be certain events happening to-day which seem to indicate that the time cannot be far distant when the "Sun of righteousness" shall arise with healing in His wings for the remnant of Israel who fear His name, and with consuming judgment for the wicked. (Read for yourself of that day "that shall burn as an oven," that "great and dreadful day of the Lord" in the last chapter of Malachi.) But the Christian's immediate hope is the return of Christ Himself as the "bright and morning star," as He Himself so expresses it in Rev. 22:1616I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16). Using His own ever-precious personal name, He says, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."
Now the morning star appears in the heavens before the rising of the sun, sometimes a considerable time before. It is between the time when He comes as the "morning star" and the time when He appears as the "Sun of righteousness" that the terrible judgments spoken of in the Revelation will visit the earth. Then will that terrible consummation of wickedness and lawlessness, that "man of sin," the antichrist, come upon the scene (2 Thess. 2:33Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)); then, too, the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:77Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:7)), and "great tribulation" (Matt. 24:21,2221For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (Matthew 24:21‑22)) will come, but a saved remnant will be preserved in the midst of it, like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:2727And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. (Daniel 3:27)). Then those in professing Christendom, who have not received "the love of the truth, that they might be saved," will be given over by God Himself to a "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:10-1210And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:10‑12)).
Then, indeed, there will be numberless signs-signs of a most appalling character, plenty of heart-crushing sorrows, with sights and sounds that shall make the stoutest hearts quail-so that men shall "seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them" (Rev. 9:66And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. (Revelation 9:6)). But remember that all these are to be expected after the "morning star" is risen, and not before; i.e., after the church, His heavenly bride, has been caught away from the earth to meet the Lord in the air.
Oh, let us never forget that it is HIMSELF who is coming so quickly to 'gather His ransomed ones home!'
Looking for 'events' instead of for Him sadly robs the heart of much of that freshness and comfort which is the believer's true portion in view of this heavenly hope. Indeed, the enemy has been but too successful in making the gracious promise of His coming to appear as much as possible like an angry, judicial threat, whereas, as we have seen in John 14, it was the Great Physician's choicest cordial for the fainting hearts of His trembling followers. And when the inspired apostle, years afterward, writes his first letter to the bereaved and persecuted young converts at Thessalonica, he adds, to what he had just been telling them of the Lord's coming, this short but significant sentence-"Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Now let us turn to 1 Thess. 4:16-1816For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then 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. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16‑18), and carefully examine these words of comfort: "The Lord HIMSELF shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with 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 notice that it was a real, living Man, the Lord Himself, who was going to descend from heaven. It was the Lord Himself that they were going to meet in the air. At their conversion they had been taught that the "same Jesus" who had, by His death and resurrection, delivered them from the "wrath to come," was coming again; and they "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait" (not for certain prophetic events to be fulfilled, but) "for his Son from heaven" (1 Thess. 1:9,109For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9‑10)). And again, in writing to the Philippians, Paul says, "Our conversation" (or citizenship) "is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:2020For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20)); i.e., they were on the outlook for a Person, and that Person the known, and loved, and trusted Son of God.
Now, where that blessed Savior is not known; where His finished work is not trusted, or His authority bowed to, there is little wonder that the news of His near approach should strike the conscience with terror and dismay, as in religious Jerusalem of old.
But, beloved fellow-Christian, it ought not to be so with you. We ought, most assuredly, to be exercised about the suitability of our walk and ways to Him who is coming; and if we lay the promise of His speedy return to heart, we certainly shall be. "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:33And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)). We ought never to forget, moreover, that we shall all be manifested before His judgment-seat; when all our service shall be reproduced, and "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:88Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:8)). This, however, like the `grand review-day' in our illustration, will be an after-event. And besides, just as in a military 'review' all the soldiers appear in their best, so shall we appear at His judgment-seat, clothed in bodies of glory like His own-we shall even be "raised in glory" (1 Cor. 15:4343It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: (1 Corinthians 15:43)). But He is first coming for us, as a loving Bridegroom to take home His bride; and I repeat it again, there is nothing whatever for the true believer to fear in connection with it, though plenty to humble and to exercise the most devoted of us.
A few years since, in Manchester, I overtook a little boy about six years of age, as he leisurely sauntered along the street. As I approached him he was singing a little song-one of his own composing, I expect. A tiny ditty it was! Three words took in the whole of it-`At ten o'clock! at ten o'clock! at ten o'clock!'
