The Coming Again of the Lord Jesus: Part 3

Luke 21:20‑28  •  16 min. read  •  grade level: 9
In the order of Scripture, which, in the prosecution of my subject, I have proposed to make the order of my remarks, the next passage which presents its testimony in the gospels to the coming again of the Lord, is Luke 21.
In this chapter we get " Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." That is, the Jews and their land will not be delivered from the oppression of the nations by whom they have been subjugated, ever since the Babylonian conquest, until the last form of Gentile power will be destroyed by " the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." Precursory signs are given, and encouragement is thus held forth to those who will be called to pass through that day to see the blessedness of Messiah's reign and the rule of God, when the domination of oppressing earthly power shall forever be done away. " When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand." The condition of things in the world, as described in this chapter, and that which has been noticed in chapter xvii., may, at first sight, seem to be at variance, but it is only, I imagine, an apparent discrepancy. Here it is said there shall be " upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." While in chapter xvii. it is said, " They did eat, they drank, they married wives and were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark and they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom," &c. How can any thoughtful person fail to see (whatever he may imagine it will issue in) in these descriptions a picture of the present condition of this country and of the whole of (what is called) the civilized world? Was there ever a period in which men universally were so set upon material improvement, and enjoyment, and luxury, and advancement of all that ministers to social and personal aggrandizement? And was there ever a period in which men's minds were so fevered with anxiety and dread lest some event should suddenly turn up-they know not what-to threaten or destroy its continuance? There they must be left while we listen to the words, " Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Ver. 33-36.) it is plain that Israel's redemption is here to be the special result of the corning of the Lord, which will issue in the establishment of the reign of God in the hands of the Son of man. It is also plain that it is the "day" that in these closing verses is warned against. But what is it that delivers morally from that day, if it be not a heart to listen to the injunctions here presented?
But we come now (in John 14) to view the return of the Lord Jesus in an entirely different aspect from that in which it has been presented in the scriptures that have hitherto been considered. " Let not your heart he troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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." (Chapter 14:1-3.) Here the coming again of the Lord, as has been already observed, is presented to the believer in all its brightness as the object of unclouded hope. The form of its announcement is that of a spontaneous promise and assurance on the part of the Lord in order to soothe the sorrow and sustain the expectations of his disciples whose hearts were saddened and in grief at the anticipation of His departure from them,
This is in harmony with the character of the gospel. In the Gospel of John our Lord comes before us at once in His divine character as the only-begotten Son of God. Hence, all dispensational relations between Him and the people amongst whom He was manifested, which have more or less prominence in the other gospels, in this are seen to fade away and disappear. Here he is shown to be (however veiled in human form) the eternal Creator of all things, who in the beginning [before creation had a beginning-before the earth, or sun, or moon, or stars, or angels of God, existed] was with God, and was God. It was in this character, as John's gospel shows, that He was present with men. " The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us".-pitched His tent with us. And the glory that was manifested in Him-so dwelling with men—was the glory of an only-begotten Son with a Father-" full of GRACE and TRUTH." Hence, He is presented as " in the world," and the distinctions of Jew and Gentile are comparatively lost. It is not now the call of a people to repentance in the expectation of a long-promised Messiah, or the announcement of a kingdom, which in His person would be set up. The only mention by Him of the kingdom is to announce the truth that a man must be born again-horn of God, in truth-in order to see or to enter into it. And that this might be in accordance with man's condition and the exigency of God's holiness, it is declared that, " as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." Thus deeply must be laid the foundations of man's restoration to God. Consequently those who are in connection with Christ in this gospel, are declared to be in connection with Him as sons of God: " As many as received him, to them gave he power to become [or privilege to be] the sons of God." And as he was manifested as the eternal life, so that which was directly received from Him, in the reception of Himself, was eternal life. " In him was life; and the life was the light of men." " For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth; even so the Son quickeneth [giveth Life to] whom he will." Hence, on His anticipated departure from His disciples, He does not speak to them of the ruin of the temple, or of wars and famines and pestilences; of nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and the array of sorrows that lined on either hand the long vista of ages through which alone the kingdom could be looked forward to in its establishment. But as He that knew " that he came from God and went to God," He opens to His disciples directly, and as none other could, the home from whence He came, and to which He was now about to return. In a word, He declares to them that His home-the " Father's house"-should no longer be His alone, but theirs also: and theirs in the same relationship as Himself to the Father, whom He came into the world especially to reveal.
He says, " Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me." Whatever God at any time
had been to those that trusted in Him, that He had been to their faith. " No man hath seen Got, at any time." His revelation of Himself from the beginning, from Abel downward, had been to faith. But on that account was His mercy, His truth, His compassion, His care, His sustainment, His access to the soul, the heart's repose in Him-all that He was as God-less true, or less real? No. And now the Lord Himself was about to become the object of their faith also. But would His love to them on that account be less real? Would His power to sustain them be diminished? Would His interest in them decay? or His character, as they had known Him, be changed?" Far otherwise. It was of this same blessed One, presented to the faith of succeeding ages, that our apostle, afterward in his epistle, thus speaks: " That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." And he adds; " These things write we unto you that your joy may be full." It was not a mere mitigation of their sorrow that the Lord presents in His wondrous living words. It was the spring, as we see, of the fullness of joy: and it teaches us as nothing else can how our hearts should estimate a written Christ, and how important it is that they should be filled with thoughts of Him.
