By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
Mockers, scoffing at the Second Advent in the last of the days (Alford), are already found even within the nominal Church. The gigantic miracle of our Lord bursting out of the sky to change the face of the world these men declare to be a pure superstition. Canon Davey speaks thus in Liverpool Cathedral (Christian World, Dec. 20, 1934):- There is no season of the Churchs year more surrounded with magic and superstition than Advent. There are all kinds of Old Moores in regard to Advent. It takes shape in what are called Advent testimony movements. You never get through to the truth about Advent in that kind of environment - people who interpret the signs of the times and who unfortunately never prophesy good but evil. They take queer phrases such as are in the Book of Daniel to expound their theories, but all the Bible is not intelligible, nor all on the same level. Such people try to use the Bible as if the Scripture was a cross-word puzzle which, solved, gives them the date of the end of the world. They may be very clever, but they have nothing to do with the definite message of the Christian religion.
THE REIGN OF LAW
The mockers base everything, as does the entire body of science, on the reign of Law. From the day that the fathers fell asleep - for all historic time all things continue as they were - the uninterrupted, unceasing reign of law from the beginning of the creation. But to one catastrophe, immeasurable, appalling, which instantly shatters the mockery, they are blind. For this they wilfully forget - they resolutely put from their minds both the inspired records and also the proofs of the Flood found all over the world: it requires an effort of the will to shut it out that the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished (2 Pet. 3: 5). The words of the infidel Hume sum up the attitude:- A miracle is a violation of a law of nature; but the universal experience of ourselves, and of the whole human family, proves that the laws of nature are uniform, without exception. Yet the entire race of man, with the sole exception of a single family, has already been miraculously swept out of existence.*
[* The total destruction of the totally wicked is an inescapable principle underlying the well-being of the universe. It is appalling that mens iniquity should have become so full, their rebellion against God so strong and so universal, their moral corruption and debasement so utter and pervasive, as to make such treatment absolutely necessary in the interests of humanity. They become a moral cancer that must be cut out in every fibre if the body is to be saved (R. A. Torrey, D.D.).]
One enormous catastrophe has swept the world: another, far worse, will consume it. The heavens that now are - for the coming ruin embraces the heavens also and the earth, by the same word have been stored UP FOR FIRE: either stored for fire or stored with fire: either the original creative word limited the universes life by dooming it to fire; or else the creative word put fire into its heart that will one day consume it. Three hundred volcanoes vomit flame to-day; and at one of the British Association meetings in Edinburgh it was seriously advanced that the explosion of a single atom, with the fire stored in it, igniting others, might blow up the universe, which would roll away in flaming gas. But perhaps it is the verbal doom that is meant. The fire that fell on Carmel licked up not the wood only, and the water, but also the stones (1 Kings 18: 38) - that is, it was annihilative fire; and when Jerusalem is an armed camp at the close of the Millennium, the fire that falls (Rev. 20: 9) is probably the flame that starts the conflagration of the worlds. The creative Word which called the worlds out of nothing, is matched by the annihilative Word, which sends the worlds back whence they came, for both Words are omnipotent. The heavens shall dissolve (says the Apostle) with a crashing roar,* and the elements melt with incalculable heat; for the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them (Rev. 20: 11). The universe lapses into its original nothingness.
[* The faintest of illustrations may
be given. The most terrific explosion
known within the span of recorded history occurred on August 27, 1883, when most of the
MEN FOR THE CRISIS
The Holy Spirit now unfolds that such tremendous facts have moral consequences no less tremendous. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be! All things are dissolving; all persons are immortal: what a manner of person can rise above what a ruin of worlds! Who of us can imagine the preciousness of the little interval between an eternity when there were no worlds and the moment when there will be no worlds again? There is no ark which will bear us over the deluge of fire. We must be in God. Men love art, but the masterpieces of Raphael will go up in flames: men love science, but science passes with the worlds it examines: men love empire, but earth-lust vanishes with the earth: men love pleasure, but all pleasure has the transience of a dissolving view. The mysterious vault of the sky overhead was to the Apostles not an unfathomable immensity peopled with unknown worlds, but the curtain which shut out from their vision the throne of God, and they expected it to open before them at any moment (J. Percival). Above the crash of ruined worlds the obedient face rises like a star.
But the Holy Spirit defines more exactly the manner of person fitted to stand by the death-bed of a universe. What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living - perfected conduct and godliness - godlikeness, perfected character; looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God. Holiness is the only asbestos of the universe. The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God ABIDETH FOR EVER (1 John 2: 17). Godliness is the life of heaven lived on earth; it is the activity of God reproduced in a human soul; it is the air of eternity blowing through a human life. And the suddenness sharpens the preparation: the day of the Lord will come as a thief. As no pleading can postpone it, no flight avoid it, no secrecy escape it, so nothing but holiness in time can meet it.
The Apostle next unfolds the golden ambition fitted for such a situation. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things - the annihilation of worlds and the creation of a fresh universe give diligence - be set, be rigid; not daily habit so much as one great life-effort (Alford) to be found - for inspection is coming in peace, without spot* - purity of heart and blameless - purity of life in his sight; and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation - a prolonged opportunity both to save others and to perfect our own salvation. Plan your life on the scale of these enormous events. Luther used to say that the world is now in its working clothes, but by and by it will be arrayed in its Easter robes: so the texture of our working clothes to-day determines the brilliance of our Easter robes in the worlds to come.
[* It needs no argument that the spotlessness here is not the spotlessness of fundamental salvation - which is possessed by all believers, but the maintained spotlessness of a godly life: by no flight of imagination can a regenerate man who dies a backslider be found spotless. ]
A warning, as so often in Scripture, now balances these golden truths. Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand - the whole mass of Second Coming truth beware lest, being carried away - swept from your bearings by the error of the lawless, ye fall from your own steadfastness. It is most significant that the lawless (from whom we are in special danger in the last of the days are men who wrest the Scriptures: Unitarianism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Christadelphianism, the Watch Tower group - all abound in quoted Scriptures, which they wrest to their own destruction, for their creed holds no saving faith in the Divine Christ. Thus our danger is in making Scripture justify sin. In the words of Dr. James Hastings:- If it be true that he who is faithful in that which is least is faithful in that which is greatest, it is also true that he who permits himself some private but real disloyalty to Christ without immediate self-rebuke or repentance, is allowing forces to gather within him which will bring about a sheer and, it may be, an irreparable fall.
So the lovely conclusion of it all portrays the ripening saint. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We covet the blessed promise - He giveth more grace (Jas. 4: 6). As children of eternity, we want a purer heart, a more melted spirit; we want a lowlier mind, a more sensitive penitence; we want a sweeter temper, a quicker love, a richer grace; and we want a deeper knowledge of what Christ is, and of what He can be to us. We are to match the new heavens to which we are rapidly going with the new character which we are rapidly attaining. All the worlds may depart if only I can keep God, and all that is in God.
Good God, cried a dying nobleman, how have I employed myself! in what a delirium has my life been passed! What have I been doing while the sun in its race and the stars in their courses have lent their beams, perhaps, only to light me to perdition! I have pursued shadows, and entertained myself with dreams. I have been treasuring up dust, and sporting myself with the wind. I might have grazed with the beasts of the field, or sung with the winged inhabitants of the woods, to much better purpose than any for which I have lived.