He seemed so thoroughly absorbed with it, and repeated it so very often, that my curiosity was aroused to inquire what he could really mean by it. After a few kind words, he opened out his little heart to me. It appeared that his mother had been from home for some time, but that his father had received a letter to say she would be home that very day 'at ten o'clock.' I need hardly say that the little morning carol needed no further explanation. The news of his mother's return had filled his heart-filled it to overflowing. No doubt he had sadly missed her, mourned her absence, and ardently longed for her return. But she was coming-coming 'at ten o'clock,' and who wonders that this news was good cheer to him!
Now, why should it be otherwise with you and me, dear Christian reader, when the tidings of our Lord's return reaches our ears? Have we not tasted the sweetness of His love? Did He not suffer and die for us? Has He not kept us all along the way, since first we knew Him, relieving us of many a burden, succoring and sympathizing in many a sorrow, restoring us after many a fall? Words cannot express how dear we are to Him. Ah! dear brother or sister, it is as we think of Him that our hearts warm with desire to see Him.
`Lord Jesus, when I think of Thee, Of all Thy love and grace, My spirit longs and fain would see Thy beauty face to face.'
Not long since a Christian lady said to me, "When I think sometimes of the Lord's coming, my heart fairly leaps within me." And a little girl I knew years ago-only eleven at the time-said, after returning from an errand at dusk one evening, `Mother, as I came up the lane just now, I saw the clouds moving very swiftly along the sky. So I stood still, and looked up; for I thought that if the Lord Jesus were just coming, how I should like to be the very first to see Him!' Now, what was the secret of this peace and joy in the bosom of that dear child, as she stood all alone, in that quiet country lane, and at evening twilight, longing for a glimpse of His blessed face? It was just this, she knew and trusted the Person who was coming ("whom having not seen, ye love" (1 Peter 1:88Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8))). She knew that, through His death for her, all her sins were not only freely forgotten, but eternally forgotten.
But perhaps someone might say, 'I should not be in such calm quietude if I thought He were coming at once, though from my heart I do trust His precious blood.'
Ah! then you are forgetting who it is that is coming. It is the "same Jesus" who once, "weary with his journey," asked Samaria's daughter for a drink of water; the same who met the funeral procession outside the city of Nain, and gave back to the widow her only son; who allowed the sinful woman in Simon's house to tell out her love in tears and kisses at His blessed feet; yea, the very same Jesus who spoke such wondrous words of grace and mercy to the dying robber at Calvary! It is He, it is HE HIMSELF, who is coming!
Would you have proof of this? Read in Acts 1 what those two angels said to the disciples on mount Olivet. Their Master had just left them, and gone to heaven, but not without first taking special pains to impress upon them that He was not a spirit, but a living Man with flesh and bones, which, if they doubted His word, they could handle and see for themselves (Luke 24:3939Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. (Luke 24:39)). "Ye men of Galilee" (said the angels), "... 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" (Acts 1:1111Which 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. (Acts 1:11)).
Eighteen hundred years in the glory have not changed Him in the least! The self-same Person that Martha went forth to meet, after her brother's death, is He for whom we wait; and should we be "put to sleep" before He returns, the same "resurrection and the life" who said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep," will, at His coming, awake us too, that, like Lazarus, we may sit at the feast with Him 'in saint-thronged courts above' (see John 11:1212Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. (John 11:12)). Why then should we fear, when such a blessed Friend is coming from heaven to meet us?
"Surely / come quickly," is the cheering promise; and is it not due to such a lover as He, that our hearts should respond, and say, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:2020He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20))?
But Let Us Look a Little More Closely at the Purpose of His Coming.
It is important to see that, after the Jewish nation had rejected and murdered their Messiah, God revealed to the apostle Paul what Scripture calls "THE MYSTERY." This "mystery," we are told, had been "kept secret since the world began" (Rom. 16:2525Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, (Romans 16:25)), had been "hid in God" (Eph. 3:99And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: (Ephesians 3:9)); that is to say, there had been, above and beyond anything revealed in the Old Testament, a secret purpose in the heart of God to have a bride for His beloved Son, and that this bride should be formed by the union of saved Jews and Gentiles in "one body" (the Church), and united by the Holy Spirit to Christ the Head in heaven. (See Col. 1:1818And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18); Eph. 1:22,23;3:6;5:30-3222And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23)
6That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (Ephesians 3:6)
30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:30‑32)
.) At Pentecost the Holy Spirit began to effect this by baptizing into this "one body" those very disciples to whom had been made the special promise already referred to (John 14).
