[* See also: ‘The Presence of Christ in its effects on the Church and the World’, by R. GOVETT.]
THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST THE CENTRE OF THE SECRET RAPTURE
The Lord Jesus is coming again in person. This will not be denied by any to whom this tract is addressed.
Two views are now afloat: and, our choice lies between them.
I. MR. NEWTON’S. According to him,‑‘A series of signs has been given by our Lord to indicate to His Church the nearness of His advent; and watchfulness is the observance of those signs. At length the Lord will suddenly appear, in the glory of His Father, with His angels. His living saints will all be on the earth. The dead saints are first raised; after a brief interval, the living and dead are clothed with their bodies shining as the sun, strike terror into the minds of the ungodly, and are caught up. In one day of twenty-four hours Jesus the Lord comes, both for His saints, and with them. How then, after that, can men be ignorant of the Saviour’s coming? How can evil triumph after such a display of glory and power as that?’
‘His coming is sudden destruction to His foes. All Christendom, whether Tares or Wheat, are removed suddenly, and at once. The Tares are taken to the furnace of fire; the Wheat gathered into the heavenly garner.’
II. Is this the Scriptural account of the matter? I suppose not. It is purposed to prove from Scripture,- that the Saviour’s descent will, for a long period, be unseen; and His saints will be caught up secretly to His presence. He comes secretly FOR His Saints and after He has accomplished His work with them, He finds earth in open rebellion against Him under the leadership of the Great False Christ. Thereupon He bids the clouds that have concealed Him to roll away, and the sudden out-shining of His Presence in its glory and power puts an end to the reign of the usurper-Christ.
I propose then - FIRST, TO DISPLAY SOME OF THE DEFECTS OF
1. First, then, there are
previous signs of the Saviour’s descent, given to
2. This theory of Mr. Newton’s leaves no room for THE THIEF-LIKE COMING OF CHRIST.
‘The descent of our Lord, and the ascent of His saints, from, Abel downwards, is in manifested glory.’ But the Saviour and His Apostles speak of His thief-like coming.
(1) “This ye know, that if the Master of the house had known in what watch the Thief was coming, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to he broken through:” Matt. 24: 43. Similarly Luke 12: 39.
the angel of the Church in
(3) So late as the sixth vial (bowl of wrath) there is a warning of the Saviour. “Behold, I come as a Thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame:” Rev. 16: 15.
Now a thief hides himself, and when
possessed of consummate energy and good fortune, he carries off his booty
undetected, and is himself unseen. But
the booty here is the watchful ones of the
Is not this the very style of God’s actings in this dispensation of mercy? (1) The Saviour rises out of the tomb, and into heaven. But both actions are concealed from the world. (2) Jewish rulers arise against the Apostles, and put them into the public prison. “But an angel of the Lord by night opened the doors of the prison, and said,- ‘Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.’” The Council next day assembles, and sends to the prison to have the prisoners brought. “But when the officers came, they found them not in the prison; but they returned and told, saying, - ‘We found indeed the prison locked with all safety, and the sentinels standing before the doors; but when we had opened, we found no one within:’” Acts 5: 17-25 (Greek). (3) Peter is imprisoned by Herod, with the view of beheading him. But the night before the intended execution, an angel leads him out of the condemned cell, undoes the chains which fasten him to the sentinels, and leads him past the warders outside the cell: yet they see him not.
“Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter? And when Herod had sought for him and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death:” Acts 12. He refuses to own the hand of God in this secret deliverance, and perishes in pride and unbelief.
3. I object again. That which the Saviour has to do in regard of His saints cannot be wrought in the brief interval of one day.
The Saviour’s coming for and with His people cannot take place in twenty-four hours. In Mr. Newton’s view, the harvest takes place in a moment; but that is unscriptural. The Saviour, in the parable of the Wheat and Tares, describes the harvest as a “season.” “In the season of harvest, I will say to the reapers, First gather together the tares, then bind them in bundles to burn them, but collect the wheat into my barn:” Matt. 13: 30 (Greek). And other scriptures speak of “The appointed weeks of harvest:” Jer. 5: 24. That the tares are not assembled and bound together, nor the wheat gathered into the barn, in an instant, is shown by the Apocalypse. There we have, first the Harvest, then the Vintage:* Rev. 14. The sickle has to be sent, and the bunches of the false vine to be collected, and to be cast into the great wine-press of the wrath of God, which is trodden outside the city. And further on in the book, we find, that three evil spirits are to go forth with miracles, in order to assemble the kings of the whole habitable earth for battle against Christ. Here is another view of the Vintage, and it is not to be fulfilled in a moment: Rev. 16: 13, 14.
* The Vintage is another view of the disposal of the tares of Matthew. The Harvest of the Apocalypse describes the removal of the wheat.
The Saviour when descended will set up His judgment-seat, and before it are to be presented, by each minister of His, the souls he has won to Christ. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye before our Lord Jesus Christ in His presence?” 1 Thess. 2: 19 (Greek). Then will proceed an enquiry concerning the work of each believer: Rom. 14: 10; 2 Cor. 5: 10. And before that tribunal some will be approved, and others rejected and ashamed 1 John. 2: 28; Matt. 25. Then will the Lord decide, not only who shall enter His millennial kingdom and who be shut out; but He must adjust also the respective places which each of the approved is to hold in that kingdom. This judgment is not to be held in the presence of the world, nor after the Lord Jesus comes with His saints to reign.
4. Mr. Newton’s scheme supposes only one rapture there are at least seven:- as the Apocalypse discovers.* They all take place during the Lord’s Presence. Hence that Presence must extend over some considerable space of time: 1 Cor. 15: 23.
* A glimpse of these raptures is
given in “Unwatchful Believers left” (Fletcher,
Mr. Newton supposes, that all the saints, on
their part, will be found watchful and ready.
This is in opposition to not a
few passages. How oft do our Lord and His apostles warn His people to
watch! Those unready and unwatchful are to be left. This we see in the Robbed Householder, the
Unfaithful Steward, the Virgins, of Matthew
24., 25. “Watch ye, therefore, for ye know not when the master of the
house is coming, at even, or at
midnight, or at the cock‑crowing or in the morning: lest coming suddenly He find
you sleeping. And
what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch:” Mark
13. But lest we should
make light of the warning, what say the facts of the next chapter? The Lord Jesus retires to
6. Mr. Newton’s theory supposes also, that all the raptured saints are accepted by our Lord, without hesitation or enquiry.
But many Scriptures testify against this thought. Christ comes as “the Righteous Judge” - and not a few of his people are unrighteous: 1 Cor. 6: 8. The coming day is that of recompense “according to works.” Then it will not be enough that the tree is alive; fruit is demanded. The throne of Rev. 4. is a throne of judgment. “Who is worthy?” is its cry. The promises to Christ’s seven churches are not made to them, that simply believe, but to the “overcomers.” The Day is to be revealed in fire, and the houses of some of God’s workmen will be burned up, and, while they themselves are saved, they will have to escape, as through a house in flames: 1 Cor. 3. At the Saviour’s first discourse he warns us, that some of the salt would lose its taste, be cast out, and trodden underfoot. But one in four of those who hear “the word of the kingdom” accept it in honest and good heart, and bring forth acceptable fruit. But I forbear.
7. It assumes, that all believers then alive pass through the Great Tribulation.
There are also those who teach, that no believer passes through it. Scripture, I suppose, teaches that some believers will escape it; and some will not: the difference turning on whether they are watchful, or no.
But now a word to those who affirm with Mr. Newton that, ‘All believers will pass through the Tribulation.’ (1) This supposes, that no believer will be obedient to Christ. For the Saviour bids us - “Watch, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are about to come to pass, and to be set before the Son of man:” Luke 21: 36 (Greek). Those who so pray will escape, if the Saviour be mindful of His word. (2) It is contrary to the Saviour’s promise. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of the temptation which, is about to come upon the whole habitable earth, to try the dwellers upon the earth:” Rev. 3: 10 (Greek). This is a special promise, the condition of which is not fulfilled by the majority of believers.
It is sad that any, on the other hand, should quietly assume this promise to be true of ‘all the Church.’* Here then, in this promise, are some who will not pass through the Tribulation. I have seen the words explained, that Christ will sustain such in the trial; and through it. But that alters the Saviour’s promise. He declares, that He will keep such ‘out of the hour.’ That awful day of temptation will indeed spread its wings over the whole habitable earth. But such shall not be in it. How can that be? By taking such out of the earth into the heaven.
* The twenty-four elders are not ‘the Church.’ (1) They are glorified before Christ appears. (2) They never give thanks for redemption. The ‘us’ of Rev. 5: 9 is not genuine.
(3) That all pass through the Tribulation is contrary to prophecy. The Apocalypse shows us the Great Multitude assembled in front of the throne and the Lamb, before one of the trumpets is sounded. It exhibits the Manchild caught up before the fifth trumpet is sounded. Other cases might be cited.
8. Some who hold this
view of Mr. Newton’s sustain it, by imagining the glory of resisting evil, and
confessing the Lord Jesus before His great antagonist. They will not believe, that the Holy Spirit
is about to leave the earth. Now this
is, I suppose, the vainglory and unbelief of the
flesh. It is the spirit of
9. Mr. Newton’s scheme supposes that all Christ’s saints that are to be caught up are down on the earth when He appears.
But that is contrary to Col. 3: 1- 4: “If ye then be risen with the Christ, seek those things which are above, where the Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your affections on the things above, not on the things on the earth. For ye died [Greek] and your life is hid with the Christ in God; when the Christ, Who is our life, shall be manifested, then, ye also, together with Him, shall be manifested in glory.” This proves then, that Christ has already come for them, and that the watchful saints will be up on high, with Christ when He appears, and be possessed of the glory of the Redeemer. They must then have been previously caught up to His presence, and changed. Is there any passage which tells of their openly visible ascent? I know of none.
‘But does not this prove that all the Church will be then with Christ on high?’ No! For the testimony comes after three warnings. And into the faults stigmatized in this epistle to the Colossians many believers have fallen, and still abide. The saints will be presented faultless, “if they continue in the faith grounded and settled, and are not moved away from the hope of the Gospel:” Col. 1: 2, 3. Another warning is raised by the Holy Spirit against being stripped by philosophy and vain deceit (Col. 2: 8); and a third caution is given against losing God’s reward by affected humility, worship of angels, and will-worship (Col. 2: 18). The exhortation which opens the third chapter, begins with an ‘if.’ And it is based on the supposition, that the believer has been ‘buried with Christ in baptism, and therein risen with Him,’ - a thing which is not true of those not immersed as believers.
TERMS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE SAVIOUR’S RETURN
At the basis of our subject lies the necessity for considering briefly the different Greek words applied to the Saviour’s advent. We must distinguish.
1. There is one word signifying motion, which is freely used by the sacred writers. It represents the Saviour as on His way from heaven, and is rightly rendered ‘coming.’
(1) “They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven:” Matt. 24: 30; 26: 64. (2) “Ye know not what hour your Lord is coming:” Matt. 24: 42, 44. (3) “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” John 21: 23.
2. There is a second word, which tells of the coming completed.
(1) On the faithless Steward “the Lord of that servant shall arrive, in a day when he looked not for Him:”
Luke 12: 46; Matt. 24: 50. (2) Of the unwatchful angel of
3. But the word which is the most important of all on this subject is Parousia.* While the first of the three words signifies motion, this does not. Its root-sense is, the continuance of two things side by side. We might use the word of two mountains fronting each other, which had been unmoved from the day of their creation. It is the rendering of this word by – ‘coming’ - which is at the base of most false views of the subject. Every English reader naturally supposes that it refers to the Saviour’s downward motion. It does not. It should be translated “PRIESENCE.” It is so given by Liddell and Scott, and by Robinson.** It is so rendered in several places by the Authorized Version. “His bodily presence is weak.” “Not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence:” Phil. 2: l2. The Revised Version gives ‘Presence’ in the margin, in, I think, all the occurrences of the word with which we are now concerned. The real sense then of this key-word is “PRESENCE.” The Saviour’s motion from the heaven down into the air has ceased: His saints’ ascending motion has also ceased. They are found face to face. THE PRESENCE IS BEGUN! It takes place in some definite locality, and is continuous there for an indefinite time.
