The Christian Hope Consistent With Events Revealed in Prophecy

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This contrast of the apostle gives us exactly the nature of the Christian hope, because it is not merely a great change anticipated for mankind and creation; still less is it the illusion of the world being made better. It is not evil judged, or righteousness triumphant, however great and excellent. We do expect both; but they belong to prophecy, not their hope. Prophecy shows Babylon is to be destroyed and Antichrist judged. It shows the Roman empire by and by reorganized, with a head over it, when the west gets weary of little powers, and wants to have a chief opposed to the great leader of the east. Alas! all are only for destruction. If these things take place (and I am persuaded that prophecy shows they will, and that events already transpiring are leading on to them), they have nothing to do with the Christian hope. In looking into prophecy, we find ourselves on the ground of measured times and seasons; but these have nothing to do with our waiting for Christ from heaven. What has His coming to receive us to Himself above to do with judgments? What has our entrance into the Father's house to do directly with changes on earth? When the Lord comes to translate the saints to those mansions, He does not rectify the earth, He takes Christians away to heaven; but this does not alter the face of the earth. Undoubtedly a vast change will come in due time, and we may see the order of events a little later on. But I now speak of the essential difference between the two; and I affirm that the Christian hope is essentially bound up with heaven, while prophecy is occupied with earthly judgment and subsequent blessing; for evil, being that which prevails on the earth, must be judged to bring in a better state. Man as such has no title to go up to heaven. It is a matter of pure grace; and it belongs to Christ to show us that grace, and a part of His grace is for Him to come and present us in the Father's house. We have no claim to be there. It is the Son of God who according to the efficacy of redemption and in His own love will take us away from the world to be with Himself. This is the heavenly hope.
But there is a great deal more than this in scripture, and it will be shown that the attempt to bring in the earthly events of prophecy before Christ comes for the rapture of the saints is a mere misapprehension of persons who, in my judgment, are but imperfectly acquainted with the word of God. More mature and profound study of the word only confirms the impression of new-born and spiritual souls that we should be constantly waiting for Christ. No doubt there are divine revelations about what is coming to pass in the world, and serious and radical changes they are; but they never interfere with the Christian's expectation of Christ from day to day. Quite distinct from them stands that heavenly hope, which they are not allowed in any part of the New Testament to overlay or even modify.
Let us look at a few scriptures; and, as our first instance, at Luke 12 There not only is the disciple put in the place of waiting for Christ, but the greatest possible stress is laid on this that there should arise nothing to prevent his constantly looking for the Lord to meet him in the air. In verses 35 and 36 we read, “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.” There is no hindrance here for the disciple, no revealed delay on the part of the Master. His return was to be an immediate hope. Indeed the thought of any interposed delay is what the Lord is here arming the heart against most sedulously. Not only does He insist on the time being unknown as a motive for always expecting Him, but also that the state of the heart should be such that nothing should hinder an immediate response to Christ when He comes again.
Turn we now to the Gospel of John. Here the Lord presents His coming as a question of His own love to have His own with Himself above, and not in the least as referring to men on the earth, or dependent on signs, changes, and events that must previously take place. In chapter 14 the Lord says “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 I am, there ye may be also.” It is clear that this is totally independent of any movements here below. It is the heavenly hope, and this in its greatest completeness, not placed in connection with any earthly circumstances whatever. We have nothing of its order in relation to other things, but simply its character. It is just a question of the love of the Son and of the Father. He was not to be like the Jewish Messiah an object of sight; He was going to be invisible. He had been here a man before their eyes; but He was going away, and as God was an object of faith, so should He be: in truth He was God, even as the Father and the Spirit. He tells them not to let His departure distress them, for He was going to do better for them than could possibly be if He remained here. To have abode as they on earth, or even to have established the kingdom as returning to it, would have been in connection with His Messiahship; but His going to heaven was based on redemption as well as on His Sonship. The one links with the Son of David, the other with His divine glory; the one is connected with earth, the other with the Father's house -no doubt that house in which the Savior is gone to prepare mansions for us in heaven; but heaven is not so contracted as some think; and all heaven is not the Father's house, which is where the Father shows His special love to the Son. Of it Jesus says that there “are many mansions,” not merely one for the Father and the Son, but ample room for His risen saints. “I go,” He says, “to prepare a place for you;” because it was for those who were altogether strangers to such companionship above, a totally new thing for a Jew as such to expect. The constant expectation of the people was power and blessing coming down to earth, not at all the hope of being taken from earth to heaven, to enjoy glory in communion with the glorified Son of Man.