But, for the proper understanding of the subject before us, it is equally important to see that this rejection of Christ by the Jews left still unfulfilled many most important Old Testament promises as to the earthly blessing of the nation of Israel. For example, read what is said of the reign of the true Son of Jesse in Isa. 11, when He shall have assembled the outcasts of Israel and gathered together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (v. 12). "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (vv. 6-9).
By a careful perusal of these and like scriptures you will find that these promised blessings are not the result of the conversion of the world, through the preaching of the gospel; but, on the contrary, that they will be preceded by, and ushered in with, most terrible judgments on the wicked.
Here let me notice that there are two great subjects which form the theme of prophetic testimony in the Old Testament, viz., the sufferings of Christ, and the reign of Christ; or, as Peter expresses it, "the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:1111Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. (1 Peter 1:11)). Now the Jews of old stumbled over one side of this testimony, while fully accepting the other. They had no difficulty in believing what the prophets had said concerning a reigning Messiah, but totally rejected the truth of a suffering One. On the other hand, while every true Christian fully accepts the prophetic testimony as to a suffering Messiah, yet how many reject, or try to reason away, the truth of His coming reign.
Thus we see that, when He went to heaven, He left two sets of promises to be fulfilled-those to the Church, and those to Israel; each peculiarly distinct from the other. In fulfilling one He will come forth as Isaac once did, when, according to Gen. 24, he went out and met Rebecca, not as a righteous judge, or a warrior king, but in the tender devotedness of a loving bridegroom; whereas, in fulfilling the other, He will come forth as David, the mighty conqueror, to take His great power, and reign. In other words, He is the Church's Bridegroom; He is Israel's King.
There are, therefore, two distinct phases of the Lord's second coming mentioned in the word of God-two stages, so to speak, in the same journey. First, He will descend into the air to catch away His saints to heaven; then, after a short period has elapsed, He will return to reign, when His heavenly saints will share His kingdom glories and reign with Him.
Let me illustrate this part of our subject. While walking down the high road one morning, you notice, we will suppose, a little pool of water. Carefully stepping out of the way of it, you proceed on your way, and think little more about it. A few days later, however, you happen to pass the same way again; but the drops of water before noticed are nowhere to be seen. Even those that had sunk the lowest, and got down out of sight into the earth beneath, have gone too. And what has become of them? Why, the bright sun in the heavens shone upon them, and by his attractive power drew them all away upward toward himself. No one saw them depart, but they are certainly gone!
After a few weeks, those selfsame drops are seen by you once more. But how changed since you last saw and turned away from them in the muddy pool! They are lovely, white snowflakes now, and the admiration of everybody!
Thus will it be, dear reader, presently. The Lord Himself will descend from heaven, and in the "twinkling of an eye" raise from the dust the bodies of all His sleeping saints, and change the bodies of the living ones at the same moment, catching both up together to meet Him in the air.
We have no scripture warrant for supposing that the unsaved will see them go. Probably the solemn discovery that every one of them is missing will be the first announcement of what has taken place. Enoch "was not found, because God had translated him" (Heb. 11:55By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)). Well then, He having, with more or less privacy, taken the Church to glory, she will next appear in fullest publicity, "with Him in glory," when, as it is written, "every eye shall see Him" (Rev. 1:77Behold, he cometh 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. (Revelation 1:7)).
But the blessed Lord Himself, in one chapter, draws a most graphic picture of these two phases of His coming. I refer to Matt. 25. In the parable of the "ten virgins" He portrays one feature of it; in the parable of the "sheep and goats" the other.
In the one the wise virgins are seen going in with the bridegroom to the "marriage;" in the other the king is seen coming out to judge. I pray you mark well the striking contrast.
In the first parable the saved are taken to heaven, and the unsaved left on the earth for coming judgment. In the last, it is the wicked who are taken away in judgment, while the "righteous" are left on earth to share the blessings of Messiah's kingdom.
In one case the saints go in, and the "door is shut;" in the other, "heaven is opened," and the saints come out.
Now in Rev. 4, 5 and 19 we are told what actually takes place in heaven after the Church has been "caught up," and has "gone in." In chapter 4: 4 the saints, as "elders," are seen sitting around the throne, clothed in white raiment, with crowns of gold on their heads; and in verses 10 and 11 they are seen in the act of worship, falling down before Him who sits upon the throne, casting their crowns at His feet, and saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord." (See also chap. 5: 9.) Then, in chapter 19: 7, after referring to a mighty burst of "alleluias" at the commencement, we read, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." Then comes the marriage supper (v. 9). Thus, you see, if Matt. 25 gives us the plaintive cry of the "foolish" outside, Rev. 19 tells of the festive joy of the saved inside. Reader, with which company shall you find your portion?