* The rendering of the Authorized Version is evidently derived from the Vulgate, which gives ‘Adventus’ as its usual translation, though in some few cases it has ‘Praesentia.’
** Though the Greek word does not in itself signify motion, motion is often necessarily implied in the context.
The same word describes the place and time of the Antichrist on earth, and thus corroborates the view given.
“Whom the Lord shall paralyze with the sudden shining of His Presence; even him whose presence is according to the working of Satan.” The presence of Antichrist is local and continuous.
The history of our Lord’s
As the Saviour’s Presence has two aspects,- one of favour to His waiting people, and one of wrath to His foes, - so was it also when the pillar of fire, in which Jehovah was, poured light on Israel’s pathway, but was thick cloud to Pharaoh’s host.
Will the reader notice how frequently the aspects of ‘the Presence’ apply to the saint? It is the limit up to which he is left on earth, and is responsible: Matt. 24: 37 - 42; Jas. 5: 7, 8 ; 1 Thess. 4: 15; 5: 23. He is presented before Christ for His approval there: 1 Thess. 2: 19; 3: 13. It is his comfort against the Day: 2 Thess. 2: 1. Those ready for the Presence are not overtaken by the Day.
The presence of the Antichrist is the gathering point of the lost in the Day of God’s indignation: 2 Thess. 2: 9-12.
Three other words give us different aspects of the Saviour’s presence:- (1) Its EPIPHANY; (2) Its REVELATION; (3) Its MANIFESTATION. Of them more will be said by and bye.
THE DAY OF THE LORD*
* The coming day, in its application to the saint, is called, not ‘the Day of the Lord,’ but ‘the Day of Christ:’ Phil. 1: 6, 10; 2: 16.
Let us now look at some passages which will instruct us concerning the coming “Day of the Lord.” For I shall assume, on the authority of the best manuscripts and critics, that we should read in 2 Thess. 2: 2: “THE DAY OF THE LORD HAS SET IN.”
1. What then says Joel?
“Blow ye the trumpet in
2. What says Zephaniah?
“The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and hasteth greatly, even the voice [sound] of the Day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That Day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord; and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as dung:” Zeph. 1: 14-17.
3. What says Isaiah?
“Howl ye, for the Day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt and they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth; they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. [The locust-plague of Revelation 9.] Behold, the Day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land [the earth] desolate; and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible:” Isa. 13: 6-11.
Other passages might be adduced: but these will suffice to show how terrible is the coming Day of the Lord.
THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST is the time of relief for Christ’s people, and is the comfort administered to the saints. “We shall be ever with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words:” 1 Thess. 4: 17, 18; 2 Thess. 2: 1, 2, 17.
THE DAY OF THE LORD is the time of woe to the world, when God in wrath will destroy sinners out of it. The Great Tribulation is its height of sorrow. How necessary then to keep distinct these two words and their different scenes! The confounding them has been the reason of much of the darkness of this subject.
Commentators generally have supposed that the Thessalonian Christians were terrified at the idea of the near Advent of Christ; and that the Apostle wrote to assure them that it was not so near as they thought, but that certain events must precede it. Now the Apostle does give signs which must precede the Day of Wrath on the world, but he comforts the saints with the Saviour’s Advent, as their security against the terrors of the Day. Believers are to pray, that they may escape the Day, and its woes: Luke 21: 36. But, to the ready, the Saviour’s coming is a rejoicing: 1 Pet. 4: 13; Jude 24.
Let us now consider the dominant passages on the subject of our Lord’s return.
1. The first of these is Matthew 24., 25.; or the Prophecy on
Olivet. We say,
that the prophecy is divided into two parts at verse 31 of chapter 24: that the first part is instruction given to the Saviour’s
Jewish disciples; and the
second part is addressed mainly to the
But at this point we are stopped. “This assertion shows to what desperate straits the advocates of this theory are driven. There is absolutely nothing to prove this!”
We are not sensible of any ‘straits.’ We think there is much evidence in favour of this view. So let us “in meekness instruct those that oppose themselves; if peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledging the truth.”
That some have urged too far the saying – ‘That’s Jewish,’ - is readily granted. But that is only the overstatement of a good principle.
What then is the historical
state of the case? Does not the Gospel
of Matthew, like the other three, acknowledge two people of God? (1) It begins with Christ presented to
By the blasphemy against the
Herod slays John, and our Lord
retreats into the desert. He warns His
disciples against the false doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees: Matt. 15. He draws out from the
apostles the proof of
At the Transfiguration the
Saviour gives a glimpse of His coming kingdom of glory. After it He gives directions to be followed
Church: Matt. 18: 17. Then He goes up to
The Saviour’s reply is twofold. The first answer is given in A.
After the tribulation of
Observe again - that the two divisions of the prophecy above noted carry a broad difference on their main features. The first part (A) up to verse 31 is direct prophecy. The second part is a series of seven parables; this very difference indicating a second body, to whom primarily they are addressed.
And as the history has set forth broadly God’s two people, is it incredible, that the Saviour should recognise their different fortunes in the great prophecy which fills up the gap till his appearing?
Look at some of the internal and characteristic differences of A and B. The subject is treated fully in ‘The Prophecy on Olivet.’
1. A is literal, and literally to be interpreted. B is parabolic, and spiritually to be interpreted. See this in the different senses of ‘winter’ and ‘summer.’ In A ’tis literal, and literally to be applied. “Pray that your flight be not in the winter.” In B ’tis to be applied figuratively. “Ye know that summer is nigh.” The token refers to the millennial day.
2. A is local. Let them which be
In A the chief
references are, not to the coming of Christ as a person, but to the advance of “the End.”
(1) “The End is not yet:” Matt. 24: 6.
(2) “These are the beginning of sorrows:” ver. 8. (3) “He that shall endure to the End:” ver. 13. (4) “Then shall the End come.”
After that comes the crisis - in
* ‘But what of “the elect”?’ Does not Old Testament Scripture speak of the Jewish ‘elect,’ and their assembly to their land? Deut. 7: 6; Isa. 45: 4, 65: 9, 15, 22; Deut. 30: 2, 3, 5.
Glance a moment into the Gospel
of Matthew beyond the twenty-fifth chapter.
What have we? (1) The
Passover and feast of
unleavened bread. That is
Is there then no foundation for the division of the Gospel into two portions running side by side, and that both historically and prophetically? He will be a bold man who denies it.
But decisive evidence in favour of the Secret Presence of Christ, and the Secret Rapture to it, is furnished by our Lord’s parable of the DAYS OF NOAH. He begins it by a word of warning.
“But of that day and that hour none knoweth, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
Vain, then, must be all attempts to foretell when these things shall be. And while not a few have ventured to foretell the time of the Saviour’s return, they have proved His wisdom and truth by their conspicuous failures.
“But as were the days of Noah, so shall be also the PRESENCE of the Son of man. For as they were, in the days before the Flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they recognized [it] not, until the Flood came and took away all, so shall be also the PRESENCE of the Son of Man.”
In this parable our Lord is answering the disciples’ question -
“WHAT SHALL BE THE SIGN OF THY PRESENCE?”
A sign is a token given of
something unseen, or unknown. So the
rainbow is God’s sign of the covenant with Noah. So the rod turned into a serpent was the sign
Christ in the parable is described as “the Son of man.” It is no spiritual coming of the Spirit of God. It is the presence of the Great Ruler of heaven and earth. To ‘the Son of man’ is promised the future [millennial] kingdom: Dan. 7: 11; Psa. 8.
He had said: “Ye shall not see Me till ye say, Blessed is He that cometh.” That was the foundation for the disciples asking for a sign of the Presence.
Though He is present near to earth, His Presence does not interrupt the flow of the world’s unbelief. “They are eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” as though all would go on in quiet and security. That is, then, the Presence is secret.
Twice in “the Days of Noah” is “the Presence” spoken of: the first time it is attached to “the days” (of unbelief) “before the Flood;” the second time it is named in connection with the destruction wrought by the Flood. This intimates that the Presence is not motion; not the sheer descent of our Lord at once from heaven to earth. It intimates that the Presence will last for some time. It is the centre to which the saved are attracted; it is the centre also whence proceeds the destruction of the ungodly.
In Noah’s day, a sign was given that the hundred and twenty years of God’s patience were ended. Jehovah called His servant into the ark. That was the token of judgment at the door. No place was safe, but the ark. After a brief respite of seven days, the waters of death would be let loose. Thus, the Saviour teaches, there will be a sign, indicating to men that the day of present mercy is past, and “the days of vengeance” have set in.
But the men of that day did not
understand the meaning of the patriarch’s withdrawing into the ark. It was God’s last call to the godless, - ‘Yet seven days, and the world shall be drowned!’ At
a like call the men of
What then is the future sign of the Saviour’s Secret Presence?
“Then shall two be in the field; the one is taken, and the other is left. Two [women] grinding at the [hand] mill; one is taken, and one is left.
“Watch, therefore; for you know not what hour your Lord is coming.”
What then is the sign of the Saviour’s Presence?
The Rapture of the Watchful Saint!
Christ has descended from heaven into air secretly. What now is to be the proof of it? The answering motion of the saint, upward to Him. Closely correlative are, (1) “the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and (2) our gathering together unto Him.”
The heavenly descent is heard, not seen. The sign of it is given on earth visibly. “Watch ye therefore and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to be set [Greek] before the Son of man:” Luke 21: 36. This is said by our Lord in connection with the hearts of men being full of the pursuits of the world, and of His descent being as a snare to all the earth.
To the Saviour’s Presence the watchful are taken. They have not been waiting in vain for the Son of God from heaven. And thus we read God’s words to Noah: “Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shall thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee:” Gen. 6: 20.
It is a sudden disappearance. So Noah disappeared from his place in the earth; and the favoured animals, by their entry into the ark, were lost to sight. So Elijah disappeared from the eyes of Elisha. Christ is come “as the Thief,” and His ready ones are caught up “in the clouds” to Him. The rapture is secret.
It is a miraculous disappearance, and therefore the more fitted to be a sign. Of two labourers beheld in the clear open space of a field, one on the instant disappears. Of two women seated on the ground, and turning the handle of the corn-mill, one suddenly vanishes. Of two in bed at midnight in a locked house, and a barred chamber, one in the morning is found missing: Luke 17. Here is the proof of an Almighty hand.
‘There is no secrecy,’ says Lord Bacon, ‘like celerity [quickness], like the motion of a bullet in the air, that flies so fast, that it outruns the eye.’ The rapture is instantaneous and secret. The Secret Rapture is the proof of the Secret Presence.
This entry into the future ark is of necessity miraculous. While the ark was a structure on earth, men and animals might enter by natural means and powers. But now that the ark is in the air, there is no ascent to it by climbing. Hence the favoured must be “caught up.”
It is an escape. It takes place “before the Flood.” It is the sign of the Day of the Lord’s wrath set in. But of some it is written: “I will keep thee out of the hour of the temptation that is coming upon all the habitable earth.” Here is the fulfilment of the promise. It is the Lord’s withdrawal of those “accounted worthy to escape.”
So it is in accord with the
previous proceedings of the Most High.
Thus Enoch, who walked with God and pleased Him, was translated before,
the Flood. Thus
Lot was led out of
The Saviour’s true servants are His ambassadors to the earth; and they testify His offers of peace to the penitent. It is most fitting then, that these should be withdrawn from earth before the terrible bombardment of earth and its guilty cities occurs. And our Lord is represented to those waiting for Him as “our Deliverer from the wrath to come.” Those accounted worthy are taken on high when the call is given “Rejoice ye heavens!” “Woe to earth and sea!” Rev. 12.
The raptured are those rescued. This is clear from our being called to interpret the scene by “the Days of Noah.” Then the enterers into the ark were saved; the left were cut off “by the waters of the Flood.” “Two shalt thou bring into the ark to keep them alive with thee.”
