EVENTS OF THE ADVENT
A. G. TINLEY.
There are Christians who are certain that no believers can pass through THE Tribulation, THE GREAT Tribulation; they may admit - as indeed they not only may, but must, that through much tribulation we [Christians] must enter the Kingdom of God: Acts 14: 22; looking into the original, however, they discover that what it really says is Through many afflictions ('dia pollon thlipseoon'). They may then recall Paul's words to the Philippians (1: 29): Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake [true only of the joint-heirs of Romans 8: 17, 18, though but few have noticed this!]; having the same conflict ('agoona') which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. They may recall too, the feelings - convictions, rather - of the Apostles Peter and John (beaten, yet unbeaten!) rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for His Name - forbidden and threatened, yet they ceased not, but daily in the Temple, and in every house, there ceased not to teach and declare Jesus as the Messiah.
But particularly, our friends may remember that the Great Multitude, in white robes triumphant before the Throne of God in heaven had come out of (Gk. 'ek') 'the affliction the great.
To me, at any rate, and to some others, it is thus clear and conclusive that some [regenerate] believers will pass through and be brought out of The Great Tribulation.
But does that prove that all believers will have to - must - pass through it? Definitely not!
Did my father pass through The Great Tribulation? Or your grandfather?
The answer lies in the fact that there are two kinds of tribulation, even two kinds of Great Tribulation. What two kinds are these?
Just as there are two kinds of martyrs ('witnesses') - life-long and death-short, so to speak, so there are two kinds of tribulation, chronic, and acute. You can give up your life in 5 minutes, or in 50 years.
Many Christians have never suffered much, either for Christ, or with Christ. But even in this country there were Christians who suffered, even unto death, a few centuries ago; even in this century there are Christians who are suffering terribly in Communist countries; but not every where, all down the centuries.
However, we are told specifically how we may (not evade, but) avoid even The Great Tribulation - when it comes, short and sharp, under anti-Christ. The Philadelphian angel was granted a provisional and consequential or contingent escape, an escape of reward (rather than of grace), a sort of quid pro quo, a keeping for having kept, because ... therefore; to quote Rev. 3: 10; Because thou didst keep My word about (?) endurance, I also will keep thee from ('out of') the hour of temptation ('trial') - c.f. John 12: 27 - which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth. That retrospective commendation and prospective promise is individual; here is the more general but equally contingent consequence: Watch ye therefore and (because of the world-wide snare), 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 (Luke 21: 24-36).
As so often, the truth lies between two extremes: Not all believers will escape The Great Tribulation; not all believers will have to endure it.
Our Lord (it is agreed) is the Nobleman going into a far country, to receive for Himself a Kingdom - and to return (Luke 19: 12-28), with the command to His ten servants: Occupy till I come ('erchomai'). Left on their own - on probation, to test alike their loyalty and fidelity, their devotion and industry, in making the most, by trading, of the ten pounds entrusted to them, they were to be rewarded on His Return with positions of authority - ruling with Him - in His [millennial] Kingdom. When He returned, having received the Kingdom, then He commanded these servants to be called unto Him, to whom He had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. This is an adjudication Parable, a Pre-view of the Bema (or Judgement Seat) of Christ.
This parable of the pounds in Luke is paralleled in Matthew by the very similar parable of the talents in chapter 25: 13-30. Here we have the introduction of the investigation and adjudication with a reference to the Lord's long absence, now very close on 2,000 years (or [after] two thousand-year days by the parable of the Good Samaritan: Luke. 10, [verse 35] - where the penny, or denarius [two denarii], represented in the wherewithal of life for the morrow, for the reward or wage of the Labourers in the Vineyard was a denarius, the livelihood of the coming day: Matt. 20: 2 - (earned by determined and energetic 11th. hour workmen in the little time left at their disposal). In Luke 19: 16 we hear the industrious servant confessing: Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds - and his reward was authority over ten cities (cf. Deacapolis); in Matthew 25: 20 we hear the correspondingly enterprising servant saying - without boasting, for the reward is not of grace, but of works: Behold, I have gained ... five talents more. The Lord's Well of Luke 19: 17 is rightly rendered in Matthew 25: 21, 23 by Well done! Rule over many things, and entrance into the Joy of enthronement at the Right Hand of the Father in Heaven: Rev. 3: 21-22. The Race of endurance is set before us, and The Good Agony (Gk.) with its Love of His Appearing, and the Crown of Righteousness, awarded by the Righteous Judge, the Umpire and Adjudicator, Who has Himself already been awarded Crown and Throne and Sceptre: Heb. 1: 8, 9; Ps. 2: 6-9; Rev. 2: 26,27; 3: 21,22. He has also been anointed (in Messiahship) with the oil of gladness (Joy) above His Fellows.