Here be it observed that in my opinion those called premillennialists have often brought a great stigma on the truth, by representing the earth as the future scene of our blessedness. Indeed such an idea is not peculiar to premillennialists; many theologians, such as Dr. Chalmers for example, had the same poverty of thought. A renovated earth for the risen saints was the idea from some of the early Fathers down to our day: which to my mind is not only unscriptural but exceedingly low. The earth, no matter how blessed, will never be the meet abode for the risen and glorified. The heavens are high above the earth, not only in locality but in character; and it is in heavenly places that we are blessed, it is there we know our portion in Christ even now. It is not therefore the earth, however transmuted or metamorphosed it may be, that is to form the sphere of our glory and home with Christ. I admit there will be a blessed change in that day on the earth; but this will be for Israel and the nations or Gentiles; whereas we by becoming Christians have ceased to be either Jews or Gentiles. We have acquired our character from Christ, and have a blessing suited to Him on high. Until souls have a knowledge of this, they do not understand Christianity. The Christian is not merely a blessed man; for blessed then will be the Jews, and blessed even still the Gentiles. But the Christian is one taken out of all that belongs to him naturally and is put already by the power of the Spirit in a supernatural place. He knows it now by faith. It will be visible to all when the Lord comes. Accordingly, the Lord Jesus, who knew so well the Father's house, announces that He is coming for us and will bring us into the place He is preparing for us now: He will have us with Himself and as Himself.
This then is the Christian's heavenly hope. It is entirely independent of a revealed date or announced delay. The Lord never fixed nor disclosed it in His word; He made it entirely dependent on His grace to those He loves; as the Father has placed times and seasons in His own authority. On this the church has to depend; on this every Christian was meant to confide as he waits for Christ. The Christian knows Him whom he believes, that He may delay, and that His delay is salvation for those who otherwise must perish everlastingly. Though it may be keeping himself for a little out of His rest and glory with Christ, the Christian can delight that others also by the delay are going to be blessed of Christ. This is the definitely assigned reason for the delay which has nothing whatever to do with the judgments, &c, in the world of which prophecy treats. What have the seals, trumpets or vials to do with our joining Christ for heavenly glory? This last has no doubt to do with the secret counsels of the Father who is gathering out whom He pleases to make heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, but this has nothing to do with earthly revolutions.
If we look at the other Gospels we find many notable events predicted. We learn that the Jews, now scattered, are to be gathered once more; that their present misery is not all, for that they must pass through still deeper tribulation, but afterward be delivered and blessed by the Lord Jesus according to the promises made to the fathers. The apostles in the rest of the New Testament confirm this fully. Thus the epistle to the Romans, the grandest expose of fundamental Christian doctrine, most carefully shows that, however God may by the gospel meet sinners in indiscriminate grace, He has in no way forgotten His promises to His ancient people, His present heavenly purpose does not turn aside his intention of bringing the earth into the liberty of glory. The groaning creation shall yet rejoice under the second Man, when the day is come for the manifestation of the sons of God. Nor did the apostle withhold from men the solemn fact that God has appointed a day in which He is going to judge (not the dead only, as at the end of all, but the habitable earth in righteousness by the man He has appointed, even Jesus risen from among the dead. Preliminary judgments too must take place and mighty operations in. warning and testimony, which more or less fully are predicted in the prophetic word.
But here again I come to the very important question;-are these or any other public events revealed as occurring before the Lord comes to receive His heavenly saints? are they to take place at the same time? or do they occur after?