The Rapture is a manifestation of Divine favour. This is intimated by the Greek word used. “One is taken as a companion.”* Thus in Noah’s times, Enoch “was not, for God took him.” Thus the Saviour singled out three of His Apostles for special scenes of wonder and glory. But now the taken are dealt with more graciously than Enoch or Elijah. Not angels are come for these favoured ones; but the Lord Himself has descended for them. They are by Him “accounted worthy.” They are set before Himself in His Presence.
* Those who would wish to follow up the subject are referred to
the tracts – “Mysterious Disappearance,” “The Saint’s Rapture,”
“Unwatchful Believers” (Fletcher,
Noah is in the ark, the favoured ones go to him there. Of the rescued animals we read: “Thou shalt bring into the ark, to keep them, alive with thee.” “Thou shalt take to thee by sevens.” “There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female.” Here also we have the discrimination between the two men in the field, and the two women at the mill. The better Noah is present on high, and they are taken, not only to the ark, but into His Presence.
Thus viewed, the sign has several aspects of importance.
1. To those left who are of the Church, it is amazement and sorrow. Mercy is over; judgment is come! The Saviour has arrived, and he is left! His companion has ascended to the Presence, and is “accounted worthy.” He is passed by, dishonoured, and left to the Flood of wrath!
The Robbed Householder is “left.” Christ has come as “your Lord” and as “the Thief.” He is left, while the watchful one is taken with honour to His Presence. He learns, that Christ is come, not by any thing seen; but by the sudden, and miraculous loss of his friend. It is by the disappearance of valuables, that we are persuaded of theft. And it is a foretold theft, - after warning given. The Sinful Steward is left, and judgment seizes him. The left Virgins are those who are dishonoured, and lament.
Observe, too, that the Presence and its Sign here answer to the Presence and the Rapture in Thessalonians. The Rapture is
then the sign of the unseen Presence. The
disappearing of the watchful saint is made a sign to those left behind - to
both the unwatchful of the Church, and to
‘The Presence’ in “the Days of Noah” is at first unseen. It stops not the buying and selling. The Rapture, though it be God’s miraculous sign, hinders not the progress of evil. “They know not:” they recognise not the meaning, any more than did the world of yore. This answers to the word in Thessalonians. They say, - ‘Peace and Safety’ - with destruction at the door. “The Flood came, and took them all away,” answers to “Sudden destruction cometh upon them ... and they shall not escape.”
In the secrecy of the Rapture, I find a decisive proof of the leaving as being the token of dishonour. When Elijah went up, he bade Elisha ask what he should do for him, before he went up. Elisha, desired a double portion of the Spirit. It was a hard matter. But he should let it, if he saw the ascent of Elijah. The prophet left behind did see it, and the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha. But here the left one does not see his fellow go up, and instead of his enjoying a double portion of the Spirit, the Holy Ghost leaves the earth. He is not only dishonoured, but troubled. And the left are like the nine apostles left at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration; powerless before the possessed, and cavilled at by opponents. The left one has not watched, the Lord has arrived over him as the Thief: and he was not ready.
2. Some of ‘the Church’ are fitly made signs to the
Jewish remnant. It was foretold they
should be: Isa. 8: 13-18. The Saviour is
withdrawing from its place of witness His higher people, the witnesses of the
accepted time, of the day of mercy and salvation. The Church being thus removed from its post of
3. To the world it is God’s last challenge before the destruction of the day overwhelms the lost.
This view is confirmed by the
words in which our Lord sums up the parable.
“Watch therefore.” Watchfulness
is the secret of the rapture of the one; unwatchfulness, of the leaving of the
other. Conversion is not preparation
enough. Many are converted, who have
fallen back to the world and its pursuits, and who are careless about, or deny,
the Lord’s Return and
The Robbed Householder mourns his losses. He has lost his companion, and his hope of escape. How blest his comrade, now in the Presence of the Lord! He is in trouble, but not as the fruit of bold testimony, while possessed of Christ’s approval. This has come upon him as the fruit of slumber, and unreadiness.
I need not trace further the
parables which remain. The reader who
would search into them will find them, treated of in “The Prophecy on Olivet,” and “The Saint’s Rapture” (Fletcher,
1 THESS. 4. 5.
Turn we now to the Epistles to the Thessalonians.
“But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as the others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also will God bring those laid to sleep by Jesus with Him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the Presence of the Lord shall not forestall them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself, with shout, with voice of archangel, and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall first rise. Then we the living who remain together with them shall be caught up in clouds into air to meet the Lord: and so shall we be ever with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
The hope ordinarily taught to Christians is their going away one by one at death to be with the Lord. That is [un]true.* But the hope here presented is the common joint hope of the Saviour’s coming from on high, to assemble to Himself His saints, whether departed, or alive.
[* NOTE. The time of Resurrection is when
our Lord’s returns; when “the dead in Christ
first,” (1 Thess.
4: 16, N.I.V.): not all of the dead, but only “those
who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the
resurrection from the dead,” (Luke 20: 35). We do not ascend into heaven ‘one by one’ at the time of Death; we must “wait a little longer,”
(Rev. 6: 11) “in the
heart of the earth,” (Matt. 12: 40)
– in the “
“It is the necessary law of human nature that bodies should be buried, and souls descend into Hades.” And again - that the souls of the dead do not immediately ascend into Heaven after the time of death, Hilary says: “On their departure from the body are reserved for an entrance into the heavenly kingdom under custody of the Lord: and their place in the interim is in the bosom of Abraham, from which the ungodly are separated by the intervention of chaos.”
“We cannot but maintain that the soul [of Christ] was in a state of humiliation, as well and as long as the body, and so not in heaven, while this was upon earth, but under earth in hell [Gk. ‘Hades’], whilst His body was under earth in the grave” - [i.e., in Joseph’s tomb.] And when one rose, they both rose; the soul being fetched from hell [‘Hades’] to be united again to its body.” … “Our Saviour himself, who best knows when He” - [as a disembodied soul] – “descended into hell [‘Hades’], tells us plainly the third day after His death, being the day of [His] resurrection, that He was not yet ascended up to heaven, saying to Mary, ‘Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father,’ John 20: 17.” – Bishop Beveridge.
“Thus what the entire Church held for the first five centuries after Christ is the truth; namely, that Hades holds all the dead until resurrection the first, and then the final.” D. M. Panton. Italics mine, Ed.]
The Thessalonian Christians believed the Saviour’s coming and kingdom to be so nigh, that they sorrowed over their departed brethren in the faith, as having lost a place in the millennial reign. How could those in the tomb meet the Redeemer at His advent? They had forgotten resurrection. Christ, the Head of the coming kingdom had died, but death could not detain Him. In resurrection He burst the bands of death; and so would His believing followers. “On this Rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hadees [the place of departed spirits [i.e., disembodied souls]] shall not prevail against it.” The gates of the prison shall be thrown open, and the kingdom of the heaven[s] and of glory shall come.
“Those laid to sleep by Jesus shall God bring with Him” (Greek). What are we to understand by “bring”? Does it mean, that the Saviour has now with Him in heaven the ‘glorified spirits’ of the departed in the faith, and that He will bring them out of heaven with Him? That is not the meaning. Scripture never speaks of ‘glorified spirits.’ That were a virtual denial of resurrection. None can enter heaven and the glory of God, while they are “unclothed,” naked spirits [souls] 2 Cor. 5: 4. No! “The dead in Christ shall first rise.” They do not come down from above, naked spirits, to take up their bodies out of the tomb. “They rise.” They come up from below, already possessed of their bodies. “All that are in the graves [tombs] shall hear His voice, and shall come forth:” John 5: 28, 29.
The word “bring” then refers to the Saviour’s taking them in His train from air to the earth, when He descends to take His kingdom. Then comes an explanation of the steps preceding this which set both the living and the dead in Christ on the same level in His Presence.
“We who are alive.” The Apostle was, like ourselves, unaware whether he should be among the living or the dead at the Saviour’s advent. And this applies to us also. “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”
“We that remain up to the Presence of the Lord” (See Greek).
Great has been the confusion arising from translating the word ‘coming.’
Presence’ of Christ begins as soon as His descent out of heaven into
air is arrested. He remains stationary
in one spot of air for an undefined time.
That spot is the meeting-place of Himself and His people. (1) This is proved by the Holy Ghost’s use of
the same word concerning His Great Antagonist, the False Christ. ‘He
shall paralyze with the out-shining of His Presence him whose Presence is according to the working of Satan.’ The Man of Sin shall for a while show Himself
down on earth in the
In that future Presence much has to be transacted between Christ and His saints. There the account, as we observed, is to be rendered by His servants to their Master. “The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all, even as we do toward you. To the end He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father [not ‘at the coming,’ but] in the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints:” 1 Thess. 3: 13. “I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the Presence [not ‘coming’] of our Lord Jesus Christ:” 1 Thess. 5: 23. For not all will see His face with joy.
“And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not be put to shame by Him in His Presence.” 1 John 2: 28 (Greek).
shall this meeting be arranged? “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven” to gather His people to Him. Here is an honour not bestowed when Enoch was
taken on high, or when Elijah was caught up.
The three points next noticed appear all to attach to Christ Himself. This is evident in the order of the Greek. “The Lord Himself (1) with shout, (2) with voice of archangel, (3) and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven.”
All three refer, not to His coming openly with His saints, but to His coming first and secretly for them. The three points are consecutively arranged with a view to His gathering of the dead and the living saints.
1. He comes with “shout.” That is, to awake the dead.
Fitting it is that those “put to sleep by Jesus” should by Him be awakened. “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.”
Thus it was at the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus “shouted with loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ And he that was dead came forth:” John 11: 43, 44.
Accordingly, the next answering words here are: “And the dead in Christ shall first rise.”
2. He comes with “voice of archangel.” There is but one archangel, and Christ is He, - the Great Lord of angels. He calls to them, as I suppose, bidding them descend to earth and make ready to bear up His saints, both living and dead, to His Presence: Matt. 13: 30.
3. He comes “with trump of God.” All being thus ready, at
this signal they are caught up on high.
This answers to the railway-guard’s whistle, when all the passengers are
in the train, and all is ready for the start.
As aforetime the trump of God was the notice to
Then follows here the united rapture of both the living and the dead. “We the living together with them shall be caught up.”
‘But does not all this imply the manifestation of Christ?’ By no means. “The Lord [at Sinai] spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude, only ye heard a voice:” Deut. 4: 12, 15.
‘But must not His saints be seen ascending?’ No. (1) They disappear in an instant; as the parable of ‘the Days of Noah’ tells us. (2) They are “caught up in clouds.”- ‘But may not that mean – ‘in great multitudes’?’ No! The first principle of interpretation is, to take everything literally that admits of it. And its usual sense is the best here. Literal “clouds” attended the Lord’s descent on Sinai. The Saviour foretold His return “in the clouds of heaven.” In a cloud He ascended to heaven: Acts 1. And in like manner is He to return. Moses and Elias, after the scene on the Mount, ascended in the cloud: Luke 9: 34. And the two Martyr-Prophets ascend to heaven in the cloud that bears the Witness-Angel of the Apocalypse: Rev. 10: 1; 11: 12. Thus both the Master and the servants are concealed from men below.
The saints, both living and
dead, go up into air “to meet the Lord.” This is
the final end of the previous arrangements.
After the pause in which their places are assigned them by Christ, they
move in company with Him towards the earth.
Thus the brethren who met Paul on his way to
These are the words of apostolic “comfort.” So at length is fulfilled “the waiting for the Son of God out of the heavens.” His people shall not wait in vain.
What is the effect on the world of these wonders? Mr. Newton says:-
“In the first place, all who have fallen asleep in Christ, from Abel downwards, arise in glory. Millions of saints, even ‘a multitude whom no man can number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues,’ shall suddenly rise from their graves glorified according to the glory of their Lord, and so be presented to the trembling and astonished eyes of men.”
“Can there be this display of the Lord’s glory, and of the angels’ glory, and of the saints’ glory, and yet the earth be ignorant that the hour of its visitation is come?”