Here then, is the much needed incentive that is so rarely taught, to spur [regenerate] believers on; it is a Prize indeed, a Heavenly Calling - inspiring the Apostle Paul: Phil. 3: 10-14, to intense and all-absorbing concentration of devotion. So very many Christians drop out of the race (and even get off course) because they fancy all is of grace, and that they will be alright, though mere babes, born again, indeed, yet as being saved without works, and without hope - or knowledge - of this special Joy of the Lord - His Joy, set before Him, as the Incorruptible Crown - that Paul strove for - is set before us: 1 Cor. 9: 24-27 (were castaway - rendered rejected in Heb. 12: 17 - means disqualified for the Crown (as Israel - our danger-signal in the following chapter: 1 Cor. 10: 1-12. - forfeited the Kingdom [Num. 14.; Heb. 4: 1]).
Here then, also, is the much needed sanction, warning, threat - the possibility of positive loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ, His Bema of adjudication, that most evangelists avoid.
In the two parables quoted from, more space is given to the fearful and unprofitable, the wicked and slothful servant (whom some expositors declare was no servant at all!!), who, again perhaps relying on 'all of grace', hid his Lord's money, fancying it would be acceptable, when it represented to Him serious loss. The Lord Who gives the increase of harvest, is hard - upon the lazy, presumptuous, cowardly, profitless servants: but very few Christian teachers will agree with this, or with me (who do not matter, except that I have to be faithful as a steward, and not a mere man-pleaser). So I repeat, disagreement with me will not prove you are right!! The coming [millennial] kingdom is a kingdom of reward: Rev. 2: 12; 11: 18, entrance into it being the prize for good works - as distinct from the Eternal Kingdom of Grace that follows - but who would [be so spiritually blind, disbelieving and misunderstanding of this truth to] deliberately choose darkness [in Hades] for the Thousand Years? Here, then, are the sanction and the incentive that the flagging and flabby Church of [God] today so badly needs.
1 John 2: 28 tells us of the possibility of our being ashamed away from Him at His Appearing, if we do not abide in Him, with His words abiding in us.
Now the Lord Jesus Christ - the Messiah, and Jehovah - informs us as to those of whom He Himself will be ashamed at His Return. He Who is the Word of God identifies Himself with His words concerning the historicity and Creation (not Evolution!) of Adam and Eve (Mark 10: 6), concerning His Lordship, and the everlastingness of His utterances.
Do we make the Word of God of none effect through our (evangelical) traditions, and our denominational slogans? ('all of grace'; 'by faith alone').
What does hiding in a napkin mean? or light under a bushel? or under a bed?
Could it mean that we have kept the sacred deposit of salvation to ourselves, never using our testimony to win others to the Lordship of the Messiah? or that we have allowed business interests and advantages to seal our lips, and stop our witness? We ought to be proud of God, and of His word; we ought, too, to qualify ourselves to defend it, make it known as error-free - even free of alleged scientific mistakes, declaring it to be worthy of fullest acceptance, in view of the erroneous theories, and changing apathy and fear.
It is very clear that not all believers will win Christ's Kingdom of Reward, and earn His approval at His Judgment Seat: there are repeated catalogues of excluding sins: sexual impurity, anger, sectarianism and erroneous separatism that will shut believers out of the Kingdom of Reward for suffering and good works: 1 Cor. 6: 9,10; Gal. 5: 19-21; Eph. 5: 3-7; 1Tim.5: 9,10. The teacher who asserts that these are impossible to Christians is, consciously or no, a deceiver, or even worse. Once a [regenerate] believer gets out of touch with God, he can become guilty of almost anything. Be not partakers implies that we can partake of sins, and of judgment. Where are the informed and fearless teachers who dare proclaim these warnings? The watchmen who are afraid to declare the whole counsel of God may suffer loss because of their lukewarmness, timidity, and disloyalty.
