4: CHRIST THE COMING LORD

IV. CHRIST OUR COMING LORD.

“I will give him the morning star.” Rev. ii. 28.

The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is a distinct and important part of the
Apostolic Gospel. “I declare unto you the Gospel,” Paul says to the Corinthians, and then
begins to tell them of the Resurrection and the Second Advent. It is, indeed, good news to
all who love Him and mourn the sins and sorrows of a ruined world.
It is the glorious culmination of all other parts of the Gospel. We have spoken of the
Gospel of SALVATION, but Peter says our salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last
time.” Then only, when we stand amid the wreck of time and secure upon the Rock of
Ages,

“Then, Lord, shall we fully know,
Not till then, how much we owe.”

We have spoken of SANCTIFICATION, but John says: “When He shall appear, we shall
be like Him, and every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is
pure.” And we have spoken of DIVINE HEALING, but Paul says: “God hath given us
the ‘EARNEST’ of the resurrection in our bodies now,” and Divine healing is but the first-
springing life of which the resurrection will be the full fruition.

So that the truth and hope of the Lord’s coming is linked with all truth and life, and is the
Church’s great and blessed hope. In the very beginning of human history God placed this
great hope before His children. In the hour when man fell from Paradise, God erected in
that fallen Eden in the majestic figures of THE CHERUBIM, the prophecy and symbol of
man’s future glory. The faces of the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle, were the types of
royalty, the strength, the wisdom, and the lofty elevation to which redeemed man was to
rise in Jesus. These figures run through all the dispensations. They are God’s portrait of
His redeemed child after redemption’s work is done. God sets before Himself and before
man His sublime ideal for his future, and He will never rest till it is fulfilled. It is,
therefore, well that besides the Gospel for the present, we should understand, and live
under the power of THE GOSPEL OF THE FUTURE and the blessed and purifying hope
of Christ’s glorious coming.

I. WHAT WE MEAN BY CHRIST’S COMING.

1. We do not mean His coming to the individual Christian’s heart. He does thus
come most truly and graciously, and this is the blessed mystery of which we have
already spoken in connection with our sanctification. It is “Christ in you, the hope
of glory.” But this is not His second coming. Some persons are ready to say, with
a great show of spirituality, I have the millennium in my heart, and the Lord in my
heart; let those who have not, speculate about a material coming. Well, Paul had
the Lord in his heart, and a millennium as near to the third heaven as these
persons will probably claim; and John was about as near his Redeemer’s heart as
any of us can ever expect to get on earth; but they did speak and write in terms
like this: “Then we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall
be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” “We “We know that when
He shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory.” “Behold, He cometh with
clouds, and every eye shall see Him. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
Indeed, the more we know Jesus spiritually, the more will we long for His
personal and eternal presence in the fuller and more glorious sense which His
personal advent will bring.

2. We do not mean His coming at death. It is doubtful whether He does really come
for us at death. Lazarus is represented as borne by angels into Abraham’s bosom;
and Stephen at his glorious departing saw Jesus in heaven on the right hand of
God, rising, it is true, to receive and honor His faithful servants, but not coming
for him personally. The contrasts between death and the Lord’s coming are very
marked. We are not told to watch for death, but are delivered from its fear, but we
are to watch for the Lord’s coming. Death is an enemy; His coming a welcome
visitation of our dearest friend. Death is a bitter bereavement to the heart; the
Lord’s coming is the very consolation of the bereaved, and the antidote of death.
If death and the Lord’s coming were identical, then the apostle would have said to
the Thessalonian believers: “I would not have you ignorant concerning them that
are asleep, that ye sorrow not as those that have no hope, for the Lord has come
for them, and will soon in like manner come for you in death, and you shall be
sweetly united in death once more.” Does he say that? No! But he does say: “The
Lord shall DESCEND FROM HEAVEN *** and THE DEAD IN CHRIST
SHALL RISE first, and then we that are alive shall be caught up together with
them, to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall be ever with the Lord.” It is not
death he points them to, but that which is to overcome death, and of which he says
in writing to the Corinthians: “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is
written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” If the Lord’s coming is to swallow up
death in victory, it is very certain that it cannot be the same thing, or it would
swallow up itself.

