THE BLESSED HOPE
THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH.
WE propose, if the Lord will, to treat in successive
papers upon the subject of the Lord's coming, with its accompanying and
subsequent events. As it is becoming every day more manifest that we are in the
midst of the perilous times (2 Tim. iii.), it behoves the Lord's people to be
increasingly occupied with the expectation of His return. It is now nearly
fifty years since the cry was raised, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out
to meet Him." (Matt. xxv. 6.) Up till that time the Church had fallen into
profound slumber, drugged by the opiate influences of the world, so that the
doctrine of the Lord's return for His saints was forgotten, ignored, or denied.
But when, through the action of the Spirit of God, this cry went forth,
thousands were startled from their sleep, and, trimming their lamps, went forth
once again to meet the Bridegroom. For a season they lived daily in the hope of
His return; and so mightily did this hope act upon their hearts and lives that
it detached them from everything - every association, habit, and practice -
unsuitable to Him for whom they waited, and kept them with their loins girt,
and their lights burning, as those who were waiting for their Lord. (Luke xii.
35, 36.) But time went on; and while the doctrine of the Second Advent has been
apprehended and taught by increasing numbers, and while the truth has been
undoubtedly the support and consolation of many godly souls, it is yet a
question if large numbers of the saints of God have not lost its freshness and
power. For is it not patent to all observers, that the standard of separation
is becoming lower and lower, that worldliness is on the increase, that saints
are permitting themselves associations out of which they have professedly come,
that many of us, therefore, are in danger of once more falling asleep, even
with the doctrine of the hope upon our lips?
If this be so - and it is the subject of common remark - the time has come when the truth on this subject needs to be pressed home again upon the hearts and consciences of believers. For the Lord is at hand, and He desires that His people should be on the watch-tower, longing and eagerly waiting for His return. Surely therefore it is high time to awake out of sleep, knowing that our salvation is nearer than when we believed, "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." (Heb. x. 37.) And He Himself has said, "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 xii. 37.)
We have in these remarks assumed, and now we proceed to prove from the Scriptures, THAT THE COMING OF THE LORD JESUS IS THE DISTINCTIVE HOPE OF THE CHURCH. This might be done from almost every book of the New Testament. We shall cite enough to place the subject beyond a doubt.
First, our Lord Himself prepared His disciples to maintain, after His departure, the expectation of His return. "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over His household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That He shall make him ruler over all His goods." (Matt. xxiv. 45-47.) He then proceeds to characterise the evil servant as one who should say, "My Lord delayeth His coming," etc. (v. 48), and indicates the punishment into which such an one should fail. The next two parables - that of the virgins, to which reference has been made, and that of the talents - teach distinctly, the same lesson, and the more forcibly from the fact that the virgins who fell asleep, and the servants who received the talents, are the same who are dealt with respectively on the Lords return.
The same instruction is found in St. Mark. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. [For the Son of man is] as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark xiii. 3337.) In the gospel of St. Luke the same truth is repeated again and again. We have quoted one striking passage. (Luke xii. 3537.) Another may be added: He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, "Occupy till I come. (Luke xix. 12, 13.) Then, as in Matthew, we find him coming and examining the servants as to their use of the money entrusted to them. (v. 15.)
One scripture from St. Johns gospel will suffice. The disciples were plunged into sorrow at the prospect of their Lords departure from them. How does He meet the state of their souls? He says, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Fathers 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. (John xiv. 13.)
The four gospels therefore unite in distinct testimony to the return of the Lord for His people, and in the proclamation that this event constitutes their hope during His absence. We pass now to the Acts and the epistles.
Turning first of all to the Acts, what do we find? After His resurrection, the Lord had appeared to His disciples, "being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." (i. 3.) The time having come for His ascension, He led them out as far as Bethany (Luke xxiv. 50); and when He had ended His instructions, "while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly 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." (Acts i. 911.) Could any language be more precise, or construed by the circumstances, be more significant, or, we may add, less likely to be misunderstood? They had seen their Lord depart from them. He was taken up, and they watched his receding form until a cloud intercepted Him from their gaze; and while they behold with mute astonishment, they receive the message that the One they had seen depart should return in like manner (and therefore in Person) as they had seen Him go into heaven. The wonder is, that with these distinct words the Church could have ever lost the hope of the Lords return.
The evidence of the epistles is no less clear and decided. "So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming" (revelation, margin) "of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. i. 7.) "Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil. iii. 20.) "How ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven," etc. (1 Thess. i. 9, 10; see also ii. 19, iii. 13, iv. 1518; 2 Thess. i. 7, ii. 1, iii. 5.) "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus ii. 13.) "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation." (Heb. ix. 28. James v.7,8; 1 Peter i. 7,13; 2 Peter iii.; 1 John iii. 2; Rev. iii. 11; xxii. 7, 12, 20.)
Although these are only some of the scriptures which might be adduced, it will at once be seen how largely the subject is dealt with in the word of God; and on examination it will be discovered that this is because it is bound up, interwoven, with the very essence of Christianity. Take away the hope of the Lords return, and you at once rob Christianity of its true character. It cannot be too strongly asserted, that it is not a doctrine to be accepted or rejected at. pleasure, but that it is a part and parcel of the truth itself, connected with the calling and place of the believer, his relationship to Christ, and his future blessedness. Hence, indeed, St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they were converted to wait for Gods Son from heaven; and every believer now is converted for the same thing. To be without this hope and expectation, therefore, is to be ignorant of the believers portion in Christ. It follows from this that the normal attitude of every believer is that of waiting for Christ. Nay, more, every one brought upon Christian ground has this characteristic, though he may be all unconscious of it; for the Word says that the ten virgins, five of whom were foolish, took their lamps, and went forth to meet the Bridegroom. Their profession therefore - even though they had no oil - was that they were waiting for Christ.
Is this then the attitude of the reader? Arc you waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus? Is this the one blessed hope that cheers your soul along your lonely pilgrim path? Are your eyes ever fixed upon the Bright and Morning Star? Or are you so absorbed in present things that, like the five foolish virgins, you have grown heavy, and fallen asleep? If, alas! it be so, let the words, "Behold, I come quickly," "Behold the Bridegroom," rouse you from your slumbers, even while there is delay, lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping. Or perhaps you know the truth of His coming. But the question, beloved reader, is, Are you waiting for Christ? To know the doctrine is one thing; but it is quite another to be living hourly and daily in the hope of the Lords return. If you are waiting, your. affections are all con- centred on Him whom you expect; you are apart from everything which is not according to His mind and will; you are sitting loose to all that nature holds dear; and with a full heart you can respond to His announcement of His speedy coming, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. xxii. 20.)
IS IT A PRESENT OR A DEFERRED HOPE?
THE question now arises, whether the coming of the Lord is an immediate hope, or whether we are to look for the occurrence of preceding events. This is a vital point; and hence it is necessary to be very careful in the consideration of the teaching of Scripture upon the subject.
END OF THIS EXTRACT
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