Is this according to the Spirit’s description? The next chapter tells us. It describes the world as blind to the meaning of this work of God. Living saints have disappeared out of many houses; dead saints from the tombs: but the world is saying ‘Peace and Safety!’ God would arouse them to repentance. He would have them own His hand, and that judgment has its finger on the latch, that the Destroyer may enter in. But they compose themselves to slumber, till the Destroyer allows them no escape!
As, then, there is no such dismay of the world as Mr. Newton supposes, it is because there is no such display of glory. That is, the Presence of Christ and the Rapture are both alike secret.
It appears then, that this descent of Christ is not in manifested glory taking vengeance on His foes. That comes afterward and its effects are described in the next chapter. Before the Lord and His hosts appear in judgment, the Redeemer has questions to decide concerning His people, which should not be treated before the eyes of the world. Nor would it be right that saints should rule and execute vengeance, till their own accounts with the Lord are settled.
Besides, how could the ungodly be saying one to another, “Peace and Safety!” when the Redeemer’s glory and armies were beheld in the sky? The mere out-flashing of His Presence at last takes away the power of the Usurper below.
1 THESS. 5
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I should write to you. For yourselves know perfectly, that the Day of the Lord is so coming as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, ‘Peace and Safety!’ then sudden destruction impends over them, as travail on a woman with child, and they shall not escape.”
Most break off their consideration of the Lord’s coming with the fourth chapter; but the fifth is regularly consecutive, both morally and in point of time.
First, the Apostle gives a warning word of much
importance. This descent of our Lord is
not so connected with the events of earth, as that we are able by study of the
Old Testament prophets to learn when it shall be. Vainly will any, by study of
Daniel’s “seven times,” or “seventy weeks” determined upon
“It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power.” Acts 1: 7.
‘But it is said in Hebrews: “Exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching:” Heb. 10: 25.’
Yes! behold herein the necessity for ‘distinguishing things that differ.’ The approach of ‘the great and terrible Day’ may be seen by the watchful; as wickedness increases, and the signs of wrath draw closer. But is that the same as ‘the Presence of Christ’ and its joy to His waiting ones?
The Apostle’s caution should make us suspicious of all schemes of prophecy which concentrate our attention on the earth, - ‘the Roman earth and its ten kingdoms.’* About these the Christian needs not to be careful. He belongs to a body not earthly, but heavenly. His part is bounded by ‘the Day of the Lord.’ If watchful, he will not be found in that day, and is not wrapt up in its “times and seasons.”
* Here is a fatal defect in Mr. Newton’s theory. The Apocalypse never speaks of the ‘ten kingdoms’ of the Roman earth. It speaks of the “ten kings” who arise at the same time with the Antichrist, but who possess no territory: Rev. 17: 12. They differ entirely from the unnumbered “kings of the earth.”
The Day will find earth asleep in its unbelief of prophecy, and secure in its sins. The trump of God has indeed sounded the war of God; but it is dreaming of ‘Peace.’ The rapture of chapter 4. has taken place. There are vacant places in many homes throughout the earth, and opened tombs out of which the bones are clean gone. But the startled men of earth have not seen the King Who has come down, or they would be affrighted. So they console one another, that it is a chance that has happened to them, - and they compose themselves again to sleep.
The Day comes as the Thief; and the thief does not display his coming, but seeks concealment as his policy.
God has provided true comfort for His people against the terrors of the Day; this is His enemies’ false comfort, when on the edge of destruction – “Sudden destruction standeth over them.” The Presence of the Son of God in wrath is in the air above them, and they know it not, and are unwilling to believe anything that shall discompose them.
“I will arrive over thee as a Thief.”
Thus was it in the day that Lot
went out of
Thus we see the perfect harmony which obtains between the Apostle here, and ‘the Days of Noah.’ The Presence descends unexpectedly on earth, and finds it asleep in unbelief; the rapture of the ready occurs; but men discern not its meaning, and sudden destruction without escape, like the Flood of old, encircles them.
Observe the contrast between this scene and the former one. In chapter 4. we have the Presence, and “we,” “we.” But in the next chapter it is, - “the Day of the Lord, and ye have no need that I write to you. For ye know.” And of the world it is said: “They shall say;” “Destruction cometh on them;” “They shall not escape.”
Of this sudden destruction, when
all seems at peace, we have types in the history of
This their ruin then is to be referred to the Lord Jesus’ manifested Presence and glory. And that takes place with flames of fire, with angels of might, and destruction from His Presence,
Then follows a word of comfort to the Thessalonian Christians. While the world lies in ignorance of God’s mind, in wilful enmity against Him and His people, and evil deeds, the offspring of unbelief, they were men possessed of the knowledge, of the Most High, and love towards Him and His Son, manifested in the renewed life bestowed by the Holy Ghost.
But He does not assume, as it
constantly is assumed by many, ‘that all’ ‘the Church’ will be ready.’ All
the Thessalonian Christians indeed were awake to the return of the
Lord. But that is not true of all
believers now. And even to the
Thessalonian Christians, Paul drops a word of exhortation, not to resemble the
world in its slumbers and drunkenness.
Else, it is implied, if they were so overtaken, they would be dealt with
as of the world. Witness the words to
We come next to consider the testimony of the Second Epistle.
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fit, because your faith groweth exceedingly, and the love of each of you all aboundeth to one another; so that we ourselves boast of you in the Churches of God, because of your patience [perseverance] and faith in all your afflictions and troubles which ye are enduring, which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye are oven suffering; If indeed it is a righteous thing with God to recompense trouble to those who trouble you, And to you the troubled relief with us; when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with the angels of His might, In flame of fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and on them that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall have come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all that believed (for our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
This Second Epistle was written to correct a misapprehension into which the Thessalonians had fallen. What was it? It is ordinarily said, that they were troubled, because they had set in their minds the Lord’s Coming too near, and that the Apostle wrote to comfort them, assuring them that He was not to come so soon as they expected, but that certain events must precede His arrival.
Now this does not explain their terror. For they had been taught to wait for the Saviour’s return as their hope, and not as an object of fear. And this the Apostle’s testimony they had accepted. “Ye turned from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait [without any intervening signs] for His Son out of the heavens, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, our Deliverer from the wrath to come.” How then should the expectation of the Saviour’s advent, as close, terrify them? The Apostle speaks of it as (1) their hope, and (2) comfort. “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” More exactly it is, “the patience of the hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And again: “We shall be caught up to meet the Lord in air, and so shall we be ever with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
What was there here to rouse dismay?
There was indeed one statement of the first epistle which brought sad tidings. “The Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and Safety!’ then sudden destruction cometh on them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.”
It was on this statement that the enemy fastened, adding to the truth a falsehood. – ‘That day of woe and wrath is now upon the world, and you are in it, and must pass through its terrors!’ This it was which troubled them; and not any fear of the Saviour’s advent.
Mark here how necessary it is to distinguish between the Saviour’s Presence of blessing for His [obedient] people, and the destruction which shall fall upon the world from the great and “terrible Day of the Lord.”
This error might have been corrected from the first epistle. For Paul presents first the Lord’s coming for His people by way of comfort; and then he testifies (in the fifth chapter) to the Day of wrath as destructive judgment on unbelievers. ‘But,’ he adds, ‘that Day of wrath is not coming on you, because you are not lying in the world’s night of ignorance and unbelief; nor are your lives under the practical darkness of the sins in which the world lives. God has chosen you, not to wrath, but to salvation.’
The Thessalonians’ fear arose principally from faith in the prophecies which foretold the terrors of “the Day of the Lord.” But these would not have troubled them, but for the falsehood, that that Day was now upon them.
However, the enemy, as usual, grafted a lie upon the truth. And the Holy Spirit has made use of their mistake for our warning and enlightening. (1) It is still the Day of Mercy. (2) It is not yet the Day of indignation and righteous vengeance.
Both the dismay therefore of the Thessalonians and the comfort of the Apostle have been wrongly interpreted. On the view here opposed, Paul says, ‘Comfort your hearts! Christ is not coming so soon as you feared! Be looking out, not for His Personal appearing but for the signs which must precede it.’ This is again confusion between Christ’s coming Presence for His people, and the Day of wrath coming on transgressors.
So heavily had the false tidings pressed on them, that they had almost given up hope. While in the first epistle Paul speaks of their display of faith, hope, and love, he, in this second epistle, while praising them for their great increase of faith, and the abounding of their love, is silent about their hope. 2 Thess. 1: 3, compared with 1 Thess. 1: 3. They regarded the troubles that had befallen them, as the proof, that the Day of Woe was really on them, and that it was the proof of the Lord’s displeasure.
Therefore the Holy Spirit comforts them by true views of the character of the Coming Day. As that Day is “the Day of Judgment” (or ‘of justice’) from God, in it He will render to each according to his works. To the wicked He will repay wrath; to the righteous peace, and glory, and joy: Rom. 2. That is the very design of the Day on God’s part.
Observe how, during the Gospel day of mercy, Satan troubles the saints with tidings of woe and judgment; while, on the other hand, he laps the world to slumber when the Day of wrath is really come, by the false comfort, ‘Peace and Safety,’ when sudden destruction impends over their heads.
From this principle they might
have drawn the true inference, that the Day had not
come. For that Day is to render justice
to both persecutors and the persecuted.
The obedient pleasers of God would not be “accounted
worthy” of the woes due to the lawless haters of God and His
people. Enoch, who Pleased God, and
testified of the coming judgments of God, was not left to the Flood, but rapt
to heaven. And, while
In the description given in the first chapter of this second epistle we have not set before us the order of award to the persecutors and to the persecuted respectively. What is set forth is the just results of the principle of the Day: ‘to troublers trouble, to the troubled relief.’ Then again, at the revelation of Christ from heaven there would be angel-executioners of His wrath and flames of fire. These would be for vengeance on sinners, and for their eternal destruction. While, when Christ should have come in that day, it would be for glory to the saints and believers.
As then the saints were suffering, and not glorified, neither the Day of wrath, nor Christ, had come!
Nevertheless the Thessalonians bore their persecutions with courage and patience. Those words which follow, - “which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God,” - may be so taken as to cause us stumbling. ‘What! is it righteous in God to allow the doers of good to be persecuted, and their persecutors to trouble them with impunity?’
No! This is the day of mercy, and hence the Most High allows the wicked to trouble His children. But it is the strange calling, to which for awhile His people are appointed, - “to do well and suffer for it.” But in the dominions of a Righteous Judge, that cannot go on for ever. A day is appointed, in which the Lord’s righteousness shall be manifested; and then the award will be “to each according to his work.” So that the sufferings of the Lord’s children are a proof of the coming of another day on another and the opposite principle, which shall set right the strange results of this.
The Most High will in that day “account worthy” of His millennial kingdom those who have even suffered for it. Some will enter that kingdom who have only believed in it; but, if so, how much more shall they enjoy it, who have suffered on behalf of it! This view is confirmed by Phil. 1: 28, 29.
That word “accounted worthy of
“If indeed it be righteous with God to recompense to those who trouble you, trouble.” This is stated rhetorically, as if the matter were doubtful; and it is not to be translated: “Seeing it is righteous.” Thus we say: ‘If two and two make four, the man is wrong.’ That is, there is no more doubt about it, than that twice two make four.
The Thessalonians had mistaken the principle of the coming Day. It is ‘the Day of justice.’ And justice measures out to each his desert. The sufferers for righteousness will therefore in that Day be comforted, according to the promises: Matt. 5: 11, 12.
Therefore God would award trouble to their persecutors, and to themselves “relief.”* Paul, Silas, and Timothy were then suffering no less than themselves, and together would they experience relief in that Day. The point on which the Apostle is instructing them is not the order of events, but the righteousness of the Day; and the twofold, and opposite, effects of it. First these are stated generally; and then particularly, specially in regard of the manifestation of the Lord Jesus.
* It is not the usual word for ‘rest.’ It means the removal of that tension and strain which persecution produces.