In dealing with these questions let us refer for a few moments to the Epistles to the Thessalonians, which are allowed to have been the first Paul wrote. They were written to young Christians that knew but little and that consequently were in no small danger of mistakes. In fact both epistles were written to correct misapprehension or error. What we find corrected in the first epistle was in regard to the dead saints; what was dealt with in the second touched rather the living saints. When the first epistle was written, the Thessalonian saints were so filled with the constant expectancy of the Lord's return for them that they were quite taken by surprise when some of their brethren fell asleep.' Could anything show more vividly how the early church were looking out day by day for Christ? They thought their deceased brethren must lose much at that blessed moment because they had fallen asleep before Christ came. Such is the evident meaning of their agitation. Others may try from their mistake in this detail to get rid of the truth; they held rightly in the main but many who speak flippantly of the Thessalonians are in a more dangerous case habitually than ever were the Thessalonian believers. The latter had imbibed the thought somehow that the Christians were not to die before Jesus came. Now the Lord had never said so, nor had the Holy Spirit through the apostle ever taught so. It was an entirely human inference. Now no inference is a matter of faith. It depends of course on our soundness in deducing consequences from premises, under which too a flaw may lurk. It is very important for us to remember that in divine things we should look for the direct testimony of God's word, at all events for a revealed principle to guide us. In this case the Thessalonians, having trusted their own minds, could not understand that any Christians should die before Christ's coming. So when this befell some of their number, they were grieved beyond measure. The apostle writes to disabuse their minds of error on this point. (1 Thess. 4:13, 1413But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13‑14).) “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus [have fallen asleep through Jesus] will God bring with him.”
How strikingly different is the kind of comfort men habitually administer now! The thought they present to the bereaved (throughout Christendom) almost always is that their friends are gone to heaven. Nobody denies this in the case of deceased believers. They depart to be with Christ. They are not consigned to some place of detention in obscurity and seclusion from the Lord; they are imprisoned in no subterranean abode far from that heaven to which even here they belonged. Absent from the body they are at home with the Savior, which is far better. If it were only a poor robber before his death converted on the cross, he was that very day with Christ: such and so great and so immediate the efficacy of His blood. Is Paradise a garden of gloom, not of delights? Not even the earthly paradise of Adam in itself had a cloud; and is not the Paradise of God far brighter than where the first man was tempted by the devil? Error on this head I refer to, not only because it is pernicious but as showing how quickly the early church departed from the truth, for the notion here combated was, so far as the early Fathers speak, all but universal, and to this day the Greek and other ancient bodies are under similar illusions. They conceive that departed Christians are waiting in darkness till the resurrection, and therefore offer prayers on their behalf. They do not pray to them like the still more deluded Romanists; but they think their spirits are detained in that place of need till Christ comes.
It is plain however from the word of God that the deceased saints are with Christ, on the one hand, and on the other that, though with Him, their own state is imperfect till their bodies are raised. They only can enjoy the fullness of the glory God intends for them with Christ, and this not only in spirit but in body. There may be meanwhile all that the soul can take in, but it is not perfection till soul and body together share Christ in glory. Perfection will be when we are outwardly and inwardly and completely like Christ. So say the Scriptures, and they are always right. According to this was the comfort the apostle here gives the Thessalonian brethren. He points to the reunion at the coming of the Lord. How all is brought about we learn in the verses which follow(15-17). “For this we say unto you in the word of the Lord, that we the living that remain unto the coming of the Lord shall in nowise prevent"-it is here an old English word for precede— “those that have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with archangel's voice, and with trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we the living that remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” If there be difference, the saints that may have fallen asleep come under the energy of the Lord's glory rather before the rest. But the truth is that in a moment both are to be caught up together. The Thessalonians were therefore troubling themselves without reason. They need not sorrow as the rest. It is right to feel grief for things as they are; and a miserable thing to treat sorrow, shame, death, sin, with indifference: the Lord when here sorrowed, as none else, never as those who have no hope. The truth brings in the Lord's coming and our resurrection to the richest comfort of the soul, instead of letting it harden and accustom itself to the consequences of the fall as inevitable. The second Man is looked to, instead of resignation to the miseries of the first.
On the face of it what can be clearer than that the moderns mistake in thinking that death is the Lord's coming to the Christian? Do you wonder that any should say so? It was only this morning I was reading the book of a Divinity Professor, and a believer too, which treated thus of the Lord's coming at death. Certainly it finds no countenance in scripture. What sort of doctrine is that? His presence will be deliverance from death for those that look for Him. It is the express comfort against death and grief about it. At death we each go to be with Christ; at His coming He will take us all to be with Himself. Such erroneous teaching ought to be met firmly; and, if any do not know better than to teach such things, it would be well if Christians did not listen, at least on such a theme. The worst is that it infects almost everything else unless it be the immutable truth of the Godhead and of Christ's person. They are only corrupting God's testimony by perverting the scriptures on the great province of our hope and prophecy too. The coming of the Lord Jesus is just the converse of the Christian's going to Him. The latter is but individual departure, the former is the glad moment when He will communicate His own joy to all that are His. The confounding of these two things is not only mischievous to the soul, but it also obscures the glory of the Lord Jesus. The Lord's coming is thus really in contrast with death; the consolation which grace vouchsafes in the sorrows we taste, the ultimate and only complete triumph of Christ over death in all its forms as far as the Christian is concerned. “Wherefore,” he says, “comfort one another with these words.”
