THE ADVENT AND THE CHURCH
J. A. SEISS,
I have not found a respectable or acknowledged creed in all Christendom, from the beginning until now, that teaches the doctrine of a millennium before Christ’s coming. I have not found one single passage in all the Bible that sustains the doctrine of a millennium before Christ’s coming. But, on the other hand, I have found a long and unbroken line of witnesses from the days of the Apostles until now, who testify with one voice that the hope of a millennium of universal righteousness, liberty, and peace before Christ comes, is a falsehood and a dream. I have found many eminent divines, who have blest the church and the world with their piety and wisdom, eagerly looking for the Saviour’s advent as the only thing that is to lift the church out of its present depression and gloom. And beyond and above all, I have found the Word of God everywhere pointing to the same great and glorious event as the only hope of the pious, and as the great link which alone can connect us with or bring us into the joys and jubilations of the millennial era. Theorize and speculate as you please, when the Lord cometh He will find the world as now, full of vice, unbelief, sensuality and guilt. We may prefer our vague dreams, and set them up against God’s positive revelations; but His truth abideth.
Truth shall retire
Bestuck with slanderous darts, and works of faith
Rarely be found; so shall the world go on,
To good malignant, to bad men benign,
Under her own weight groaning, till the day
Appear, of reparation to the just,
And vengeance to the wicked, at return
Of Him - thy Saviour and thy Lord.
All through the New Testament the coming of the Lord is spoken of as an event that may occur at any day. From this alone, I know that we have no right to expect a millennium first. It is useless to tell me that it is only a providential, spiritual, figurative coming that is to occur before the millennium. Providentially, and spiritually, Christ is already here. Wherever two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is. He is now and ever at work in His providence, controlling, arranging, overruling, moving everything; and His Spirit* is given to every man to profit withal. Figuratively, He comes every day. Every meal we take, every breath we draw, every new pulsation of our life, He brings to us, as it were, by His own hand. And if His coming before the millennium includes no higher, no more real coming than these things amount to, then I know not upon what ground Christians can cope that He ever will return in person to our world. The Bible has no terms expressive of a literal and real coming, but those which describe His premillennial coming. When we read of the coming of other persons, we never think of allegory of figure. We take the language for what it means. Let us beware how we change the Holy Ghost with saying what He does mean. That servant who "says in his heart, My Lord delayeth His coming," the Saviour calls ‘an evil servant.’
For if the Son of man should come this week, this month, or this year, would he find faith** on the earth? Would not the church itself be taken by surprise? Would not such an event now come upon the overwhelming majority of Christ’s professed followers unawares? And yet, what guarantee have we that the chariot-wheels of the coming King are not already rumbling over the distant worlds? Has he not said, "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh"? "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night"? and "as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth"? Who can say that we are not liable to have the great scenes of the judgment precipitated upon us at any moment? And shall we not be concerned to have our minds familiarized with what may any day occur, and which must occur sooner or later? Is there not something inconceivably dreadful in the thought of having that day come upon us at the very time we are saying, "My Lord delayeth His coming"? Would it not be better to be a little beforehand with our anticipations, and to bear the taunts that may be heaped upon us for our concern, than to accommodate ourselves to the wisdom and soberiety of this erring world, and be finally taken by surprise? Jesus says that the Lord of that servant who shall be found faithless, sleeping or scoffing, shall cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites, amid weeping and gnashing of teeth. "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4: 18). To this also agrees the account given in Matthew 24: 42-51; where we read of a servant who is ‘faithful and wise,’ whom his Lord finds at his post, and at once receives to blessedness; but also of another servant, as really a servant as the first, who is deficient in fidelity and worldly in his temper, and whom his Lord when He comes severely punishes by assigning him a portion with hypocrites, who are to suffer the great tribulation. The words do not all imply that the one is saved and the other is lost, but simply that the one reaches blessedness at once when the Lord comes, whilst the other, not being prepared by proper watchfulness, is ‘left.’ And punished with such temporal judgments as are then left to befall the earth, and only saved ‘so as by fire’ at the subsequent period.
[* Here the word "Spirit" should not have a capital "S." The capital indicates that every regenerate man is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but this is not true, for every regenerate man does not obey his Lord, (Acts 5: 32: “… the Holy Ghost, whom od hath given to THEM THAT OBEY HIM,” R.V.); but every living man does have the inbreathed "spirit" of God which animates the body. See Gen.2: 7. The Hebrew word translated "breath" can also be translated "spirit". "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground," - this refers to the body of the man - "and breathed into his nostrils the breath [spirit] of life; and man became a living soul". Compare with Gen. 7: 22: " ... and every man: all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, of all that was in the dry land died." R.V. Again: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead," James 2: 26, R.V. And again: "And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. But he, [Jesus] taking her by the hand, called, saying, Maiden, arise. And her spirit returned, - [that is, the animating spirit returned from God (Eccl. 12: 7); "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this, he gave up the ghost (spirit)" (Luke 23: 46, R.V.)] - and she rose up immediately: and he commanded that something be given her to eat," (Luke 8: 53-55, R.V.)- See The Personal Indwelling of The Holy Spirit by G. H. Lang.
**That is, faith in His Second Advent and all the divine prophecies awaiting fulfilment.]
Thus bad and good their several warnings give
Of His approach, whom few may see and live;
Faith’s ear, with awful, still delight,
Counts them like minute-bells at the night,
Keeping the heart awake till dawn of morn,
While to her funeral pile this aged world is borne.
But what are Heaven’s alarms to hearts that cower
In wilful slumber, deep’ning every hour,
That draw their curtains closer round
The nearer swells the trumpet’s sound?
Lord, ere our trembling lamps sink down and die,
Touch us with chast’ning hand, and make us feel thee nigh!