“At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven.” ‘At Christ’s unveiling’ the wicked will suffer. This supposes, then, that He is previously veiled from sight in heaven. His saints experience ‘relief’ the moment they are caught away out of earth to Him. The vengeance on the persecutors falls when the clouds, which have long concealed Him, roll away, and His Presence of might and wrath is displayed to earth. His “face” is shown (ver. 9); and from it proceeds destruction to His people’s foes. ‘The Apocalypse’ (or ‘Revelation’) of Christ marks the Day of wrath at its height.
He shows Himself with “the angels of His might.” They are His attendants, come to execute judgment. He comes “in fire of flame,” or “flame of fire.” The readings of the Greek are divided; the sense is the same.
Persecutors have misused this fearful element of ‘fire’ against His people, as early as Nebuchadnezzar’s day. It will now be let loose on those who deserve it: a ‘fury of fire,’ as it is called in Hebrews (“fiery indignation”), which is about to “devour the adversaries:” Heb. 10: 27.
Christ will take vengeance visibly on two classes. (1) “On them that know not God;” - the heathen; (2) and “on them that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This word describes all, both Jews and Gentiles, who have heard the Gospel and not received it. Has my reader closed with Christ as his Saviour?
“Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”
Some would interpret ‘from the face’ to signify ‘away from the face.’ This is not correct. Scripture tells of His enemies as “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:” Rev. 14: 10. It means ‘destruction proceeding from the face of the Lord,’ as in several places of the Old Testament. Of Nadab and Abihu we read: “There went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them:” Lev. 10: 2. Also of the two hundred and fifty rebellious princes it is written: “And there came out fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense:” Num. 16: 35.
“The glory of His power” is illustrated by that word: “The appearance of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the Mount:” Ex. 24: 17. Mark it well! Devouring fire on His enemies will g1orify God as the God of justice.
The offenders suffer “everlasting destruction.” Destruction is the opposite to construction. Construction is the fitting and fixing of part to part in order to compose a valuable whole. It is a process which takes various forms. Destruction too is a process, and here it is said to be ‘everlasting’ or ‘eternal.’ It is the taking away of the transgressor's welfare, not of his being. “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever:” Rev. 14: 11.
Punishment ought to be continued as long as it continues to be deserved. But these never cease from hating God and His people. And the haters of God and His people deserve punishment. As long then as God is righteous, and a “consuming fire,” while they hate Him and His people, so long will they suffer. If it be a righteous thing that the wicked be punished, justice can never save them.
“When He shall have come, to be glorified in His saints.” Here the Saviour’s motion out of the air to the earth is intended. Here is the final award to the holy, and to the sufferers for Christ. Christ is the centre of the glory of that Day.
Now the glory of His saints, when their bodies ‘shine as the sun,’ comes from Christ, and is like His Own glory. The remnant of the inhabitants of the earth who survive the destruction of that Day will be astonished at the glory given to these.
Observe, again, that they are glorified, not simply as believers, but in reference to their sanctification.
“And to be admired in all them that believed!” The participle should be read in the past; not “all that believe.” As the wicked are divided into two classes, so are the rewarded of that Day. And, if I mistake not, this second class makes room for those left behind, who pass through the future Great Tribulation, that they may have part in the first resurrection: Rev. 20: 4-6.
It is difficult to decide on the sense of this last clause, for there are three or four legitimate constructions, according to the place we give to ‘in that day.’
1. ‘He shall come … in that Day.’
2. “To be admired in all that in that day believed.” That would signify, that all who shall be found in that evil day to hold fast the truth of Christ’s coming and kingdom, shall be admired by the men of earth. This would take in classes two and three named in Revelation 20: 4.
3. ‘Believers now in the doctrine concerning “that day”.’ This rendering would connect itself with the reading ‘believe.’
We should then have, (1) believers in the day, considered as a doctrine; and (2) believers actually found on earth in that day, as a peculiarly difficult season to faith.
4. Or join the phrase with ‘admired.’ “All that believed are to be admired in that day.”
There is a difficulty also attending the parenthesis.
Why did the Apostle insert - (‘for our testimony among you was believed’) - before ‘in that day’?
Was it by way of comfort to the Church at Thessalonica? Does Paul intend to connect them with the latter class of the saints? ‘Christ shall be admired in all believers in that day, and of that day. And you belong to them: for you accepted our testimony.’ Was he careful to name them, lest they should think he denied them to be believers in that ‘coming Day’? But the first of the two classes ‘the glorified’ - seems to be superior to those simply ‘admired.’ And the first place belongs to the approved of the Church.
“In that Day,” is a critical phrase for the “Day of the Lord,” both in the Old Testament and in the New. It is a Day on a different principle to that in which we live. Christ is now the High Priest unseen within the veil, and the day is of mercy. But He comes forth as the King, in visible majesty and power, and that is the day of award.
11. “Unto which end also we pray always for you, that God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil [in you] all good pleasure in goodness, and the work of faith with power.”
Paul’s prayer was, that God
would “count” his
beloved Thessalonians “worthy” of the
We have now arrived at the decisive chapter - 2 Thess. 2. It is, as I believe Mr. Craik used to say, the worst translated chapter in Scripture. The Revised Version has corrected some of its many errors.
2 THESS. 2: 1-15
“But we beseech you, brethren, by the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not quickly shaken out of your wits, nor be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that ‘THE DAY OF THE LORD HAS SET IN.’ Let none deceive you by any means; for [that day shall not set in] except there come the Apostacy first, and the Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition, who opposeth himself to, and exalteth himself above, every being called God, and [every] object of worship, so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
“Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which hinders, in order to his being revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, only there is the Hinderer, until he remove out of the way.
“And then shall be revealed the Lawless One, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of His mouth, and shall paralyze by the [sudden] shining of His Presence, even him whose Presence is according to the energy of Satan with all power, and signs, and wonders of falsehood, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for the lost, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them an energy of error, that they may believe the lie; in order that all may be damned, who believed not the truth, but took pleasure in the unrighteousness.
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; unto which He called you by our Gospel, unto the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold fast the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or by our epistle.”
This passage is distributed into Seven Divisions, as follow: those again are divided into four and three; or, more exactly, - one, three, three.
The testimony of this chapter is decisive against two errors.
I. Against that which calls itself ‘THE PROTESTANT INTERPRETATION.’* That asserts, that
the Day of the Lord’s wrath has been for ages upon the
Church and the world, and yet it must assume, that the Day is neither great
in its plagues, nor “very terrible.” It teaches that the
Apostasy has taken place centuries ago, and that Men of Sin have seated
themselves in the
* For refutation of the so-called ‘Protestant Interpretation,’ see “The Popes not the Man of Sin,” and “The Man of Sin; who is He?”
II. It is decisive too against Mr. Newton’s doctrine: (1) that the Presence of the Lord is not in secret at all, but only in manifested glory; (2) that there are signs, which must precede the Saviour’s descent to take His watchful ones of the Church to Himself; and (3) that the Church of Christ must go through the terrors of the terrible Day of the Lord.
The proofs, against this second view especially, will appear as we advance.
We proceed now with the Exposition.
1. In the first epistle, the difficulty with the Thessalonian believers concerned the dead saints. Though called to God’s own Kingdom and Glory, how could they have part in it, since they were in the tomb? To that error the Holy Spirit applies the truth of the Saviour’s coming, the resurrection of the righteous, and the assembly of the living and the dead together to His Presence.
2. In this second epistle, the difficulty arose touching the living saints. Were they not then living in “the Great and Terrible Day” of the Lord’s vengeance? ‘Were not the sufferings which their persecutors, were inflicting, tokens of the Lord’s displeasure?’
To this the reply of inspiration is, first - That the coming day is one of justice. Hence, in that day, the persecutors would suffer trouble, and the sufferers for the Lord’s sake would receive relief, and glory. As it was in the first epistle, the Presence of Christ is still the comfort held out in this. Their second error was, that they had put (1) the Presence of Christ and (2) the Day of the Lord out of God’s order. The Presence of Christ to collect His people to Himself precedes “the Days of vengeance,” and takes Christ’s waiting ones (not ‘the Church’ as such) out of the earth, before the terrors of the Day begin.
This then shows us, that on a due regard to the difference of time and of design between THE PRFSENCE and THE DAY turns the understanding of the whole question. The importance of the distinction begins to appear in the translation of the first verse.
“But we beseech you, brethren, by the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not” – ‘troubled.’
On which Alford observes, that it ought not to be rendered “by the Presence,” but ‘concerning the Presence.’” “It is most unnatural, that the Apostle should thus conjure them by that concerning which he was about to teach them.” Now this observation supposes, that ‘the Presence of Christ,’ and ‘the Day of the Lord’ are only different names for the same thing. And then the remark would be just. But perceive only, that ‘the Presence’ was and is the Church’s hope of deliverance from the terrors of ‘the Awful Day’ that will smite the world, and you see the source of the commentator’s mistake, and that which at once justifies the usual translation, and sets the whole question in its true light.
As this is the core of the difficulty, I will give a few extracts, showing the usual error upon this point.
1. Mr. Guinness in a late speech says:
“It is a question then of ‘our gathering together to Him;’ and Paul speaking of this says, that it shall not come, except there be a (the) ‘falling away first’” (m.i.).*
* M.i. means ‘my italics.’
Here ‘the Presence of Christ’ to gather His people is confounded with ‘the Day of vengeance’ which is to overtake the world; “for that day shall not set in, except there come the falling away first.”
2. Mr. Paterson echoes this sentiment.
“These people who were waiting for ‘the coming of the Lord’ could never have expected it, until ‘the Apostasy’ had been fulfilled; that is, until 600 years or later. But now you can expect it at any moment, since the Apostasy has come.”
Here is the same confusion. No signs given by God are to precede the Saviour’s Presence, but the Apostasy must precede the full wrath of the Day.
Olshausen in his Commentary on the passage says:
properly PROPHETIC communication
Meyer in like manner says:-
“The thought of the Advent had given rise to new disquietude and perplexity.” “The opinion now prevailed, that the Advent of the Lord was immediately at hand, that it might be daily, hourly expected.” “The Apostle wished - and this is the chief point - to oppose the disturbing and exciting error, as if the Advent of Christ was even at the door, by further instructions.” “Christ cannot return, until the power of evil, which certainly already begins to develop itself, is consolidated.”
Christ’s descent is for His Saints, and does not depend on the world’s development of evil; but on the ripeness of his spiritual wheat-field - the Church: Mark 4: 28. And that is a point known only to the Great Master of the Harvest.
Take lastly an extract from Dr. Eadie:
“The Apostle now passes to one special purpose of the epistle - to cheek and correct those erroneous and premature anticipations of the Second Coming, which had become prevalent in Thessalonica.”
The Thessalonian Christians had been taught to expect “the Son of God from heaven” without the interposition of any signs. When the Apostle more particularly unfolds the subject of Christ’s descent for His Saints (chap. 4.), he tells only of the signs which accompany His Presence, and the assembling of His Saints to Him. Of the Day, its terror, and destruction he does not treat till the ensuing chapter.
Many signs are given to
Does any quote: “Exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the Day approaching”? Heb. 10: 25. We reply, as before; that the increase of iniquity discovers that judgment is necessary, and is becoming increasingly near. But it is not on the height of the world’s evil that the Descent of Christ for His people turns.
The Presence of Christ is the punctum saliens, the free end, on which all the series of the connected events depends. Let us look a moment at the order here supposed. The Saviour descends into air; then occurs the first Rapture. With the Rapture on high comes the Hinderers’ removal from earth. Close following on the Hinderers’ removal come the Apostacy, and the Man of Sin. That is Satan’s day, and he puts forth his powers of miracle and deceit to exalt his king, and to lead men to believe in, and worship him. Then comes the out-shining of the Saviour’s Presence, the cessation of the Antichrist’s reign, and the perdition of His adherents.
Now, when the Presence of Christ shall begin, is a secret, known only to the Father.
What then was the fear of the Thessalonian Christians?
It stands expressed in the proposition‑
“THE DAY OF THE LORD HAS SET IN.”