3. We do not mean the spiritual coming of Christ through the spread of the Gospel
and the progress of Christianity. This is nowhere recognized in the Bible as the
personal coming of Christ. “Behold, 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.” Now, that is not the way
they do when they receive the Gospel. They rejoice. But now they are startled and
discouraged. And they cry, as represented in another place, to the rocks and the
mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. So, also,
the angels, speaking of this event to the eleven disciples, say: “This same Jesus
SHALL SO COME IN LIKE MANNER AS YE HAVE SEEN HIM GO INTO
HEAVEN.” This cannot be the publication of the Gospel, but must be HIS
PERSONAL, VISIBLE, AND GLORIOUS APPEARING. The Gospel is to be
widely diffused; His truth is to prevail; His cause is to triumph, but He is coming
personally, and He is infinitely more than even His truth and cause.

II. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE MILLENNIUM?

Some persons have stated that the doctrine of the millennium is a modern invention, and
that the word itself is not found in the Bible.
The word millennium is not English, but is the Greek word for a
thousand years. It is used repeatedly in the twentieth chapter of Revelation to denote the period during which
Christ shall reign with His saints on the earth after the first resurrection. It is a time of
victory, joy and glory. Seven especial facts are recorded concerning it here:

1. The resurrection and re-union of the saints.
2. Their reward and reign.
3. The complete exclusion of Satan from the earth.
4. The personal and continual presence of Jesus with them on earth.
5. The suppression of all enemies and the universal reign of righteousness.
6. The duration of a thousand years.
7. The immediately succeeding revolt of Satan and sinful man, and the final
judgment of the wicked.

If there was no other reference in the Bible to this time of blessing, these elements alone
would be sufficient to constitute a state and time of exalted glory and happiness. Much
more do they suffice to identify it as the golden age of which former prophets wrote and
spake, when righteousness, truth and peace shall “cover the earth as the waters cover the
sea.”

III. THE ORDER OF THESE TWO EVENTS.

This is the next question to be settled, and upon it hang most of the issues of the question.
Is the coming of Christ to precede or follow this millennial period?

1. The most obvious reason for believing that it precedes it, is found in the very
passage just referred to where these events are both described. There can be no
question that here the coming of the Lord precedes and introduces the
millennium. His coming is minutely depicted in the whole procession from
heaven to earth. Then follows the conquest and punishment of His earthly foes,
the binding of Satan, the resurrection of the saints, the reign of the risen ones and
the thousand years. The only way it is attempted to set this aside is to represent it
as figurative and spiritual. Dean Alford’s strong sense and honesty is the best
answer to this. If this be so, he declares, then adieu to all definiteness and
certainty in the Scriptures. If this be not a literal coming, resurrection, and
millennium, then we do not know what our Bibles mean about anything.

2. The next argument for Christ’s premillennial coming is the emphatic use of the
word, “WATCH,” in connection with it. Many times are we told to watch for it.
Now if it is to be preceded by a spiritual millennium, the Lord would have told us
to watch for this. How could the early Church watch for His coming, how can
even we if we know that it is to be preceded by a clear thousand years? The very
word watch means immanency, and it is not immanent, if ten whole centuries
must intervene. If it be objected that as a matter of fact Christ’s coming did not
occur during more than ten centuries, this does not alter its immanency. An event
may be liable to occur at any moment for years, and yet be long retarded. That is
quite different from its being understood as not to occur until the later period.
Although God knew just the moment when His Son should appear, yet He wanted
His Church to be always expecting it-at even, or at midnight, or at the cock
crowing, or in the morning. The announcement of a fixed previous millennium
would have been fatal to this design, and the Church would have gone to work to
make her own millennium without Him. This is just what the Romish Church did,
when Pope Hildebrand announced in the tenth century that the millennium had
begun, and that Christ was already present through His vicar. And some
Protestant teachers have the assumption to tell us today that this century of
progress is the first age of the millennium.

3. The next proof of a premillennial coming is found in the picture Christ gives us of
the condition of things as they were to be down to the close of the Christian age,
and up to the very hour of His coming.

Just glance at a few bold touches in the picture.

Some seed fell by the wayside and the fowls of the air devoured them; some fell on stony
places and perished; some were choked by thorns, and some fell on good ground and bore
fruit.

But soon the enemy sowed the tares, and both grow together till the harvest.
The Church, externally, grows up into luxuriant strength like the mustard plant, but
internally is full of leaven. The true and pure are like the hid treasure and the pearl, so
hard to find. The net gathers of every kind and only the angels can separate the evil at the
last.

As the ages roll on, there looms up the picture, not of a millennium, but a “Falling away
first.” “Wickedness shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold.” “Many shall
depart from the faith, giving heed to doctrines of devils.” “In the last days perilous times
shall come.” There shall be plenty of church members, “having a form of godliness”; but
these shall be the very enemies of the Cross of Christ, “denying the power thereof.” A
holy, happy world will not be waiting to welcome its King, but “as a snare shall He come
unto all that dwell on the earth.” “When they shall say, ‘Peace and safety, then sudden
destruction.’” And when it bursts upon them, it shall find them “as it was in the days of
Noah and of Lot”; and the Master even asks, “When the Son of man cometh, shall He
find faith on the earth?”