" In my Father's house are many abodes: if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." I want to think rightly of that world to which I am going-the world where I shall be brought into immediate contact with the things that are unseen and that are eternal. I want to have true and right thoughts of God, whose presence will, in a little while, absorb every faculty of my being. I want to know how Christ thinks of me now, and how He will meet me when He comes again, and what will be my eternal place and portion with Him whom I have loved and trusted here in this sinful and dying world. Well 1 He who came down from heaven to accomplish our redemption, by dying in our place, and has returned thither again, tells us that, to us, that unseen world will disclose only the many mansions, or abodes, which mark the amplitude of His Father's house. So that when I think of heaven and of being in the presence of God, it is not with some vague notion of vastness, or brightness, or dazzling thoughts of glory, but of being at home with God, and with Christ, whose infinite love will bring me there, and with all God's children, for whom the fatherhood of God has provided a home worthy of His greatness and His heavenly grace; and who, as a loving Father, will de- light to have His family in happiness around Him, and in the glory where He dwells. This brings the greater rest to the soul-the rest of calm expectancy-that it is the home of Christ, the home which He, in love, for a season left to be with man in his home and his sorrows, and to which He did but return again when He left this world. In speaking of the Father's house, He describes no unknown, unfamiliar place to Him..
And His occupation now in heaven He declares is that of preparing a place for us, the place of sons, in His Father's house. It is plain that we are here so far away from all earthly events and circumstances that might be affected by the coming of the Lord, that they are entirely overlooked, and treated as if they were non-existent. He comes to His disciples to take them out of the world to be with Himself. He adds, " If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there ye may be also." Their leaving this world would be to them but leaving their own home and circumstances of sorrow to rejoin Him in His home of blessedness and glory. And His promise is that He will come for them Himself in order to bring them there. Thus do we see how entirely the thoughts of the Lord span the interval, which we think so wide, between the time of His departure and the time of His coining again. He does not speak of death, nor of their departing to be with Him, but of His own coming again, which will be the accomplish-went of God's counsels in the Captain of salvation, having been made perfect through sufferings, that He might bring "many sons to glory." How wonderful is it that this is still the true position of believers-the position that links them with the first disciples and earliest Christians, and enables them to appropriate to themselves Christ's words of encouragement and hope to His sorrowing disciples! But it is so. For we are set by the very truth of the gospel " to wait for God's Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come."
We pass now, by means of the stream of revelation, into entirely different scenes. In Acts 1 our Lord is risen from the dead, and is again in intercourse with the men of Galilee. In perfect accordance with these circumstances and associations, we find Him no longer speaking of the Father's house and His coming to bring His disciples there; but His communications to them now, during the forty days He is seen by them, are " of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." But there is no disorder in this. There is no contra diction in it. The Acts, we must remember, are a continuation of the Gospel of Luke, and there we have found the Lord directing the expectations of His followers to His coming again to establish the kingdom, or rule, of God. While here, as risen from the dead and among them again, He takes up the subject where it was broken off by His death.
Intermediately, it is true, there were other things in the counsels of God to be accomplished before the restoration again of the kingdom to Israel; and other services to be rendered by the apostles before they would enter on the authority and the rewards of the kingdom. Still it is plain that the import of the words of the two men that stood by them in white apparel, while the disciples stood gazing up into heaven after their ascended Lord, whom a cloud had received out of their sight, was to connect their expectations with the accomplishment of the things which they had so lately heard from their divine Master pertaining to the kingdom of God. " And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which 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." (Ver. 10, 11.)
In Acts 3 we have the witness of the Holy Spirit by the Apostle Peter to this same event. " Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Ver. 19-21.) The import of this statement is too plain to be misunderstood. The coming again of the Lord as here presented is restricted in its bearing upon Israel's hopes, and will he accomplished on Israel's repentance. " Even unto this day," says the apostle, " when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it [i.e., their heart] shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away." These " times of refreshing" will come by the presence of the Lord, and especially by His presence amongst His ancient people. To them especially pertained the, bright testimony of the prophets concerning the blessings of Messiah's reign; and in their midst these " times of restitution of all things" will run their happy course: however the overflowing cup of Israel's blessing will extend to the other nations then existing upon earth.
I do not stay to prove that Peter's testimony here to Israel relates especially to their earthly blessing. This will be best proved by carefully reading the prophecies of the Old Testament. For of these " times of restitution of all things," he declares that " God hath spoken by all his holy prophets since the world began." But this testimony, bright and happy as it is that indicates the blessing, and peace, and glory flowing from Christ's presence upon earth, does not belong to our present subject.
In Acts 10:4242And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. (Acts 10:42) there is a latent, but solemn testimony concerning the coming of the Lord which was attached to the very preaching of Christ in apostolic days. I but adduce the passage, which needs not a comment. Peter, in his address to Cornelius, says, " He (God) commanded us to preach unto the people that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead." All, but infidels, believe that Christ, at the end of the world-at the last day-will judge the dead. But who believes in His coming to judge the living? Albeit Scripture declares, " Behold the judge standeth before the door!"
There is also a similar declaration by the Apostle Paul addressed explicitly to Gentiles-a declaration which in its solemn import will not allow the world to think that there are no retributive consequences connected with its rejection of Christ-or that because He has been once got rid of out of the world, He will never come to trouble it with His presence again. No; the apostle says, " God now commands all men everywhere to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:3131Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:31).) This is not the judgment of the dead. The term employed fixes it to the world of living men. It is this habitable earth that Christ is coming back to judge. The brightest hope of the Christian-Christ's coming again and presence-is the world's greatest terror I It must needs be so. For every knee must bow to Him. But how bow to One. whose love has been despised, and whose authority is spurned? But who must now be met' clothed with infinite almighty power?
(Continued from page 160.)
(To be continued.)