That we should read “the Day of the Lord,” instead of ‘the Day of Christ,’ is decided by critics generally, upon manuscript authority. It is confirmed too by the former epistle, and occupies there the same place in the order of events. In 1 Thess. 4. we have the Saviour’s Presence. In the next chapter – “You know perfectly, that the Day of the Lord is so coming as a thief in the night.”
Now had they been in the Day, the terror of the Thessalonians would have been justified. The Day is “very terrible,” and the prophets called on men to tremble before the wrath of God to be then poured out: Isa. 2.; Joel 2. And Paul does not deny it. “It shall come as destruction from the Almighty!”
That the Greek should not be rendered “is at hand,”* is generally agreed, so that I will not enter into the criticism concerning it. It should be translated “is set in.” ‘The day of the Lord’ is a season; and as we say of the winter, ‘It has set in,’ so it may be said of this coming season.
* Into the criticism of the Greek I do not care to enter. The reader will find it in Alford, Eadie, Meyer: or he may consult the Englishman’s Greek Concordance on the word.
What then do we mean, when we say – ‘The winter has set in’? We mean, not only that the warm season is over and the cold established, but that we expect both the continuance of the cold and an increase of its severity. That is true also of ‘the Day of the Lord.’
Let me illustrate this by a passage from “Martyrs of the Indian Rebellion.” “We have now really got the hot weather; it has set in late” (p. 96).
‘The Day has set in,’ was the ground of the Thessalonians’ mistaken fear. ‘The Presence of Christ will precede the Day and take the watchful Saints out of it’ - is the Apostle’s comfort. Here is the decisive overthrow of Mr. Newton’s views. On his theory, ‘the Church must pass through the Great Tribulation to come. There is no secrecy of the Presence; there is only the Saviour’s descent in glory on the last of the 1260 days of the Antichrist’s reign. God’s Day of justice and wrath on an evil world must wrap the Church also in its sorrows.’
But if the Presence of Christ is to precede the Day of Woe, and to assemble to Himself His watchful Saints, the ready ones of the Church will not be in the Day at all.
Mr. Newton’s error is worse and more terrifying than the Thessalonians’ original one. They thought, that the Day had begun. He teaches, that the Church must pass through the out-poured wrath of the Woe-trumpets and Vials. If they were terrified at the thoughts of the Day’s beginning, how much more if they had been taught by the Apostle, that they must go through the whole of the battle with the False Christ and Satan, and the indignation of the Lord “against the generation of His wrath.”
That the Presence precedes the Day, was shown in the first epistle also. The Presence and our Rapture to it is the main substance of chapter 4.; the Day is not spoken of till chapter 5.
Their mistake was, that they set ‘the Day’ of wrath before the Presence of Christ, which brings mercy and deliverance to His people. The Apostle therefore teaches, that the Presence of Christ then descended into air to gather His people to Himself is the Divine comfort against the fear of the Day. The Presence of Christ takes His ready ones out of the earth, on which the terrors of ‘the Day’ are about to fall. Thus that by which the Apostle beseeches them contains the antidote to their dismay. It was the Presence on the one hand, and their assembly to Christ on the other, which carried the needed comfort. He grounds his appeal on the truth taught in the former Epistle, that Christ was coming alike for His departed and His living Saints. The little word ‘our’ before ‘gathering together,’ resumes the teaching of his first epistle.
The Saviour’s coming and Presence were not terrible. He had said: “Let not your heart be troubled.” “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” And so Paul in his former Epistle had ruled the matter. They had been from the first taught to “wait for the Son of God from heaven;” and so he announces Him as “our Deliverer from the coming wrath.” The destruction which the Day was to bring, was not for them. For they “were not in darkness, that the Day should overtake them as a thief.” “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Apostle next mentions the thing which had roused their fears; fears so strong as almost to unhinge reason. Three things had contributed to this result. They were troubled through testimony (1) by a spirit, (2) by word, and (3) by epistle, as if written by Paul.
How are we to understand the
words “by spirit”? Paul’s history at
The meaning of - “by word, or by epistle as (if) from us” - is also clear when we compare it with verse fifteen of this chapter. “Hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.” We must understand, therefore, that a saying falsely attributed to the Apostle, and a forged letter, gave great currency to the falsehood which was troubling them.
The structure of this Epistle is remarkably twofold but in this deceit of Satan’s we find a triplet. It stands closely related to a second triplet farther on, which Satan shall employ effectually against the world of unbelievers. He shall lead them to his lie by “all (1) power, and (2) signs, and (3) wonders of falsehood.” ver. 9. During the Gospel-day, the Apostle, by the testimony of the Spirit of truth, speedily blighted this deceit. But, in the coming Day, the devil’s delusion will be seconded effectually by God’s indignation, unto the perdition of the lost.
“Let none deceive you by any means; for [the Day shall not set in] until there shall have come the Apostasy first.”
What is meant by “the Apostasy”? The so-called ‘Protestant Interpretation’ makes it mean ‘the corruption of Christian truth,’ as found in Romanism. But no! it is the open outburst of wickedness, which occurs as soon as the Hinderers are removed. While they are on the field, only “the mystery of lawlessness” has leave to bestir itself. If ‘Apostasy’ be corruption of the truth, it had occurred already in Paul’s day! But no! Apostasy is lawlessness casting off every bond.
At the removal of the Hinderers shall take place the abandonment of faith in Christ, not by individuals alone, but by so-called ‘Christian nations.’ The Second Psalm describes the open outbreak of human hatred against God and His Christ. The Saviour foretells His rejection by “the generation,” which includes Gentiles as well as Jews: Luke 17: 25. See also 1 Tim. 4. Instances of single Apostasy occurred early. The Emperor Julian is named the Apostate. At the first French Revolution, some publicly renounced Christ. Apostasy, observe, is a personal affair.
“And the Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition.”
Out of the abandonment of the True Christ, the Great False Christ springs. Men are not ready for this deceiver, till they have renounced God’s mercy in Christ. It is on these impious ones that the wrath of God, in the Day of the Lord, “shall immediately fall.” Rev. 13. - 16. describe that period of sin and woe.
‘The Man of Sin’ is as truly an individual as is Christ ‘the Man of Holiness.’ He is “the Wild Beast,” as truly as Christ is “the Lamb.”
But he is also “the Son of Perdition.” If he exceed all other men in impiety, he will also, in the righteousness of the Great Day, exceed them in punishment. For a thousand years he is cast into “the lake of fire and brimstone” before Satan is. As he sets himself up against Christ, so Christ overpowers and consumes him, as we are afterwards told. His pre-eminent sin is, that he “opposes himself to, and exalts himself above, every being that is called God, or that is an object of worship.” Impiety so great never has appeared before, and never can again. This proves him to be an individual.*
* Those who wish for farther
evidence, will find it in – “The Saint’s Rapture.” “The Man of Sin, who is He?” and “The Pope, not the
Man, of Sin.” (Fletcher,
His attitude and place while putting
forth these impious pretensions are then given. “He sits in the
What are we to understand by “the
That this building is meant,
many evidences conspire to prove. (1)
What does ‘the
(3) That this is to be the scene of Jews’ and Gentiles’ wickedness, many Scriptures assure us. Our Lord notes the time of the Great Tribulation as occurring at Jerusalem specially, when the statue of the False Christ shall be set in the temple: Matt. 24: 15.
There has never yet arisen one opposing all Godhead but his own, and exalting himself above every object of worship, true or false. Much less has any king arisen, backed by all Satan’s powers, and leading away all the lost to obey and adore.
The temple of God in which this
deceiver shall sit, is not built, and cannot be while the Church is owned of God
as the worshipper of the Father and the Son (John 4., 1 John 4.), nor while it
proclaims the Day of mercy through Christ.
So that the objection – ‘the
(4) The preparation for this interpretation, which is given by the Apostle in the former Epistle, is usually overlooked. Let us look at it! “For ye, brethren, because imitators of the churches of God that are in Judea in Christ Jesus, for ye also have suffered the same things from your fellow countrymen, even as they also, from the Jews (1) who both slew the Lord Jesus, (2) and their own prophets, (3) and drove us out, (4) and please not God, (5) and are contrary to all men, (6) forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, (7) so as to fill up their sins always; but the final wrath is already upon them:” 1 Thess. 2: 14-16 (Greek).
These seven points show us the
spiritual position of
‘But the temple does not exist.’ Will there be any difficulty in reconstructing it when the Apostasy and the wrath of God are come? Julian the Apostate attempted it in an early day, but was divinely compelled, by God’s mercy to the world, to abandon his unbelieving project.
But the temple’s rebuilding, as we
observed, marks the Gospel-day as over.
The Saviour declared to the Samaritan woman, that the Gospel was about
(5) In another, and as
remarkable a way, the temple at
The sins of
5. “Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you this? And now ye know what hinders; in order that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, only there is a Hinderer at present, until he remove out of the way.”
Here is a new beginning of the prophecy, carrying comfort to the saints, by a view of the barriers which God had in grace interposed against that day of wickedness.
What is the Hindrance? And who is the Hinderer?
1. Some, in ancient days,
supposed the Hindrance to be the
The character of the Hinderers must be good; for they cheek evil. Satan, as Paul notes in the first epistle, hinders good: 1 Thess. 2: 18.
2. I suppose the Hinderers are, (1) the Church, and (2) the HOLY SPIRIT. These are closely allied; and so closely allied are the Greek words that express them. The Holy Spirit first raised up the Church, and still maintains it.
1. The CHURCII
sustains the truth of Christ in
the world. It is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” It is “the
[* NOTE. This ‘body’ can, and does, include many disobedient redeemed children of God: hence the apostle’s warning of the loss of their millennial inheritance. See also Eph. 5: 3-5. cf. 1 Cor. 6: 1-10; Gal. 5: 21.]
2. The HOLY SPIRIT is the great Hinderer of lawlessness. “Sin is lawlessness:” 1 John 3. (Greek). And the Holy Spirit restrains the spirit of independence of God, and resistance to His will. He came down from heaven to bear witness to Christ, in conjunction with the Church: John 15: 26, 27; Acts 1: 8. And the Spirit of Christ, as the spirit of truth, cheeks the spirit of Antichrist, and of falsehood. He testifies to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and produces life and faith in the souls of men. He came down to raise up a spiritual body to Christ, the Risen Head. And the members are soon to be completed by Him. He is waiting for Christ’s return and has kept up the hope and the testimony of it for age after age: Rev. 22: 17. His present work is done, when the Saviour comes back. It was by His testimony through the Apostle, that the Thessalonians were led to turn from idols to serve the living and true God. And when He departs, men will turn from the true God to a false one, and will serve an idol of their own making. As the [Holy] Spirit dwelling then, and now, on the earth, caused the believers to “wait for the Son of God from heaven,” so, when He has departed, the doctrine will be scouted, as fabulous and impossible. And then will descend on unbelievers that wrath of God, from which the Saviour delivers His people.
In short, the Spirit’s characteristic three names all fit in with the subject before us. (1) As “the Spirit of Christ,” He opposes the Spirit of Antichrist: Rom. 8: 9; 1 Pet. 1: 11. (2) As “the Spirit of truth,” He counteracts Satan’s deceits: John 14: 17; 16: 13. (3) As “the Spirit of grace,” He bears witness to the Gospel and its forgiveness: Heb. 10: 29; Zech. 12: 10.
3. The presence of the Church
and of the Holy Spirit below makes the present day the day of mercy. The
The season then of the Church, with its witness of grace and offer of salvation, is not the appropriate season for the appearance of the Antichrist. God’s elect are not complete, and the Spirit is working in grace toward this end.
The opening words of the epistles are generally “Grace and Peace;” that is God’s testimony to the Day of mercy; and the Church echoes it to the world by doctrine and practice. Those who own Christ’s Lordship make the present day unsuited to Antichrist’s denial. The pleasers of God keep off His wrath. As the failing away from the grace and truth of Christ brings God’s just vengeance; so the abiding in the truth of the Father and Son keeps abiding still the day of mercy.