But let us take another glance at Matt. 25. A common, but totally erroneous thought about the last parable in the chapter is, that it is a picture of the general judgment, as it is called; and accordingly it is often asked, 'Shall we not all stand before Him to be judged, and have our place assigned us among the sheep on His right hand or the goats on the left?' I boldly answer, 'No.' What is contemplated here is the judgment of the Gentile nations found on the earth when the true King comes to reign. The Greek word, which is here translated "nations," is rendered in the New Testament "the Gentiles" ninety-three times, the "heathen" five times, and "nations" thirty-seven times, and indicates "a present existence or locality upon earth." Now Israel was not to be reckoned among the nations (Num. 23:99For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. (Numbers 23:9)). Still less are the saints, who compose the Church, thus reckoned. (See Col. 3:1111Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11); Acts 15:1414Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. (Acts 15:14).)
Then, it may be asked, if neither Israel nor the Church forms part of the "nations" here judged, where do they find their place in this solemn scene?
Let Scripture supply the answer.
1. As to the saints of this dispensation:
"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear WITH HIM in glory" (Col. 3:44When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)).
What could be more distinct than this, as to where the "co-heirs" will be when the "appointed Heir" of all things takes the inheritance?
2. As to Israel: Remember, in the first place, that this nation was of the "seed of Abraham," according to the flesh. Notice too, that in Matt. 1 we are told that Jesus Christ was "the son of David, the son of Abraham"; and in Heb. 2, "He took on him the seed ofAbraham." Thus, while as Son of David He is their "King," as Son of Abraham He can speak of them as His "brethren"; and, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Abraham's son (Isaac), He blesses all who have befriended the sons of Jacob, and curses all who have not. "Cursed be every one that curseth thee; and blessed be he that blesseth thee." (Compare Gen. 27:2929Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. (Genesis 27:29) with Matt. 25:34,4134Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25:34)
41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41)
.)
We see, then, that in addition to the saints who will, according to other scriptures, "appear with Him in glory," the Lord here mentions three distinct companies, viz., "sheep," "goats," and "brethren." We have seen also that the "brethren" here spoken of are those of His own nation, according to the flesh. But it may now be asked, 'Who then are the "sheep" and the "goats"?'
Well, other scriptures show us that, after the Church has been taken to glory, there will be a special testimony, carried by Jewish missionaries, lor a witness unto all nations," and called by the Lord Himself in Matt. 24:1414And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14), the "gospel of the kingdom," the burden of which will no doubt be the near approach of the rightful "King." Some of these "nations" will receive the testimony, and accordingly do all in their power to befriend those who bear it, while others, on the contrary, will not only reject the message, but withhold all sympathy and succor from the despised and ill-treated messengers.
Carefully notice here that it is on this ground alone, viz., how they have treated His "brethren," that the nations are separated by the King at His appearing in glory, and ultimately either "blessed" or "cursed" by Him. The "sheep" represent one class, the "goats" the other.
The former (like Ruth the Moabitess, who showed kindness to the poor widowed daughter of Israel) will be rewarded by being allowed to share the blessings of Messiah's millennial reign over the earth, while the latter will be cut off in judgment.
There is nothing in this parable about the resurrection of the dead, or the end of the world; nor yet in Rev. 19, which pictures the same scene. The resurrection of the SAVED will have taken place before, as we saw in 1 Thess. 4:1616For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (1 Thessalonians 4:16) and 1 Cor. 15:5252In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52); while the resurrection of the WICKED DEAD will not take place until after the thousand years of the Messiah's reign.
Is it not clear therefore that there will be TWO RESURRECTIONS? The first including all who will reign with Him a thousand years, and which must necessarily take place therefore before the thousand years; and "the rest of the dead," who will not be raised "until the thousand years were finished," when heaven and earth shall flee away, and the "dead, small and great," shall stand for judgment before the GREAT WHITE THRONE, and be cast into the lake of fire forever. John then adds, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth... and there was no more sea." Blessed be God for revealing such wondrous realities to our finite minds, and giving us an understanding of them by His Spirit. "0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rom. 11:3333O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33)).
Let us now consider, briefly, the last part of the subject before us; viz.,
The Preparation for His Coming.
There are two ways in which Scripture speaks of our being "ready."
"I am now ready to be offered.... I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 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 unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-86For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth 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 unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6‑8)).
But, in the second sense, Paul was ready, not merely because he was saved-he knew that years before-but because his service and testimony had been such that he was conscious of his Master's "well done" in "that day."
