The dating of the return of our Lord is absolutely forbidden. He Himself says:- Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father (Mark 13: 32). Even so, sane and sound a teacher as Dr. C. I. Scofield said before the first World War:- If you were told to-day what I think hinders, strangely and mysteriously, the breaking out of the awful war which Europe has been expecting for the past seven years, I believe God is restraining the war until He takes His own out of the world. Nevertheless two World Wars have come since: he spoke, with no Advent.
A profound principle underlies the, prohibition. Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left. Watch therefore: for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh (Matt. 24: 40, 42). Total ignorance of the date makes perpetual watchfulness the only safety; and we can no more deny a date than we can name one. Robert Murray once said to some friends, Do you think Christ will come to-night? One after another they said, I think not. When all had given this answer, he solemnly repeated this text:- The Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not. It may be at midnight, at cockcrowing, or in the morning - but at all times we are to be ready. BE YE THEREFORE READY (Matt. 24: 44).
But a remarkable modification of
a dateless Advent is given, more than once, by our Lord Himself, and is now
pressing on the Church as never before. When ye see these things coming to pass, KNOW ye: - not guess, or conjecture, but know that the
TWO THOUSAND YEARS
One enormous fact confronts us. Something like 2,000 years have already passed since the First Advent; and the history of the earth, before its final destruction - its existence for 7,000 years - makes it inescapable that the last 1,000 years - the Millennium - is on the doorstep. The Authorized Version dates the Creation as 4,004 years before Christ; so the dispensations cover the worlds history:- Conscience, 2,000 years; Law, 2,000 years; Grace, 2,000 years; and Righteousness, 1,000 years, when judgments will establish the Golden Age. Forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Pet. 3: 8) - the world has its one week of life. And one extraordinarily significant fact - though a fact most dangerous, for it tempts us to fix a date has revealed afresh our possible proximity to our Lords return. The ablest estimate yet made of the exact date of the world - Martin Ansteys - sets the Creation as not 4,004 years before Christ, but 4,042: therefore we are now, not in 1948 but in 1990, or only ten years off the close of our 2,000 years. It is extraordinary what is being planned all over the world for the next decade.
THE ATOMIC BOMB
the signals of the Advent we will take one only - perhaps the most drastic of
all. The atomic bomb, with
its rapidly approaching developments, is something without a parallel in the
history of the world. Scientific discovery has suddenly put the life of all
humanity in danger. The atomic bomb
wiped out 136,000 lives in a moment; but already there are explosives far more
powerful, which can be flown across continents and oceans, and wipe out whole
war breaks out, says the Emergency Council of Atomic Scientists, atomic bombs will be used, and they will surely destroy our
civilization. Addressing an international conference in
A FORCED ADVENT
The crisis is thus unprecedented. The President of Chicago University, R. M. Hutchins, predicts that the world will destroy itself in five years. Our Saviours words are most significant:- Except the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved (Mark 13: 20). As never before in the worlds history the Most High will be compelled to save the world from self-destruction by the intervention of the Advent: for the elects sake, whom he chose, he shortened the days - by the return of Christ.
One spiritual symptom of the end is outstanding. Sir Isaac Newton made a remarkable prediction a hundred and fifty years ago. About the time of the end, in all probability, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation in the midst of much clamour and opposition. Scripture has made it still clearer. In the last days mockers shall come with mockery saying, Where is the promise of his, coming? (2 Pet. 3: 4). The delaying of Divine judgments, solely owing to the love of God postponing judgment to the last possible moment, will only turn the sceptics - who will often have heard of the Second Advent - simply to mockery. Solomon expressed it thus:- Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is emboldened [margin] in them to do evil (Eccles. 8: 11). The delay in the heart of God is beautifully expressed:- The Lord is not slack concerning his promise - of our Lords return but is long suffering to youward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3: 9). And yet the Church as a whole shares the mockery at the Second Advent. In the words of Dr. D. R. Davies:- The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Christian people in all the churches do not believe in the New Testament affirmation of the return of the Lord.
One overwhelming fact, therefore, faces us in the imminence of the Advent. OUR TIME IS SHORT. For older folk life is now, in any case, very brief; but for even the youngest believer an imminent Advent spells what may be only a few hours left. Words of the Archbishop of York, spoken to the conference of 326 Anglican Bishops in Westminster Abbey, are very solemn. He says (Times, Aug. 9, 1948):- With the discovery and use of the atom bomb, we live, more nearly in the mental atmosphere of the first Christians who expected at any time the end of the world. Within a few years our civilization may utterly pass away. Now is the time of crisis; before it is too late we must preach the Gospel, bear our witness, repent and call upon others, to repentance, before the door of opportunity is shut. We are watching the death of an old age, and the new is still in its birth pangs. The civilization of which we were so, proud, and thought so permanent, is now threatened with the fate that has overwhelmed 18 civilizations which once were strong and flourishing. No wonder the hearts of millions are fainting for fear from expectation of the dread things which may come upon the earth. We feel we are near some great change - perhaps, in some undreamed-of way, a coming of the Lord. It is now or never.
And what an incredible possibility is ours, which now hangs on this our last lap. He that overcometh, I WILL GIVE TO HIM TO SIT DOWN WITH ME IN MY THRONE, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne (Rev. 3: 21). Our Lord is to be Monarch over the whole earth, and He will share, that royalty - its power, its glory, its wonder - with the humblest believer who has overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and who has won the prize of the race. One day of such an honour will be worth infinitely more than a lifetime, on any throne in the world to-day. May our cry be Pauls:- Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward unto the things which are before, I press on toward the goal UNTO THE PRIZE of the calling upward of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13).