In the next chapter the apostle enlarges on the day of the Lord. “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they,” that is, men generally on the earth not Christians, “shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” In the presence of the Lord, chapter iv., we saw only the saints concerned; but in the day of the Lord (chap, 5) we have the world involved. There is therefore an evident difference between them, though the presence of the Lord may go on in the day of the Lord and so include it. He will come to receive His own, taking them away from the earth to be with Himself on high; but the day of the Lord is His advent in judgment of man's pride and indifference, delusion and positive rebellion here below. When they shall say, peace and safety, sudden destruction soon follows. Accordingly nothing is said about taking up to heaven in chapter 5; nor is anything said about destruction in chapter 4. Who can fail to observe the propriety of all this? For it is simply a question of the testimony of scripture. Cannot the Lord come to take His own on high without showing Himself at that moment except to those for whom He comes? He who on the score of difficulty cavils against this takes a dangerous path. For no one denies that shortly after the Lord will display the saints with Himself. That will be His day, a time of bitter anguish, because it will be His dealing with the earth and man apostate here below. But the coming of the Lord to translate His own to heaven is a different order of things. I do not speak now of “the coming of the Son of Man” because this, being the express relation in which He judges, necessarily modifies His coming. When He is seen coming or present as Son of Man, it is in reference to the earth. But I do not go tonight beyond the broad features which most need.
In the second epistle there is quite another point of view. The Thessalonians had been meanwhile agitated by certain persons who told them that their then persecutions or other trials, for they seem to have been passing through sore tribulation, were the beginning of the day of the Lord—that it was not impending only, as is commonly said, but actually come. On this account they were greatly troubled and shaken, and Paul writes this fresh epistle to banish their fears and settle them in confidence of the hope once more. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming (or presence, for this is the meaning of the word) of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled.” Assuredly it was the excitement not of hope but of anxiety and terror. It is no picture of sanguine people in haste looking for Christ, but of souls alarmed by a false apprehension that the day of the Lord had actually set in. Do you object to my going in this farther than the English version warrants? That version represents the errorists to have said (and this too pretending every authority for it, even to a letter from the apostle) “that the day of Christ is at hand.” It is now pretty generally known that the true text and proper translation of the last clause is “that the day of the Lord is present.” I am old enough to remember the time when scarcely a single person in the world seemed to be aware of this; and now, I am thankful to say, there are only a few prejudiced men to dispute it. It can scarcely be doubted that the present revisers will alter the version here, and alter it for the better too. I was agreeably surprised to see an American divine among the first who bowed to the truth in this passage; and now nobody who can pretend to be well informed of the grounds for a sound judgment on it makes any question about it, unless it be a few individuals committed in earlier days to a strong prejudgment against it. The right reading too, I must add, as conceded now on all sides is not Χριστοῦ but Κυρίου, not “of Christ” but “of the Lord.” This being read, the true translation would be “as that the day of the Lord is present.”
Further no person can give a correct or intelligible meaning to the words as they stand in our version, at least without contradicting other scriptures. All existing interpretations founded on the common rendering betray the greatest possible perplexity or worse. Some years ago glancing over Professor Jowett's book on these epistles I could not but feel that every remark on the whole or on details displayed gross darkness. If he wrote with an unbelieving eye, without even using aright what knowledge of the language he possessed, it fares little better with men truer to inspiration. The false version had blinded all to its true sense.
