THE appalling fall in the Churches today, the all but universal undermining of belief in the Word of God, the advance in all nations of an ever-growing lawlessness; these are but some of the symptoms that remind us of our Lord's words:- "When these things begin to come to pass, LOOK UP, and lift up your heads" (Luke 21:28). Look up for what? A rending heaven, and a descending Christ. And the Lord gives what He reveals as a peculiarly convincing proof of a closing crisis. "When the [fig tree's] branch is now tender" - when Israel, as a nation, is again showing national life - "and putteth forth its leaves" - the Mosaic ceremonies which Christ saw in His day in full leafage, but fruitless - "ye know that the summer is nigh" - the Kingdom is just beyond. Zionism is the re-springing Fig Tree, and beside Israelís national revival in Luke our Lord includes, as an identical sign, nationalism reviving throughout the whole world. "Behold the fig tree, and all the trees, when they now shoot forth, ye see it and know of yourselves that the summer is now nigh" (Luke 21: 29). The Times, speaking purely from the worldís standpoint, states (Aug. 24, 1939) as an actual fact the arrival of exactly this nationalism:-"Nationality, for good or evil, is the most living force in Europe today."




Now, the Lord gives us a studied simile, revealing once again that God acts on identical principles in different ages, so that what He has done is a photograph of what He will do. "As were the days of Noah, so shall be the presence of the Son of Man." The deliverance in Noahís day was double. "By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him" (Heb. 11: 5). There was a complete and miraculous heavenly disappearance before the world-wide judgment of the Flood came. But there was another deliverance in an earthly escape. "The long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water?" (1 Pet. 3: 20). So, our Lord says, it will be again. The faithful of Godís earthly people, Israel, will escape into the wilderness, where God guards them throughout the Great Tribulation; and the Enochs of Godís heavenly people, who walk with God, will be rapt out of earth altogether, ere ever the Tribulation dawns. It is most remarkable that Enoch and Noah - who both escaped the Flood - are the only men in the Bible who are explicitly stated to have "walked with God".




So now we arrive at the extraordinary act of God which He is about to repeat. "Then shall two men be in the field;* one is taken, and one is left: two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left" (Matt. 24: 40). Obviously, their disappearance takes place before the Tribulation judgments have devastated earthís fields and harvests, and while ordinary business engagements - in the field or in the factory are going their normal round. We are at once startled by the complete passivity of those removed. In counselling Israel** how to escape, our Lord says:- "When ye see the abomination of desolation" - that will be their divinely given signal - "FLEE", in active, passionate flight: "let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak" (Matt. 24: 18). But in this field the labourer is simply, suddenly, utterly gone, without the slightest signal warning him.


[* A "Field" in Scripture, (according to our Lordís interpretation of "the tares of the field" (Matt. 13: 38), is "the world". "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world."


** "The abomination of desolation," is to stand in "the holy place". That is, in the temple of God at Jerusalem. And this counselling was primarily addressed to DISCIPLES OF CHRIST: "His disciples came to him ..." (24: 1, 3).]




And the consequences will be just as blank as in the olden days. The disappearance will no more startle the godless from their eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, than the world trembled at the disappearance of Enoch or the Ark. It is most remarkable that even the Sons of the Prophets, who had heard from Elisha that Elijah would ascend, refused to believe it, and searched the mountains to find him; and when the world heard of it, and the whole neighbourhood had been searched in vain, all it says is - "Go up too, thou bald head" (2 Kings, 2: 23).




For us the removal is full of extraordinary instruction. Most significant is it that our Lord draws the rapt from the humblest classes - farm labourers and peasant women. "Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him"* (Jas. 2 : 5). And it is no mass removal: in this field, a man is gone; in that home, a woman that is all. And mentally, at the moment, they are utterly unprepared had they known the day, they would have gathered assemblies of the saints for prayer; had they known the hour, they would have been on their knees on the field and in the allotment. Lukeís example is still more significant: "there shall be two on one bed"; a married couple, asleep, and suddenly one is gone.


[* To love God is to obey His commands: "Abide ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Fatherís commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15: 10). Dear Ďbrother,í can you not see that this promise is conditional? ]




The lesson our Lord Himself draws becomes overwhelming. "Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh"; "your Lord"; that is, both him in the field and she at the mill are both servants of Christ needing to be forever watchful. It is vital to remember that to Ďwatchí is far more than to hold Second Advent truth: it is to square all our life to the Judgment Seat of Christ. The removal is no act of sovereign grace, for their ignorance of the date would be totally immaterial, as it would depend solely on our conversion; whereas ignorance of the date can be met solely by perpetual readiness. So our Lord says :- "Be ye also READY; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 24: 44).




So now we face the gravity of the facts today. The signs around us today simply palpitate with the imminence of the Advent; at any moment the removal may happen; the whole world is conscious of imminent crisis. Yet what is the attitude of the Church? In almost all the groups of the Church, it is a scattered minority only that await the return of the Lord; and the immense majority deny any such return of Christ at all. A Bishop has expressed it thus: "I hate it on three grounds: first, it is pessimism; second, it disturbs and divides our people; and third, it cuts the nerve of missions". And to cloud and darken it still further, the great majority of prophetic students, while thoroughly fundamental and evangelical, openly and studiedly deny that watchfulness has anything to do with rapture: either conversion is the sole qualification; or else they assume that none of us will escape the most awful Tribulation the world has ever known, or ever will know.




Our whole lives, therefore, should be controlled by the conditions of rapture given by our Lord. Three signal Scriptures assert, broadly, deeply, decisively, that a set attitude of watchfulness is essential for the disciple's disappearance. Our Lord invokes us to continual prayer for rapture. He says:- "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. ...  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" (Luke 21: 34 A.V.). To pray for that of which we are already possessed is unbelief: to assume our certainty of rapture is to make this prayer of our Lord unprayable. Again, our Lord explicitly promises deliverance to a watchful disciple. He says:- "Because they didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole world to try them that dwelt upon the earth. I come quickly" (Rev. 3: 10). On the Philadelphian Angelís having kept "the word of His patience" - the Lord's delaying of His Advent - Christ lodges the sole and entire reason of the Angelís removal. This is in beautiful keeping with Enochís experience. "God translated him: for before his translation he hath had witness borne to him that he had been well-pleasing unto God" (Heb. 11: 5). Again, our Lord levels a solemn warning at the unspiritual disciple. He says:- "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when He cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that He will set him over all that He hath. But if that servant" - the same man - "shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not" (Luke 12: 46). What this means is seen by our Lordís word to the Sardian Angel:- "If therefore thou shall not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will arrive over thee" (Rev. 3: 3). The peril is an unconscious survival, unrapt, into the Great Tribulation. COULD ANY TRUTH BE MORE POWERFUL TO MAKE US SQUARE OUR WHOLE LIFE TO THE ADVENT?