Will any one - any believer - presume when about to be beaten with many, or few, stripes, to oppose 'all of grace', boast of his freedom, by new birth, or at a great price, and his citizenship of the Heavenly Jerusalem? but if so, will his threatened beating be averted? (Luke 12: 45-48). We mostly use a little Bible within the Bible - full of promises, devoid of warnings, whether specifically to believers, or awful examples given in the Old Testament; therefore, unhappy surprises - as well as happy ones - are in store for us. But how little do we know the full revelation of God! Why did I have to leave typewriter for concordance to get the reference to degrees of stripes? Thank God for the exceeding great and precious promises - but do let us note any conditions attached, and make sure we qualify to inherit the blessing!
And why is all this indisputable Scriptural teaching unpopular, and unpalatable?
Why do we call our righteousnesses filthy rags, when they are nothing of the kind? These words were spoken on behalf of Jewish religious hypocrites two or three thousand years ago (Isaiah. 54); in contrast the good deeds of the people of God are called fine white linen: Rev. 19: 7-9. Did the Lord call Mary's deed a good work - or a filthy rag? Surely that would hardly be an incentive or an encouragement to doing good - which we can do, and many Christians actually do, some occasionally, some all the time, as the Word of God repeatedly affirms. Teachers have no right - in fact they are quite wrong, to declare, stretching Romans 3: 12 unwarrantably and limitlessly, that no one ever did, does, or will do - indeed cannot ever do, good.
The other way round, the broad way - easy, crowded, popular, pleasant - is removed from Christian responsibility, together with stripes and darkness, and every threat and warning that even a blind outsider can clearly see are needed for believers - The broad way is made non-applicable to the Church, so that she is robbed of challenging sanctions, as well as of stimulating incentives, and so that every encouragement is given to 'harmless' backsliding and unattractive drop-outs. Yes, spiritual drop-outs, who once ran well! The Pharisees 'will be offended' at that saying; yes, but what was the Lord's reply? What was Paul's example?
I for one, I hope, am taking no risks. Paul was not sure of his Crown or Septre, or Throne when the angelic heads abdicate (Rev. 4: 10; Heb. 2: 5), in favour of Christ's Fellows and Joint-Heirs, I - [by the grace of God, the power of His Holy Spirit and in obedience to Christs commands] - shall certainly not cast that Crown down; so I have tried to encourage our people to sing: 'Till we take our crowns before Thee'.
My Incentive or Prize is thus approval at Christ's Judgment Seat, it is being accounted worthy to live and reign with Him for The Thousand Years before Eternity proper begins: Heb. 4: 11; 1Thess. 1: 5-7; 1Cor. 9: 24 and; Phil. 3:13,14; Rev. 2: 25-27; Rev. 3: 21.
My Sanction or Deterrent is that no man take thy Crown, The rest of the dead lived not again till The Thousand Years were finished': Rev. 3: 11; 20: 5.*
Mr. Tilney concludes:-
"So must we reconcile any seeming discrepancy between Free Gift and Reward, which are taught so clearly, so emphatically, and so repeatedly, in Gospel and Epistle, though so rarely distinguished by Christian teachers and evangelists.
The latter, often out for quick decisions, often secure superficial and temporary results, unable to provide either incentive or sanction, since they make sweeping promises without conditions, warnings or threats, and ignore 'cautionary tale' and 'awful example' of Israel's history, and their failure to enter (or retain) the Promised Land.
Where is the challenge (taken up by the Apostles, especially Paul) to forsake all, and follow the Christ, the King?
Where is the distinction, indeed, the contrast, between faith and works, between gift and reward, between the shaken and the unshakeable Kingdoms: Heb. 12: 28, in our evangelical campaigns?"