Some of the interpreters too conceived the thought that the “letter as from us” referred to Paul's first epistle; but it is not so. A spurious letter is meant (not the apostle's at all), which taught that the day of the Lord was actually arrived—that day of trial and anguish and darkness, “that day” of divine dealing and destruction on earth. The rumor accordingly filled them with great uneasiness. They thought that the day of Jehovah or of judgment on the earth, for this is the idea, had already come. What does the apostle do? He recalls them to the Christian hope, saying “we beseech you, brethren, by (or, for the sake of) the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord has set in (or, is present).” Observe what a light this casts on the subject before us. He urges them by their bright hope not to be alarmed by the false alarm grounded on a pretension to prophetical authority. The day of the Lord belongs to prophecy; the Lord's coming to gather us together is the proper Christian hope. He urges them by this hope, about which they had been instructed in the previous epistle, not to be alarmed by the novel object of terror the enemy was foisting in.
Then the apostle gives no little information. He assures them that the day cannot come unless there be first the falling away, or apostasy, and the man of sin be revealed. He does not say these things must occur before Christ comes, but beyond doubt before the day. They are prophetic events and cannot transpire until certain revealed antecedents have run their course, but there is no epoch set for the coming of the Lord, which is designedly unrevealed so as to preserve the saints in the constant attitude of waiting for Lord. Certain signal changes among men and new dealings of God are notified in the prophetic word, but not the Lord's coming to receive us, that the Christian might and in order that he should be always expecting. We know that upon earth there may be many a revolution that will dash the fond anticipations of men; but our hope is certain, even One who has passed through death and will shortly come again for us, whose love and truth we can trust as thoroughly as His power. Our hope has nothing to do with the changeful history of mankind or the nations; it is bound up with the divine purpose of God in Christ for the heavens and the earth. Still we know there are to be such events. The revelation of these events however in no way interferes with the Christian hope, but on the contrary the Christian hope puts them off, so to speak; that is to say, it governs them, not they it. Hence the apostle says “that day shall not come unless there come (not “a” but) the falling away first.” He refers to the awful state of apostasy from all revelation when Christianity will be no longer publicly owned, when the Jews themselves shall once more return to idols and the worship of man as their Messiah and Jehovah, when not a nation on earth shall uphold the law or profess the truth of God.
What is more, I am persuaded that the dissolving process even now rapidly goes on, and that the yielding of some and the anxiety manifested by others of the various powers to get rid of our connection with Christianity is in the hands of the enemy a means for bringing about this apostasy. Not that their indifference to the authority of God in His truth will harm the church of God; whose happiness or hopes ought always to have been above the nations of the earth, centering only in Christ. Miserably has the full blessing long been blighted, and their testimony marred and ruined by mixing up with the world. Still if a nation once adopted the profession of Christianity, it is a serious thing when political motives, with a background of infidelity, induce the desire to abandon it. For no doubt the standard of the cross was once raised by those who would now blot out the public recognition of it. Before many years elapse there will be no such thing as an oath or any other sign in human affairs, which brings in God. Everything that would serve as a witness to what God says, requires, gives, or is to judge, will be put away. The great object the devil has in view, no matter what men who despise prophecy may think, is the apostasy, or open abandonment of all confession of Christ and the true God. Nor is this all. Besides the apostasy there will be the man of sin. In contrast with the man of righteousness, who is gone up to heaven, the man of sin will set himself up on earth, exalting himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sits down in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. He will take the place of being God, not merely in the world but in His temple, not simply in earthly things but in what is peculiarly divine.
And even now among the most enlightened or at least pretentious and energetic nations of the earth, there are many, some of them professional divines, who believe that the day of Christianity is past, that the gospel is old and effete, on the point of waning away, as the first covenant was when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. They believe that there was once the law, then the gospel; that both are now about to be numbered in the past, though not without influence on the future; still that as systems, the one as the other is bygone, the one about to give place to another and more glorious state, not by God's becoming man, but by man's becoming God. They believe that man as such is the fullest manifestation of God and that there is no being higher or better than the race. This they confess as the true advent and the real coming to reign and judge; when these rights are conceded, they imagine the results will be auspicious and bright beyond all conception for humanity. Germany (and I mention Germany because of its successful stride into power) is the great mover in all this glorification of man: France in a gross but petty way has been working to a similar issue; but the truth is that it will be exhibited throughout the west, not excepting the lands in which we dwell.
