THE EARTH IN THE AGE TO COME
BY D. M. Panton.
The fact must now be dawning on many minds that the denial of our
Lord's return and reign by the vast majority of the Church, or at least their
complete silence on it, will be one of the most powerful causes of the
[* That it is no pre-Advent
the Golden Age that is coming begins with a complete revolution in
nature. It is not a heavenly world that is described, nor a freshly
created earth, but the old earth fundamentally changed. "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be
glad; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose" (Isa. 35: 1); "and the
glowing sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty grounds
springs of water" (verse 7).
All nature will be transfigured BY THE ACT OF GOD.* "Instead
of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up
the myrtle tree" (Isa. 55: 13); all curse on the soil is removed by
Him who alone can remove it; and the very earth bursts into song.
"It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even
with joy and singing: the glory of
[* "The almost universal habit of spiritualising this, and all like prophecies, and allegorising them into an exclusive application to present Gospel blessings, has served to hide the chief significance of the passage from the eyes of the ordinary reader" (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.).]
The second change is a complete revolution in politics. For the next detail is not a prophecy, but a command, which sums up in itself the political and social activity of the Age to Come; in conduct so gracious, so kind, that Paul quotes it (Heb. 12: 12) as a comprehensive vade mecum for the Church now. "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees." All the men then on earth itself are in the flesh, though regenerate, and so, exactly as the Church today, there will be characters the strengthening and perfecting of whom will be the very soul of all political and social effort. "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; he will come and save you." So Isaiah has already said (Isa. 11: 4):- "With righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked." Thus a sympathy and succour characteristic only of the holiest in the Church to-day will then be the standard of conduct for the whole earth.
The third change is a complete revolution in human physique. When our Lord was formerly on earth, "the blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, and the deaf heard": so it is again, though on a far vaster scale, when He walks the earth a second time, for His miraculous blessings were but samples and foretastes of a redeemed earth. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing." For "sin entered into the world, and death through sin" (Rom. 5: 12); and therefore disease, which produces death, will necessarily be an exception on a redeemed earth: "the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick" (Isa. 33: 24). It is characteristic of the Divine Utopia, unlike all human utopias, that the principal actor is God; and so both the healing and the disease in that day will be the act of God. It is written of the instigators of rebellion again Christ: "their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet" (Zech. 14: 12), in miraculous and instant disease. Thus for all earth, apart from special judgement, no hospitals, no ambulances, no lunatic asylums, with all the enormous cost which results from disease and crime, will encumber a redeemed world.
The fourth change is a complete revolution in security. This is aptly proved in that one of the 'four sore judgements' of God - wild beasts - is unknown for a pastoral people. "And a highway shall be there, and a way: no loin shall be there, nor any ravenous beast go up thereon, they shall not be found there." Danger vanishes, and the security includes exemption from all the man-power of the world. "And it shall be called, the Way of Holiness; the unclean" - the human wild beasts - "shall not pass over it" - all forces hostile to the good are utterly banished: all in the spiritual likeness of God, though intellectually ungifted, pass on this main highway of the world in perfect safety: "the wayfaring men, yea fools, shall not err therein." Security from the massacre of millions, the bombing out of whole cities, the agony of a falling civilisation is a dream for which the statesmen of the world can now find no reality. Moral impurity alone, and neither physical nor intellectual weakness, excludes from a world of perfect security for the holy. "And in that day I [declares the Lord] will make a covenant with them for the beasts of the field; and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the land, and I will make them lie down safely" (Hos. 2: 18). The Divine Judge, the international court of appeal, is visibly and openly on earth, and because Grace is over all power is behind all righteousness: Satan and his hosts are in chains, wicked men dead, and the 'child' who reaches millennial puberty - one hundred years - suffers the death penalty if he refuses Christ (Isa. 65: 20).
fifth change is a complete revolution in spiritual standing. The
sixth change is a complete revolution in destiny. "And everlasting joy shall be upon their heads." What tremendous force there is in the
description of the Joy: 'everlasting'!
They march to a music of their souls that will
never end. "The joy of holy retrospect; the joy of present possession of
glory; the joy of fulfilled hope, perfect manhood, satisfied life; the joy of
prospective advance, intellectually and morally, for ever and ever"
(J. O. Keen,
The final change is a complete revolution in experience. "They shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." Sin and sadness are for ever wedded, and only a guilty world can know regret and grief and shame; and therefore as surely as light expels darkness, and as surely as day banishes night, so surely everlasting joy will be the eternal death of sorrow. Grief, not the power to grieve, is gone: in the exquisite words of the Apocalypse (Rev. 7: 17) - "God shall" - not, remove the tear-duct from the resurrection body, or harden against feeling, but - "wipe away every tear from their eyes." Even 'sighing', the lightest form that sorrow can take, will take flight and be unknown for all eternity. The sorrow of bereavement and the death of loved ones; the sorrow of poverty, of degradation, of dishonour; the sorrow caused by the sins of others, and a world overwhelmed in danger; the sorrow of remorse, of dread, of chastisement; the sorrow of disease, and the sorrow of dying: all night vanishes for ever from the coming 'morning without clouds'. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that THIS IS NO DESCRIPTION OF HEAVEN; or of the Holy City hovering over the earth; or of the new earth in the eternal ages: IT IS THIS EARTH exactly as we know it, transformed by the Most High; the world at last become the Kingdom of God, as foretold by all the Prophets. Thus we hold in our hands, for earth's massed millions, a concrete Utopia to which Communism is a mirage, and which even the conversion of an entire humanity by the Church (if that were possible) could not rival; AND IT MAY ACTUALLY BE HERE IN A FEW YEARS.* "I the Lord have spoken it, and WILL DO IT" (Exek. 22: 14).
[* " 'Behold your God': as if already present or in sight" (J. A. Alexander, D. D.): "the Lord Jesus, Himself personally on the earth, will come, or send His representatives, at the call of the weak or the oppressed or the wronged."]
[The 'few years' must therefore include the years of the Great Tribulation, for there can be no literal kingdom without the bodily presence of the King, Christ will descend to earth, at the end of this evil age, to raise the 'worthy' dead, and translate the living who are 'left'. (2Thess. 2: 1-4; Luke 20: 35; 1Thess. 4: 15)]