THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF THE ADVENT
By THEODORE ROBERTS
"Jesus Christ cometh in the Flesh" (2 John, 7).
There the Revised Version has corrected the Old translation, which, reading as it does "is come," adds nothing to the test propounded in John's first Epistle. The tenses of the Greek word are quite different, being the perfect and continuing past in the first Epistle (4: 2, 3), and the present used for a future here. The Greek word and tense here are the same as that translated "He that shall come" in Heb. 10: 37, and "cometh" in Rev. 1: 7. Thus the test in the Second Epistle "Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh" declares that His Second Advent will be as real and personal as the First.
The First Epistle had given its warning against those false prophets who made no more of the First Coming than a theophany, like the angelic appearances of the Old Testament, and had insisted upon the confession of "Jesus Christ come in the flesh" - that is to say, an acknowledgement that He had really become man. Later in this Epistle our Lord is spoken of as having "come by water and blood" (verse 6), that is to say, He has passed through death, of which the blood and water that flowed from His side (as John relates in his Gospel) were the witnesses. In this case the tense of the verb "come" is the aorist, denoting an event past and over. Later still in the same Epistle we find the phrase "the Son of God is come" (verse 20), used to describe our Lord's present position with the Father (see 2: 1).
So that we can set out the four instances as follows:
1. Jesus Christ is come in the flesh - His birth and permanent humanity.
2. Jesus Christ came by water and blood - His death.
3. The Son of God is come - His present Resurrection state.
4. Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh - His future return in bodily form.
The importance of this last statement found in the Second Epistle is shown by the warning against the deceivers who do not confess it. It would appear that they had once belonged to the Christian community and had now "gone forth (R. V.) into the world," which is always regarded in John's Epistles as something lying outside the believing circle.
as the false Idumean King and all
So far from His coming being expected at the present time, we have the Dean of St. Paul's in the Edinburgh Review (January 1925), writing that "Millenarianism ... in its original shape of a belief in the approaching end of the world is quite dead, except among persons of very low intellectual cultivation." He also says in the same article:- "The whole spirit of the age ... combined to shatter the old Evangelical party. Its surviving supporters are either old people, or those who have isolated themselves from all currents of modern thought."
Alas, there are those going forth from so-called Christian colleges, who flatter the men of to-day with smooth speeches, predicting that the reign of peace will be brought about by human means and nothing more than possibly some undefined spiritual Coming to consummate it. Little do they seem to heed the warning of Scripture - "When they shall say Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them" (1 Thess. 5: 3). The Apostle John does not hesitate to describe the men of his day who so spoke, as deceivers and anti-christs, making the confession of our Lord's personal return the supreme test, and allowing of no compromise with these false teachers, as the succeeding warning against entertaining such persons on their travels proves, "If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed" (2 John 10).
This "doctrine of Christ" as it is here called, appears to teach not merely the personal character of the Second Advent but also to assume the permanence of the Incarnation, for the same phrase "In the flesh" is used by the Apostle John to describe both Advents. This proves that having once assumed humanity at His First Coming into this world, our Lord remains a true Man while He is absent from it, and will "so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1: 11), as the angels told the disciples on Ascension Day. This was in accordance with the prophecy of Zechariah 14: 4) that "His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives," and a reference to the preceding verse shows that the One Whose feet are thus spoken of and Who is thus clearly "in the flesh," is no other than Jehovah Himself. As E. L. Bevir puts it:-
"His bright return is surely near,
All shall confess Him yet!
The Lord in splendour shall appear
By way of Olivet."
So the treatise addressed "To the Hebrews" declares that "the world (the inhabited earth) to come" is to be subjected to the Son of Man (2: 5-7) in accordance with the prophetic word of Psalm 8.
There are many differences of opinion amongst God's people with regard to the details of the Second Advent, but such differences are not vital and therefore need not cause any division of feeling. What is vital and can admit of no enfeebling explanation is the personal character of the Coming. As the earliest of the Christian inspired writings tells us, "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven" (1 Thess. 4: 16). Any itinerant preacher who will not confess this is branded by the Apostle John as a deceiver and an antichrist.
It is confirmatory of this to notice that, while the Apostle Paul in the last of his pre-captivity epistles spoke of our salvation as being "nearer than when we first believed" (Rom. 13; 11), when he next takes up his inspired pen four years later in his Roman prison he passes from the grace of salvation to the Person Who is to bring it, saying "We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3: 20). This new note he retains to the end, speaking in his farewell letter to his beloved disciple Timothy of himself as among those "that love His appearing" (2 Tim. 4: 8).
This growing emphasis of the Apostle on the personal element in his expectation accords with the way our blessed Lord presents Himself as the Hope of His disciple's hearts. For even when at the supper table on the night of the betrayal He tells them of the place He as about to prepare for them in the father's House, he adds "I will come again and receive you unto Myself" (John 14: 3). So it is the personal presentation of Himself as "the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright, the morning Star" (Rev. 22: 16) that provokes the response of the succeeding verse "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come." We need to lay this to heart, for there is an attractive power about a Person that no combination of circumstances can approach. As Sir Edmond Denny writes:-
Bride of the Lamb, awake! awake!
Why sleep for sorrow now?
The hope of glory, Christ, is thine,
A child of glory thou.
Then weep no more - 'tis all thine own-
His crown, His joy divine;
And, sweeter far than all beside,
He, He Himself is thine.