THE CHALLENGE OF A DEFERRED ADVENT
there are scoffers at the Second Advent within the
[* See Note at end.
Dr. C. Williams, The
Coming End of the Age, p. 9. A reasoned rejection the Second Advent has
just been issued by the Christian World (Sept. 2, 1926); and, bearing in mind that ‘Greek thought’ is
only another name for heathen unbelief, the Christian World's historical
sketch of how the Church came to reject this truth is so correct, so illuminating,
and so self-condemnatory we simply reproduce it without comment. "The idea of the
Second Advent prevailed widely in Christianity till it had been permeated and
transformed by Greek influence. It
lingered in the East until the beginning of the third century, and in the West
it had a much stronger sway. But the
Greek spirit was hostile, and in the end fatal to it. We can, with little difficulty, understand how
attractive it would be to the Jew to believe in a millennium at
the Apostle gives a profound reassurance to the waiting Christian. "But forget not" - as against their wilful
forgetting this one thing, beloved as a master-solution of the problem - "that one day is
with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day"
(2 Pet. 3: 8); or, as the Psalmist (90: 4) puts it - "a thousand years in thy sight are but as
activity is such that it can spread over a thousand years, or concentrate into
a single day, what, in nature, would belong to a day or to a millennium. The twenty-four hours of
Moreover the Holy Spirit regards it as of vital importance that we should understand this extraordinary reluctance of God. He says :- "The Lord is not slack" - tardy, dilatory, delaying until too late - "concerning His promise" - to right all wrong by the Advent - "as some count slackness" as some account it [His delay] slackness. He is slow and lingering; but it is not from slackness - that is, not because He is powerless, or indifferent, or ignorant, or neglectful, or procrastinating; nor is it because He has forgotten His promise, or changed His mind, or altered His purpose; nor is it for the awful reason that Gnostics once gave, and will yet give again - that He is Himself evil; "but" - here starts to light the still further solution of the problem - "is LONG-SUFFERING to you-ward.” That is, the delay is to be measured, not by years or by centuries, but by divine purposes and aeonian plans. The world, misunderstanding the problem, makes a fearful miscalculation. "The wicked saith in his heart, God hath forgotten; He hideth His face He will never see it" (Psa. 10: 11): so they continue eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until, without a moment's warning, the sudden crash of Advent sweeps the world.
Now this long-suffering so enormously magnifies the character of God, that we do well to ponder it. With a hatred of sin out-running our utmost conception, God, omnipresent, yet stands alongside the murderer as he beats down his victim, and hears the dying whimper, motionless: He listens to the vilest obscenity, and the most daring blasphemies, and says nothing: He sees little children being corrupted in soul and body by men of awful iniquity, when He has but to think a thought and they would never provoke Him again - yet He never stirs. It is manifest that a reason of extraordinary force must, so to say, tie the hands of God - a deterrent from action inconceivably powerful. What is it? It is because every human soul is salvable; and the only hope of the salvation of any man lies in the self-control of God. It is an astounding revelation. For the self-repression in the Deity is as extraordinary a revelation of the power of the Godhead as the universe contains. A volcano curbed requires vaster power than a volcano in action, God's wrath is justice at white-heat, and repression of it is a thing incomparably more powerful than its liberation. Herod un-smitten is a greater evidence of God's power than Herod smitten. Longsuffering, in such a world as this, is the greatest exhibition of power on this side of the annihilation of worlds. Moreover, the measure of the restraint must be a measure of the peril from which God would save man. If it is mercy that continues whole nations in outrage and horror, and a world in wild tumult, what must be the doom beyond, from which starvation and massacre are a merciful inter-position of delay? God must foresee a future of inconceivable horror.
So the Apostle now reveals the heart of the divine reluctance, and into his answer is crowded all the grace, the love, the sob of God. "Not wishing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance." He who bids all, forbids none. “God wills here as the result of conscious deliberation, but not with irresistible coercion” (Lange); exactly as a monarch wills that all his subjects should be happy - but as subjects, not as criminals. God's wish (or will) not only embodied itself in the sublime intervention of the Incarnation, the Cross, the Ascension, the descent of the Holy Ghost - a desire un-exhausted, and now surviving in all its force, its supreme effort is to achieve repentance in all. And so He delays, and delays, and delays; for immediate judgment would mean immediate Hell. So (the Apostle says) "account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation": that is, see that you put this interpretation on God's strange inactivity: esteem its actual effect to be salvation; for it is actually the salvation of all who are being saved. Experience shows that this is true. Forbearance can be fruitful, when chastisement and threatenings fail: men can get simply tired of disillusionment, and sorrow, and disappointment, and the bitterness of sin - and turn to God. God does not prolong the world’s sin in order to deepen its guilt and consequent doom; but for an exactly opposite reason, - that NONE should perish; but that all hardness may be melted; that rebellion may be replaced by loyalty; that hate may give way to love; and - wonderful words! - "that all [earth’s teeming millions] should come to repentance;” and salvation to quench all evil as to cancel all judgment. Justice inherently compels, and the order of the universe demands, judgment yet the Lord moves like the glacier of a thousand years. Hell is inevitable, but hell is no wish of God; God never laid on any man the desire or the necessity to sin; no class, or group, or person, is outside the divine salvation the decree consigning to hell can never be operative without a man's own signature. It is not according to the heart of God that even one whom He has created, and one for whom Christ died, should be lost. The one Person in all the universe who is not responsible for hell is GOD.