Let me try to simplify it for you, by another illustration, before I close. We will suppose that you send your son, on business of some importance, to a distant market town. You furnish him, on starting, with a ticket for the whole journey, going and coming. You give him all necessary instructions as to where he is to go, and what he is to do, exhorting him, in conclusion, to give all diligence in the carrying out of your wishes, especially as his time there will be but short.
When he reaches the town, for a little while he appears to be very earnest and energetic; but, after the execution of a very small part of his business, he falls in with a few old companions, forgets your kind entreaty to be diligent, and loiters here and there sight-seeing with them, until at last he is startled by the stroke of the town clock, showing, alas! that he hasn't a minute to spare if he would catch the last train back. Off he rushes to the station, and is only just in time to take his seat. The door is shut, the signal is given, and the next moment he is safely on his way home.
Now, was he ready for the journey home?
The answer is twofold. Yes, and no!
As to all the requirements of the railway company, "yes;" for he had got his ticket (no thanks to him for that: you had purchased it for him). Not a single official on the line dare dispute his title to travel safe home!
But what about his business, and your wishes? Ah, he has forfeited your smile of approval for that! You cannot say, "Well done" for faithful service, and yet that very night he has a place with the family, as a son, at your own supper-table.
Now every believer has, in a once crucified, now glorified Savior, at God's right hand, what answers to the 'ticket' viz., an undeniable proof that a full fare has been paid. But, while "all that believe are justified" (Acts 13:3939And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:39)), and "whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:3030Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)), yet all believers will not, in that day, get the same reward. "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:88Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:8)).
God grant, dear Christian reader, that your happy portion and mine may be, not only to have a title to go in "with Him to the marriage," and sit down at home with Him there, but that we may be found watching, waiting, and working for Him here, consulting His wishes, and caring for His interests, in the constraining power of His never-changing love, UNTIL HE COME.
Let us bear in mind, that if we would take up our cross, and in loving devotedness follow Him, it must be now.
It is a difficult day-"perilous times" are come, evil men and seducers are waxing worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:1313But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13)). (What a solemn contradiction to the popular blunder, that the whole world will be converted before He comes!) It is a day of high profession and low practice; a day when a spirit of lawlessness abounds in the world, and when looseness of principle and lack of loyalty to Christ abound in the Church.
Yet, in spite of everything, we shall have "God, and... the word of his grace" (Acts 20:3232And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)) to the end-His word to direct our steps, and His grace to sustain us in the right path when we have found it. Let us not be deceived by "appearances" in this boastful day, nor be discouraged if we do not find, in the path of obedience, that which, to the outward eye, looks like success. "To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam. 15:2222And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)). May our blessed Master's exhortation sink down into our ears: "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them" (Luke 12:35-3735Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. (Luke 12:35‑37)).
`Oh, let the thought our spirits cheer, The Lord Himself will soon be here!'
Unsaved reader, a word with you. Do let me remind you of the suddenness of His coming, and of the certainty of your being left behind should He find you without oil in your vessel.' Cast your eye into the future for a moment. Think how swiftly the wings of time are bearing you into eternity. Oh, what an ETERNITY!
To be left on earth to discover that the saved (perhaps many a friend and many a relative) have been "caught up" to heaven without you; that you have turned a deaf ear to the last warning the Spirit will ever give you; heard in unbelief your last gospel preaching, and refused mercy's last call, will be sad and solemn enough. But not less sad will it be for your body to be left beneath the sod in your cold, dark grave while the "thousand years" of millennial blessing shall roll along, when the whole earth shall be filled with His glory (Psa. 72:1919And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. (Psalm 72:19)), and the Prince of Peace shall have dominion "from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth" (Zech. 9:1010And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10)). Oh, yes, to miss all that will be a dreadful loss! But there will be ETERNITY to face after that, remember! You will be raised from the dead by the voice of the Son of God (John 5:28,2928Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28‑29)). Righteous judgment at the great white throne will follow. Every idle word, every day's history, will have to be accounted for; and, as "God is true" (John 3:3333He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. (John 3:33)), your certain doom will be an eternity in the lake of fire! Treat it not lightly. The door is still open. Jesus still invites you. His people are still here. But I solemnly warn you of your danger, and earnestly entreat you to flee to the refuge while "yet there is room" (Luke 14:2222And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. (Luke 14:22)). He might even come before you have time to close this little book! Be in earnest then. Fall down at His feet, and confess your sinful state before Him. He will welcome, bless, and save you just now. Blessed, thrice-blessed Savior!
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:1515This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)).
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