The Holy Spirit of truth and grace by His Almighty energies keeps back the unholiness, the falsehood, the lawlessness of the world. The Saviour in the days of His flesh stood “in the midst,” testifying the day of grace, and raising up witnesses to the truth: John 1: 26; Luke 22: 27; Acts 2: 22. But He removed in His appointed time, and the Holy Spirit descended to take His place. As long as the Holy Spirit abides on earth He constitutes it the day of grace, and works the calling out of the elect, and the edification of the body of Christ. And while this is the case, God cannot pour down the artillery of His wrath on the world which He is wooing to be saved. But when the general renunciation of his Son breaks out, mercy ceases. What is now going on is preparing the Way for this. Less and less result does the proclamation of the Gospel effect - and men at last will “turn away their ears from the truth,” till they turn to fables instead: 2 Tim. 4.
But as the Gospel message is still preached, and some accept it, the Day of wrath has not set in; it is not the fit time for the Antichrist, and till it is his suited season he cannot make His appearance. The false spirit that affirmed in Paul’s time, ‘that the Day of wrath had set in,’ was at once stopped by the contrary testimony of the Holy Spirit. But when the Holy Ghost removes, Satan and his angels have not only full licence to deceive, but God sends an energy of delusion to bear away the refusers of His Son. The testimony, that ‘the Day of woe has set in’ is false, as long as the Holy Spirit and the Church proclaim it the Day of mercy. Thus the Holy Spirit and the Church show themselves to be the two Hinderers of whom the Apostle writes.
As the sojourn of the Hinderers below prevents evil in various forms, so their removal gives free scope to lawlessness on man’s part, and to wrath on God’s part. The Spirit’s departure opens the door to Satan’s unhindered agency in setting up the Man of Sin as described in verses 9-12.
The descent of the Holy Ghost at
Pentecost brought signs, wonders, and powers
to attest the true Christ and His resurrection; and great was the holiness of
the body raised up by His power. When,
in the coming day, the Holy Spirit withdraws, He leaves the field free to
Satan’s energy of delusion, and to his new religion – “THE LIE,” - the
deadly opposite to “THE TRUTH” of Christ. In place of
mercy, truth, salvation, come wrath, falsehood,
damnation. The fit season
of the true Christ, and that of the Antichrist, are opposite morally,
and in point of time. The season of the
truth and of the Gospel of the Christ is now.
The Gospel has, with all its blessings, been retained on earth, not by
Roman Emperors, but by the Holy Spirit, and by the
To these proofs that the Church and the Spirit are the Hinderers of God’s appointing and sustaining, we may add some confirmation from that word -
“And now ye know what hinders.”
Paul had named the hindrance in the first verse of the chapter.
(1) He had spoken of the saints
of the Church as assembling
to Christ on high. While on earth they
hinder; they are gathered out of
earth, and the hindrance is then withdrawn.
For they are not like
(2) All the aspects of the Church and Spirit of God are adapted to hinder the presence of the Man of Sin, and the Apostasy, on which the Day falls. Falsehood is to ensue when the Hinderers are gone, and the Spirit and saints are “of the truth.” You are “the Salt of the earth;” and not till you are removed does the carrion sink into putridity. You were constituted by Christ “the light of the world;” and until you are withdrawn, the blackness of its darkness will not arrive. Lawlessness will have free course when the Hinderers are out of the way, and you believers are “under law to Christ:” 1 Cor. 9: 21.
The Authorized Version gives one the idea, that the removal of the Hinderer is an involuntary one. But that sentiment is not conveyed by the Greek text. The Latin has only: “There is a Hinderer, until he become out of the way.” So Alford. The work of the Holy Spirit done, and His testimony of grace in the Gospel-day over, He withdraws, before the war of God against earth begins.
It is manifest then that the
Removal of the Hinderers is
only in another form, the Rapture of the ready saints. To the saints it is joy, and escape of
the woes coming on the earth. Their
ascent and presence above account for the
absence of the Hinderers below. As the Spirit’s descent began the formation of the Church, so His
departure ends it. In the first verse of
this chapter we see the close conjunction of the Lord Jesus and His saints,
after the Gospel-day is complete. In
the disclosures concerning the Hinderers, we see the close conjunction of the Spirit and the saints, during the .Gospel-day. The Holy Spirit upholds the Lord’s Supper
Lord’s coming : 1 Cor. 11: 26. When the Saviour is come, the rites of the
The Presence of the Christ and the Rapture correspond morally, and in point of time, with the Removal of the Hinderers. The Hinderers cannot withdraw before the Saviour’s Presence; else the Apostasy and the Day of woe would fall upon the ready saints. We, if ready, must be taken out of the Trouble of earth and be set in the Saviour’s Presence, at the Removal of the Hinderers. The open renunciation of Christ shall not be allowed to afflict the waiting ones. “I will keep thee out of the hour of the temptation which is about to come on all the habitable earth.” Therefore the presence on earth of the waiting saints is proof, not only that the Day of wrath has not set in, but also that the Saviour has not left the Father’s throne, nor are the Hinderers removed.
As two views are given of the Apostasy and the Man of Sin, so two views are given of the barriers God has set against them. ‘The Man of Sin’ is also “the Lawless One.” The apostates are also “the lost.” As the Presence of the Man of Sin below attracts to Himself the lost, so the Presence of the true Christ on high attracts to Himself God’s beloved ones. And they take two different aspects, according as they are seen on earth struggling against the wickedness of earth; or when their toils are finished and they are gathered out of earth to Christ, for whom they were looking. The ascent of the saints on high is the counterpart of the removal of the Hinderers from below.
The departure of the Holy Ghost from earth is the other free end of the series of events, and the two are knit closely together. The descent of the Son of God from above is the signal for the Spirit’s ascent on high. For then His work in gathering the elect members of Christ is complete.
That the Hinderers are the Spirit and the Church is also proved, by the time of their presence on earth, and the season of their departure being the same, both to the Hinderers, and to the Church and Spirit.
1. When the Son of God is come, the ready saints ascend to Him. When the Lord Jesus is come, the Hinderers depart. They cannot leave before that time, since otherwise the Day of wrath, and the Apostasy, would be assailing the Church. The Rapture of the ready ones precedes the Day of woe. The Hinderers must be removed before the Apostasy, and the Day of judgment, which avenges it. Thus the Church and Spirit are seen to be the Hinderers.
2. Ambassadors are removed before war begins. The Church is God’s ambassador, bearing His message of grace and peace. The Church then (I mean always the ready of the Church) must be removed before the war of God begins. Those left are discredited, and they keep not the Church’s original standing. The removal of the Hinderers is the rapture of God’s ambassadors, because the day of grace is over, and the day of judgment set in. The Holy Spirit and the ready of the Church depart together, for nearly the same reasons.
3. The Man of Sin is ‘the Lawless One.’ Until the ready saints are caught up to Christ’s Presence, the Lawless One is not come, and cannot come. As long as the Hnderers are on earth, in the way of Satan’s plans, so long the Lawless One is not come. The saints then are the Hinderers. The sin of man and the judgments of God are stayed while the Hinderers are here, and while the Church is owned as God’s witness of salvation.
4. If then the Hinderers are
still here below, the Apostasy and the Man of Sin are not come. If it is still the Gospel-day, the Hinderers
are still below, and, as is self-evident, the Day of wrath has not set in. If the Apostasy and the Man of Sin have been
for ages on the earth, the Hinderers have been removed ages ago. The Hinderers are here still, if they be the
5. The saints’ removal precedes
the judgments on the ungodly. So Enoch
was taken away before the Flood, and
6. Observe once again, reader, that the primary, unfixed point, on which all depends, is the Saviour’s descent.
(1) No sign is given as preceding that. The time of that depends on the Father’s counsel, undisclosed to us. But when that takes place, as soon as Christ comes down, the Holy Spirit goes up. Of that also there is no sign given.
(2) Then comes the first Rapture of the ready saints. This, is Hinderers.
(3) Thereon ensues the renunciation of Christ by multitudes.
(4) That forms the fitting season for the unveiling of the False Christ.
(5) The Day of God’s wrath has then fully set in.
(6) The watchful are to escape that Day, which encompasses the whole habitable earth; hence they must be out of the earth, and therefore in safety in the Presence of Christ above.
In short, all the moral landmarks remain as Paul left them. Until some believers have suddenly disappeared from earth, Christ has not come, nor has the Day of wrath set in. It is as yet only the Wheat and Tares growing on side by side to ripeness. As yet no angels have come down to gather the Wheat into the heavenly garner, or to collect together and bind the Tares for the furnace.
“And then shall be revealed the Lawless One.”
The Lawless One, the awful representative of the lawlessness of fallen man, makes his appearance, as soon as the Hinderers are removed, and the True Christ has been openly rejected.
But then we are shown, how, in the Day of justice, He becomes “the Son of Perdition.” The Lord Jesus, whose glories he usurps, overthrows him by two stages: (1) Christ has been present on high, while this Lawless One blasphemed and defied Himself, and His Father. At length the time is come for the Christ, the Son of God, to show Himself! The Secret of His Presence ends. The sudden outshining of His glory on high paralyzes His Antagonist. His reign is at an end! He whom the Usurper blindly denied and defied is come in divine glory, and with the hosts of heaven. The sudden sight takes away his power.
How that expression, ‘the outshining of His Presence,’ tells of the previous Secrecy of it! As the Secrecy of it was designed for the gathering of the saints; so the revealing of the Presence takes place for the scattering and destruction of God’s foes!
The Presence of Christ unseen in air cannot last for less than three and a half years - the time of the reign of the Man of Sin, plus the time necessary for the outbreak of the Apostasy, or the open renouncing of Christ, which ensues on the removal of the Hinderers. How much longer it may last, none can say.
There are thus two
Rival Presences. On high are the Father* and the Son; and to their
Presence the ready ones of the Church ascend.
Below are Satan and his King to whom he makes over all his power, as the
Father does to His Son, the Lord Jesus.
In the dread period of the reign of Antichrist, the false religion of
Satan, founded on resurrection, comes to its systematic maturity as “The Lie,” and the False Prophet enforces
it on all the lost. ‘Who is God?’ is the great
question of that day, as it was of Pharaoh in Moses’ day: Ex. 5: 2.
* 1 Thess. 3: 13.
The Redeemer moves down to earth, and with “the breath of His lips” He consumes the Wicked One:* Isa. 11: 4. Again: “For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the King is it prepared: He hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire, and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it:” Isa. 30: 27, 33.
* The Antichrist has died once, and is not to die again. He and his False Prophet are cast “alive” into the lake of fire: Rev. 19.
‘But why are not these two stages of Christ’s infliction of woe on His foe given in chronological order?’
God often gives a better order than that of time. Here we may see, that it is the sacred writer’s design, to put in close and vivid contrast the False Christ’s “Presence” down below, with the glory of the True Christ’s “Presence” on high.
“He shall paralyze with the [out] shining of His Presence him, whose Presence is according to the energy of Satan.”
The saved of the Christ have
gathered to His Presence on high, whose kingdom and glory are appointed and
guaranteed by the Father. The lost
adherents of the Antichrist are gathered to him below, seduced by the miracles
of falsehood exhibited by him and his False Prophet, and confirmed by the “energy of delusion” sent in just wrath by God. Thus the murmurers against Moses and Aaron
gathered together in the camp of
Verse 13 shows us the saved, and the means of their salvation. The Holy Spirit sanctifies; the saved accept the truth of the Gospel. The close then of the prophecy confirms our view of the Hinderers, and discovers to us the effect on the world of the Holy Ghost’s withdrawal. As, when He descended at Pentecost, signs, wonders, and powers of truth were exhibited on behalf of the true Christ, evil spirits were cast out, and multitudes believed; so, when the Holy Spirit leaves the earth, Satan bestirs himself on behalf of the False Christ, and miracle leads multitudes away to perdition.
WHICH COMES FIRST? (1) THE CHRIST? OR (2) THE ANTICHRIST?
The point in controversy may now be put in another form. Which comes first? (1) The Christ? or (2) The Antichrist?
I. Mr. Newton says - THE ANTICHRIST! II. We say - THE CHRIST! We ask then: What saith the Scripture? What is the order in the Word of God?