then, let the very deferred Advent (as it were) soak
into us God's delaying grace. Our golden
opportunity and privilege is to co-operate with God's will to save. Mockers account it slackness, disciples
account it salvation; we seize the delay, in order to seize its redemption. "I exhort,"
says Paul "that prayers be made for ALL MEN"
(1 Tim. 2: 1). If I am to pray for all men, what must I
assume? I must assume that all men need
praying for; that all men can be benefited by my prayers; that the benefits
of Christ's death, the sole ground of all prayer for sinners, reaches to all
men; and therefore that all men can be saved. As Gordon
Thus the deferred Advent, as we confront it to-day, spells but one word - Salvation. Work of incalculable importance may still remain. Some have not yielded, that have been called; some have not yet been called, that are now in dens of infamy, or prison cells, or in heathen forests; some have not yet been born, whose names, nevertheless, are in the Lamb's Book of Life: all of us are spared for golden purposes of priceless service. The delay is no counsel of despair, but an amazing revelation of salvation, and in it is the whole reservoir of effective grace. Yet the pause is only a pause; and "though He hath leaden feet, He hath iron hands." For "THE DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME AS A THIEF IN THE NIGHT."
Many Christians over the centuries have believed the Second Advent of Christ and the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom was imminent - that is, could happen at any time. Commenting in this erroneous philosophy, Mr. G. H. Lang has written:-
has been diligently asserted, and widely accepted that a few weeks after
Pentecost, Peter was nevertheless saying exactly the reverse, and was telling
It is marvellous that acute and sincere minds should have involved themselves in such an impossible contradiction. But if the theory puts Peter in an obviously false position, where does it place the Holy Spirit Himself? Was He inspiring Peter to contradict Christ by inspiration at all?
Peter had the kingdom before him is clear. In his first address he spoke of "that great and notable day of the Lord," and
quoted the words, "Sit Thou at My right hand, till
I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet" (Acts 2. 20, 34, 35). But that he did not offer to
These words suggest an absence of the Lord in the heavens for some period, not at all His instant return thence to the earth; for had the latter been in the mind of the speaker the phrase, "Whom the heavens must receive until," would not have occurred to him. And he indicates sufficiently clearly the circumstances that will attend the close of that period of absence..."
"... Over a hundred years ago, when some devout men were pioneering in prophetic truth, they thought they saw clearly that the resurrection and rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 must certainly occur before the rise of Antichrist at the close of this age. The closest scrutiny of those passages cannot yield this idea; the indications are the other way: but these men felt sure as to this point.
But they were, faced with the undeniable feature that the Old Testament knew nothing of any descent of the Lord Jesus from heaven until His appearing in glory at the close of the reign of that great and last tyrant [Antichrist]; nor does the prophetic teaching of Christ speak of any such earlier coming; nor is it indicated in the Revelation.
Presently a seemingly feasible solution of this problem was found in a suggestion that all that preponderating mass of prophetic scripture applied to Israel, not to the church; that the church is an unique company, revealed to Paul as to its character and destiny, not before; and that it will, and must be, removed from the earth before the dealings of God with Israel can recommence, and consequently its removal will entail a secret coming of Christ prior to the end days. "This saying, therefore, went forth among the brethren," and ever since the most part believe as they have been taught; yea, "this saying was spread abroad and continueth unto this day." But it has no more real basis than those two other sayings to which the words now used apply (John 21. 23: Matt. 28. 15).
Strikingly enough, it is Paul himself who shatters this whole scheme by declaring that the "blessed hope" of Christians, so far from being a secret coming of Christ is in fact nothing else than “the appearing [forthshining] of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ " (Titus 2. 13), which is manifestly the same event as the Lord Himself described in the words, "They shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24. 30). Were these not the same, then we must expect two forthshinings of the glory, and even then we shall be still without that supposed secret coming of Christ. To avoid, these dilemmas, in the interests of the theory, some have resorted to the desperate shift of stating that the "blessed hope" is one event, even the alleged secret pre-tribulation coming, and the "appearing of the glory" a second event, even the later visible coming. We cannot think that any true unbiased scholar will thus do violence to the Greek, for, as Alford says, "hope and appearing belong together;" and the passage should read "the blessed hope, even the appearing," for which sense see Weymouth, Conybeare, Faussett, Rotherham, etc.]