This is God’s picture of the future of earth until Christ’s coming. It does not look much
like a previous millennium.

No, nor does the story of eighteen centuries move towards a spiritual millennium. New
York with half the proportion of church goers and nearly double the ratio of drunkards,
has not grown any nearer to it in two hundred years; London, with three million souls
who never enter a church; Berlin, with one minister to fifty thousand people; these three
capitals of the three great Protestant nations of earth hold out no signal of its coming.
And what shall we say of wicked Paris, and rotten Constantinople, and idolatrous India,
and conservative China, and savage Africa? When is there coming to them as much
millennial light as we have? When will the Christian nations begin to move toward their
golden age? Oh, if this be the best God has for us, then prophecy is an exaggeration and
the Bible a poetic dream. Thank God, He is coming and His Kingdom shall transcend our
brightest hope, and His own most glowing picture.

IV. OBJECTIONS.

The strongest objections that are made to this doctrine are:

1. It dishonors the work of the Holy Ghost, as if He were incompetent to fulfill His
administration, and were represented as having failed in His great mission to
convert the world, and some other means had had to be provided. In reply it is
enough to say that the Holy Ghost has not undertaken to convert the world, but to
call out of it the Church of Christ and prepare a people for His name, and when
this is done, and all who will accept Jesus as a Saviour have been called,
converted and fully trained, the time for the next stage will have come, and Jesus
will come to reign and restore His ancient people for their privileges and
opportunities. The work of the Holy Ghost will not cease then, for He shall abide
with us for ever, and the ages to come shall afford unbounded and more glorious
scope for His grace and power.

2. It is objected that such a doctrine discourages Christian missions, and saps the
foundations of the Church’s most glorious hopes and prospects. On the contrary, it
opens a prospect of far grander glory to the Church at her Lord’s appearing, and
bids her go forth, rapt with the desire to hasten it, to prepare the world for His
appearing; for as an incentive to this work, He Himself has told her that when the
message of salvation has been proclaimed to all the world, then shall the end
come. The fact is that a large majority of the missionaries now in foreign lands
believe and rejoice in the blessed hope of the Lord’s coming, are animated by it to
labor for the world’s evangelization, and cheered by the blessed thought that their
task is not to convert the whole human race, but to evangelize the nations, and
give every man a chance to be saved if he will; and they would, indeed, be
distracted and dismayed at the prospect they behold, did they feel that the world
must wait until the present agencies have wrought out its full salvation, while
meanwhile three times its entire population every century is swept into eternity
unsaved. The coming of Christ is not going to suspend mission work. It will bring
the most glorious and complete system of evangelization earth has ever seen. And
under its benignant influence the heathen shall all be brought to Jesus; all nations
shall be blessed in Him, and all people shall call Him blessed. The most ardent
friends of lost humanity must long the most for this, the world’s best hope.

3. It is objected that this doctrine leads to fanaticism. Anything may be abused, but
in the sober and Scriptural faith of this doctrine there is nothing fitted to minister
to rashness, presumption or folly. Let us very carefully avoid all attempts to
prophesy ourselves, or be wise above that which is written; but let us not be
intimidated by the devil’s howl, from the fullness of God’s truth and testimony.
This truth will make us a peculiar people. It will take away the charm of the
world, and separate us from it. It will make us very unlike many selfish and
comfortable Christians, and will set our soul on fire to serve God and save men.
And if that be fanaticism, then welcome such fanaticism.

4. It is objected that it is gross and material, tending to promote earthly and carnal
hopes in the heart and the Church, like the earthly ideas and ambitions of the
primitive apostles which the Master rebuked, and taught them rather to look for a
spiritual kingdom and a heavenly home. That was the extreme then, may not the
opposite be now? Is not the true need the spiritual first, afterward the material, the
resurrection life of the soul first, then the resurrection of the body? We do not
hold nor teach any gross or material idea of the material idea of the millennial
age. The bodies of the saints will be spiritual, and like His own. But if He was
pleased to take such a body into the heavenly world and make it the center and
crown of creation, is it anything but an affectation to try to be more spiritual than
our Lord? Nay, it is all spiritual, and the true purpose and end of redemption is
that “our whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and “the whole earth be filled with His glory.”