These dismal horrors are approaching. Some perhaps yet expect the gospel to prevail. Ο slow to believe the prophets! Who told them that the gospel ever was intended to convert the world? Rather was it sent to take man out of the world. We ought to have the most perfect confidence that the world will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea. But it will be brought about by divine power, by the Lord Jesus Himself. It will not be the fruit of man's efforts, but to the praise of the Savior in person. He alone who once suffered will deal effectually with the proud and God-defying lawlessness of which scripture we have seen, speaks, more than anything ever yet known; for the corruption of the best is always the worst. Judaism perverted was bad enough: but corrupted Christianity is incomparably worse. “The mystery of iniquity,” he goes on to say, “doth already work; only there is one who now letteth (or hindereth), until he be taken out of the way.” It is the Holy Spirit, who will not always control as now, but allow evil to take its course. This will be the removal of the hindrance spoken of here. “And then shall that lawless one be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness (or appearance) of his coming.”
The personal manifestation of the Lord's presence will effect this. As He will come to receive His own, so He will burst forth in visible judgment of the world. Not a word drops about the epiphany of His coming when He takes His own to heaven. It is not only His coming, but the appearing of it, when He deals with the lawless one. He comes to take His own first; after this He manifests His coming and destroys the lawless one.
Thus the Christian hope retains its unbroken and un-obscured power as the immediate object before the believer. There is nothing else to intercept the view, no previous events revealed which interpose between the heart or eye and the coming of the Lord. The Lord intended to keep the saints always looking for Him thus. How could the early church have waited for Him otherwise? Do you join with the infidel Gibbon in saying that the early church was wrong? Indeed it was what the apostles taught and wrote, who were as right as the moderns are wrong. Will you for your tradition make void God's inspired word? Clearly the only way to keep the church constantly expecting Christ was to reveal no events as coming between. Thus the sanctioned practice and the theory of the Christian's habitually looking for Christ are not only intelligible but in perfect harmony with the word of God, whose wisdom shines the more we examine and understand it. There was no mistake in apostolic teaching or in its legitimate fruits. The Thessalonians were in danger from confounding the events of prophecy with the hope; the moderns have fallen into the pit whence apostolic vigilance extricated our earlier brethren. If there are revealed events which must take place before Christ comes, then clearly we could not with intelligence be constantly expecting Him. If the inspired apostles were right in setting Christians to be ever looking out for Christ, those are wrong now who have slipped away from that hope. But God is recalling His saints to wait for Christ as of old, and they are thus waiting. Indeed I fully believe that the cry is going forth, “Behold the bridegroom! go ye out to meet him.”
Do you still affirm that there were necessary delays? It is not a little remarkable how our Lord's parables are so shaped as never to reveal anything really inconsistent with expecting Him always. As far as the parable teaches (and this is the point), it might be the same persons that went out first, then slept, finally on awaking went out again to meet Him, and went in to the marriage. Not that the Spirit said that He was necessarily coming in their lifetime. We can now see how room was left for His tarrying in fact. But the truth was so put that those Christians then, as at every time since, should be expecting Christ; and this because the Christian hope is independent of earthly events. Earthly events are distinctly predicted; but they are never said to be before the Lord's coming to remove us to the Father's house. When the Lord takes up His earthly people, He begins to deal with the earth, and then predicted changes have their place. There will be the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom to all nations during that interval. Doubtless there will be an immense work and its fruit after the Lord has removed to heaven those waiting to join Himself in the air, but those (save the martyrs) quickened during that interval will live in the bright days of the kingdom.
Nevertheless as heaven is higher than the earth, so is our hope incomparably beyond theirs. From ignorance of this and confusion many a Christian was stumbled by those who insisted that the risen saints dwell with · Christ on earth in the millennial reign. For who that has the sense of heavenly glory could give it up for all the blessings of the earth? On the other hand there is no small defect in the faith of such as think that God made the world to be forever as miserable a place as it is now or only a shade better. He has made known to us His purpose to wrest earth and mankind upon it out of the hands of the destroyer. He will assuredly purify it and bring it back to more than pristine beauty, and the race to joy and blessedness, entirely to the praise of Jesus. The man who suffered is the One who is glorified and is about to appear.
Had there been time now to have glanced at the visions of the Revelation, it would have been easy to confirm what is here advanced. But it appears to me wiser not to encumber minds with details. Quite enough has been said to prove the point before us, and a very important point it is. Nor do I doubt that you will find, as you study the New Testament, that a considerable part of scripture falls under one or other of these two heads. As with everything else in the Bible, the moment you possess the real clue to a truth of God, you have that which explains many a point that seemed, previously, obscure or difficult.
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