V. THE SIGNS OF HIS COMING.

While the day and the hour shall be unrevealed, yet His children “are not in darkness that
that day should overtake them as a thief.” “None,” as the end approaches, “none of the
wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”

There is a distinct order revealed. He will first come for His own waiting ones, and they,
with the holy dead, shall be caught up to meet Him in the air. The wicked world shall be
left behind; a formal church and a multitude of nations shall live on and scarcely miss the
little flock that has just been caught away. Then will begin a series of judgments and
warnings, ending at last in the descent of Christ in power and glory, the revelation of His
righteous judgment against His open enemies, and the beginning of His personal reign.
There will thus be two appearings of Jesus Christ-the one to His own, the other, later, to
the entire world; the first as a Bridegroom, the second as a King and Judge. The signs of
the one do not therefore apply to the other. The first of these appearings is not so sharply
defined as the other. It is more immanent and uncertain, and may come at any hour.

Many of the most important signs of the Lord’s coming have already been fulfilled. For
example:

1. The political changes and developments of Daniel’s great visions have apparently
all occurred. The great empires have come and gone, and the minor kingdoms
which were to succeed them are now covering the regions which once they
swayed.

2. The predicted “Falling away,” has long ago begun, and the man of sin has sat in
God’s temple already the full time of the prophetic cycle, and the process has
begun which is to “consume and destroy unto the end.” The Papacy has fulfilled
almost all the lineaments of its marvelous portrait.

3. The Mohammedan power has waxed and waned, and the waters of this great
spiritual Euphrates are being dried up every day to prepare the way of God’s
kingly people.

4. The Jewish signs have not been less remarkable. Jacob is turning his face again to
Bethel, and Jerusalem is preparing to put on her beautiful garments again. Her
sons are slowly gathering, while jealous nations are hastening the exodus, and
fulfilling unconsciously the voice of prophecy.

5. The intellectual signs are not less marked. Knowledge is indeed increased, and
many run to and fro, while human philosophy talks of evolution and declares that
all things continue as they were, and nature is immutable and only material.

6. The moral signs are even more marked than Daniel’s picture. “The wicked shall
do wickedly,” was never more true than today. Portentous forms of wickedness
startle the moral sense every day, and invention is as ripe in evil as it is in material
art.

7. The religious signs are growing more vivid. Lukewarmness and worldliness in the
Church, intense longings after holiness on the part of the few, and a mighty
missionary movement are the features of the age, and the signs of prophecy, that
point to the day of the Son of Man.

8. And finally, an earnest, a growing and a world-wide expectation of His coming on
the part of all those who love His appearing, is as profound today as it was in
Judea, and even the Gentile world in the age preceding His advent at Bethlehem.
The morning star is in the East. “The children of the day” have seen it. The cry
has gone forth, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand”; and soon the Sun will
fill the sky and cover the earth with millennial glory.

VI. THE BLESSINGS OF HIS COMING.

1. I. It will bring us Jesus Himself. This is the best of its blessings. Like all the other
sections of this Gospel, this, too, is the Gospel of Himself. Not the robes and the
royal crowns, not the resurrection bodies or reunited friends will be the chief joy,
but

“Thou art coming, we shall see Thee,
And be like Thee on that day.”

2. It will bring us our friends. “Them who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.”
They shall be alive, they shall be recognized, they shall be gloriously beautiful,
they shall be ours forever. Not only the old ones, but such new ones, the good of
all the ages, the men and women we have longed to know. What a family!

“Ten thousand times ten thousand,
In shining garments bright,
The armies of the ransomed
Throng up the steps of light;
O then, what rapturous greetings
On Canaan’s happy shore,
What knitting severed friendships up,
Where partings are no more.”

3. It will bring us perfect spirits, restored to His image, glorious in His likeness, free
from fault, defect, or imperfection, removed above temptation, incapable of
falling, and overflowing with unutterable blessedness. We shall wear His perfect
image; we shall know as we are known; we shall be as holy as He is holy; we
shall possess His strength and beauty and perfect love. The universe will gaze
upon us, and next to the glory of the Lamb will be the beauty of the bride.

4. We shall have perfect bodies; we shall possess His perfect resurrection life; we
shall forget even what a pain was like; we shall spring into boundless strength;
our hearts shall thrill with the fullness of immortal life, and space and distance be
annihilated. The laws of gravitation will hold us no more. The streets of the New
Jerusalem vertically and horizontally, the length and breadth, and the height
thereof are equal. Our bodies shall be the perfect instruments of our exalted
spirits, the exact reflection of His glorious body.

5. It will give us the sweetest and highest service. It will be no idle, selfish ecstasy,
but will bring a perfect partnership in His kingdom and administration. We shall,
perhaps, be permitted to fulfill the ideals of our highest earthly experiences, and
finish the work we have longed and tried to do-with boundless resources, infinite
capabilities, unlimited scope and time, and His own presence and omnipotent
help. The blessed work will be to serve Him, to bless others, and to raise earth and
humanity to happiness, righteousness and Paradise restored.

6. It will banish Satan. It will bind and chain the foe and fiend, whose hate and
power have held the world in ages of darkness and misery. Oh, to be free from his
presence for even a day! to feel that we need no longer watch with ceaseless
vigilance against him! to walk upon a world without a devil! Lord, hasten that
glorious day!

7. And it will bring such blessings to others, to the race, to the world. It will stop the
awful tragedy of sin and suffering; it will sheathe the sword, emancipate the
captive, close the prison and the hospital, bind the devil and his henchman, Death;
beautify and glorify the face of the earth; evangelize and convert the perishing
nations, and shed light and gladness on this dark scene of woe and wickedness.

There shall he no more crying,
There shall be no more pain.
There shall be no more dying,
There shall be no more stain.

Hearts that by death were riven,
Meet in eternal love;
Lives on the altar given
Rise to their crowns above.
Satan shall tempt us never,
Sin shall o’ercome no more,
Joy shall abide forever,
Sorrow and grief be o’er.
Jesus shall be our glory,
Jesus our heaven shall be;
Jesus shall be our story,
Jesus who died for me.
Hasten, sweet morn of gladness,
Hasten, dear Lord, we pray;
Finish this night of sadness,
Hasten the heavenly day.
Jesus is coming surely,
Jesus is coming soon;
O let us walk so purely,
O let us keep our crown.
Jesus, our watch we are keeping,
Longing for Thee to come;
Then shall be ended our night of weeping,
Then we shall reach our home.

VII. THE LESSONS IT LEAVES.

1. Let us be ready. “The marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife hath made
herself ready, and to her it was GRANTED that she should be arrayed in fine
raiment, clean and white.” Thank God that the robes are given. Let us have them on.
WHITE ROBES. When the Bride is dressed, the wedding must be near. So let us hasten
His coming.

2. Let us be watching. “Behold, I come as a thief: blessed is he that watcheth and
keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Let us not put
off the wedding robe for an hour. Let us remember His words. “When these things
begin to come to pass, then lift up your heads and bend YOURSELVES BACK
(Dr. Young), for your redemption draweth nigh.” Keep your faces turned
heavenwards until your whole being shall curve heavenwards, like a dear, old
colored saint we know, whose body, when she speaks and prays, describes a circle
bending towards the sky.

3. Be faithful. It is to bring the reward of faithful servants. Let us “look to it that we
lose none of the things which we have wrought, but may receive a full reward.”
“Hold fast that thou hast that no man take thy crown.” In the ancient Church there was a
noble band of forty faithful soldiers in one of the Roman legions who were condemned
to die for their faith in Jesus. They were all exposed on the centre of a frozen lake,
to perish on the ice, but allowed the choice of recanting from their faith at any
moment during the fatal night by walking to the shore and reporting to the officer on duty.
As the night wore on the sentinel on shore saw a cloud of angels hovering over
the place where the martyrs stood, and as one by one they dropped, they placed a
crown upon the martyr’s brow and bore him up to the skies, while all the air rang
with the song, “Forty Martyrs and Forty Crowns.” At last they had all gone but
one, and his crown still hung in the sky above and no one seemed to claim it.
Suddenly the sentinel heard a step, and lo! one of the forty was at his side. He had
fled. The sentinel looked at him as he took down his name, and then said: “Fool,
had you seen what I have seen this night you would not have lost your crown. But
it shall not be lost. Take my place, and I will gladly take yours;” and forth he
marched to death and glory, while again the silent choir took up the chorus,
“Forty Martyrs and Forty Crowns. Thou hast been faithful unto death and thou
shalt receive a crown of life.” God help us to hear that chorus when He shall come!

4. Be diligent. There is much to do. You. can “hasten the coming of the day of God.”
The world is to be forewarned. The Church is to be prepared. Arouse thee, O
Christian. Give Him every power, every faculty, every dollar, every moment.
Send the Gospel abroad. Go yourself if you can. If you cannot, send your
substitute. And may this last decade of the nineteenth century mean for you and
for this world, as nothing ever meant before, a time of preparation for the coming
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

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