1. In ‘the Days of Noah’ ‘the Presence’ comes in ‘the period before the Flood,’ when men are careless in unbelief, and before ‘the Day’ and its wrath.
2. In 1 Thess. 1: 10 the saints wait for the Son of God, and no signs are given as necessary to precede. The Son of God is ‘our Deliverer’ from the wrath which descends on the False Christ.
3. In 1 Thess. 2: 18-20, and 3: 12, 13, the Apostle speaks of the Saviour’s Presence (not ‘coming’) as our point of assembly; but there is no word concerning the Antichrist, as about to appear, or to make us aware that the Saviour is near.
4. In 1 Thess. 4., God’s order is (1) the Presence of Christ as the gathering point of His saints; and then in (2) chap. 5., ‘the Day,’ which is the season in which the False Christ appears.
5. In 2 Thess. 2. we have first the Christ present, with no previous sign given; then the Antichrist, and his proceedings, - first of defiance toward God; and, afterwards, of delusion on men, exercised unto their perdition.
how should the Christ appear, and yet the Antichrist dare to show himself?’ It is because the Saviour’s presence is in
secret. How did
6. The present is the Day of grace, which the Christ inaugurated after the Holy Spirit had come on Him, and after His victory over the devil: Luke 4. But the Antichrist cannot come, till Satan is cast out from heaven (Rev. 12., 13.), and when the Hinderers of lawlessness, and of the Man of Sin, are removed.
WHICH COMES FIRST? (1) THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST FOR THE SAINTS? OR (2) THE DAY OF WRATH ON THE WORLD?
Be it observed, that there are two great aspects of “the Day” of wrath: The first in relation to heaven; the second, in regard of earth. The Day begins above, as soon as the throne of Rev. 4., which is the throne of judgment, is set. But that is not seen on earth. That throne is set, as soon as the throne of grace, to which saints of the Church draw nigh, has been removed. At length the Day shows itself in its terrors and destruction upon earth. It is at its height, when the Woe-trumpets sound, and the Vials are poured out.
1. The Presence precedes the Day of wrath. It is so seen in ‘the Days of Noah.’ The Saviour is on high before the Day’s terrors and destruction, which answer to the Flood, have aroused men from their careless unbelief.
The Presence is comfort for the Saints, as bringing escape from the fearful Day.
2. The Saints are taught in 1 Thess. 1: 10 to look for the Saviour’s descent, and their deliverance, without any preceding signs. But signs precede the Day.
In 1 Thes s. 4: 15 we have
Presence of Christ, and the Saints meeting
the Lord. In the next chapter we
have ‘the Day’ as destruction on the
world. The Day is of wrath on unbelievers,
4. In 2 Thess. 2: 1. we have ‘the Presence’ and one of the Raptures. ‘The Day’ is not named till the next verse. Signs are given before the Day can come; none are given before the Presence.
5. In James’ Epistle, disciples are taught to be patient, not until the Day, but until the Presence: 5: 7.
6. In 2 Peter 1: 16 we read: “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty; for He received from God the Father, power and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.” That is, the glory of the Transfiguration was a specimen [or preview] of the glorious Presence of Christ [upon this earth during His millennial reign] of which prophecy tells us. And so, I suppose, the Saviour’s descent to those at the foot of the Mount was typical too. What did He find there the next day? The lad possessed by an evil spirit and his almost faithless father; the disciples through unbelief, unable to cast out the spirit of Satan. The Saviour descends with rebuke first to the faithless and perverse generation, and then to the demon in possession; whom He ejects, never to return again. “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I command thee, come out of him and enter no more into him.” Mark 9: 25.
We may add some further inferences.
1. If the Saviour’s Presence comes before the Antichrist and the Day, it takes place at first in secret; for the manifestation of our Lord’s Presence of glory puts an instant stop to the power of the Antichrist when at its height.
2. If the Christ comes for His Saints before the Antichrist and the Day, the ready ones do not go through the Tribulation.
3. If the Church is to go through the Tribulation, it ought to know concerning “the times and seasons,” in which it is personally interested: 1 Thess. 5: 1.
4. The Hinderers are taken away before the day for they leave before the Apostasy; and the Apostasy comes before the Day, and is morally the cause of its wrath.
5. If the Hinderers be (1) the Church and (2) the Holy Spirit, they are removed secretly. For their removal hinders not the onward progress of manifest impiety.
6. If the Hinderers are taken away secretly, they are the Holy Spirit and the Church. For the Spirit and the Church hinder lawlessness, but are secretly to be removed before the Day.
7. The Antichrist arises not till after the Apostasy. The Hinderers if they are the Church and the Spirit, leave, as also do the rapt Saints, before the Apostasy. That is, the Church is the Hindrance. While on earth Christ’s true-hearted ones stay the development of impiety: their rapture is to them the battle done, and the escape won. The Day of grace being then over, the flood-gates of impiety are opened.
Of the two forms of the Hinderers, we have one, ‘the Hindrance’ named in “our gathering” to Christ. The Spirit as the Hinderer is implied in the closing part of the prophecy, where the effects of His removal are described.
The Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost brought miracle and gift, the energy of converting grace, sanctification and salvation. The enforced descent of Satan and the Holy Spirit’s voluntary ascent reverse the matter, and bring the day of wrath, miracles of falsehood, the False Christ, boundless licence of word and deed, and damnation.
LET US NOW LOOK AT THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOCALYPSE.
Be it observed, that we stand between two contrary doctrines.
1. Mr. Darby teaches, that the Church (or the saved of this dispensation) will be removed as a body, and all at once; whatever the false position and wrong conduct in which [regenerate] believers are found. ‘The whole Church by the Rapture escapes the Tribulation to come.’
2. Mr. Newton teaches, that, ‘All the believers in Christ found on earth at the lime of the Saviour’s descent have to pass through the Great Tribulation.’
Scripture, as I am persuaded, teaches, that both are partly right, and partly wrong. It is true that ‘the Church’ has peculiar nearness of relation to the Risen Son of God, being His body, the complement of Him who fills all in all and therefore it is vastly above [the nation of] Israel, both in present standing and future destiny. * The son of the bondwoman shall not have the same heritage as the son of the freewoman: Gal. 4: 30; Heb. 11: 40.
[* That is, after the remnant of Israel as a nation are saved (Rom. 11), and the resurrected saints - (which must include all prophets and overcomers from Old Testament times) - rule with Christ in His Messianic Kingdom, (Psa. 37: 9, 11, 22, 28, 29, 34, 39a; Jer. 30: 9; Ezek. 37: 12-14, etc.) There is nothing in Scripture, as far as I can see, to suggest that New Testament saints are ‘vastly above’ Old Testament saints! Both will be resurrected at the same time, Heb. 11: 40; and both will then have immortal, glorified bodies of ‘flesh and bones’ (Luke 24: 39): we will then be like “the angels,” (Luke 20: 35) - able to ascend into the heavens, or descend to earth!]
But the Day of Christ’s descent is the day of reward “according to works:” Rev. 22: 12; 2: 23. Our Lord comes not, till the throne of Rev. 4.- the throne of judgment - is set. After that, the Church’s present testimony to the day of grace and the throne of grace is past. From the throne of Rev. 4 goes forth the cry: ‘Who is worthy?’ Hence, the saved of this dispensation are not represented as one body, but, in view of the coming Day, are regarded as Seven Churches, each of which occupies a different attitude; encouraged, blamed, or warned by Christ, as their spiritual position requires.
Who will say that all [regenerate] believers are ready, either doctrinally, or practically, for Christ’s coming? Are not many blind, and asleep? And will not those found at the spiritual level of the world be treated as the world? Will not the tasteless salt be cast out of the house, and trodden under foot?
‘But the Bride must be complete’ Truly! But WHEN?
Those who affirm, that it is complete and will reign with Christ during the millennium, must prove it! Be it observed, that the Bride of Paul’s Epistle is not the same as that of the Apocalypse.
On the other hand, not all of the Church go through the Tribulation, nor are all compelled to wrestle with the manifested Antichrist. There will be those on earth who are watching for Christ, and praying to [“be able” to] escape the Day. These will be accounted ready for Christ, and worthy to escape: Matt. 24: 44; 25: 10; Luke 12: 40 ; Rev. 3: 10; 2 Thess. 1: 11; Luke 20: 35 ; 21: 36.
The Day and its wrath are not meant for those already reconciled to God, as we are expressly told: 1 Thess. 5. But some may, by their [wilful and unrepentant] sins, find Christ to come as the Avenger: 1 Thess. 4: 3-8.
The Presence of Christ and its assembling of the ready to Him must precede the Day of woe, else it were no comfort to Saints troubled with thoughts of the terrible Day. The Day is to relieve, not to trouble, the sufferers for Christ: 2 Thess. 1.
The characteristic places of the
unreconciled men of the earth and of the men of faith are shown, in the Sixth
Seal, and in the Great
Multitude, respectively. The men of earth are terrified, hiding and
howling, as the prophets say: Rev. 6: 12-17. The Great Multitude are
standing in white robes, as priests before the throne and before the Lamb, rejoicing,
because salvation is come. The
God’s better people, keepers of
the Gospel Passover, enter into the better temple above, led by the Risen Lamb.
They have come out of
here concerning the angels and their Churches in the Apocalypse. That of
It is unworthy special-pleading to make Philadelphia the proof that all the Church shall escape the Day, when Sardis shows us an assembly left to the Day, and Thyatira is made a witness of Christ’s judging the offenders of His Churches. Those found in their proper preparedness for Christ and heaven, are taken out of earth, when earth is ripe for judgment and woe. It is not promised, that the conquerors shall be sustained in the hour of woe, and through it, but that they shall be kept out of both the place that is to be bombarded, and of the time of the bombardment.
Joshua, on high with Moses, is kept out of the scene of sin and sorrow, both while Aaron is making the Calf, and afterwards when the sword is sent to avenge it.
The Apostle John ascends, as soon as the door on high is opened, and the Saviour with trumpet-voice calls: “Come up hither.” He is in an instant in heaven. “And behold a throne was being set in the heaven:” Rev. 4: 1. How remarkable the proof hence derived, that the throne of chapter 4. is the throne of judgment. For see! John, in trouble for Christ, is caught away from His witnessing of mercy, even before the throne of judgment has settled in its place!
Take next the testimony of the
twelfth chapter. There,
AND NOW A WORD OR TWO IN ANSWER TO OBJECTIONS.
1. ‘Your Secret-Rapture-views make two comings out of the Saviour’s one.’
Not so. When the end of a journey is fixed, the
journey is but one, though it may take place
by two or more stages. Of this,
railway-notices are a proof. ‘Passengers to
2. ‘The testimony of the parable of the Wheat and Tares is against you. The judgment on the Tares precedes the blessing on the Wheat. The Tares are removed from the field before the Wheat. For our Lord says: “In the time [season] of harvest I will say to the reapers [Angels], Gather ye together first the Tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the Wheat into My barn.”’
The mistake here arises from too confident a dependence on the English translation.
The parable is mainly occupied with the earth, as about to be the Kingdom of the Son of man. It brings into prominence the marring of the crop by the introduction of the Tares. How shall they be disposed of? The Householder’s servants ask permission by force to remove the false professors. Their proposal is refused. The confusion shall not be rectified by believers, nor in this present age. It is deferred to the Harvest-season of judgment, when Angels shall effect the separation between true Christians and false. The Saviour, in the words relied on as against us, is describing the order of the reapers’ acts in preparing the Tares for the fire. ‘First gather together then bind.’
Their judgment of the Tares is separated from their work on the Wheat by a ‘But.’ “But collect together [another word] the Wheat into my barn.” It is not ‘Then collect together.’ The last point, or the collecting the Wheat comes in as a secondary matter, in the point of view of the parable. The angels’ gathering together of the Tares and their binding them, is a business requiring some time; as we see by the gathering of the clusters of the Vine of the Earth for the Vintage (Rev. 14: 17-20), which is another aspect of the same vengeance on Antichrist and His crew. The Harvest of the earth precedes the Vintage in Revelation, as it does in nature: ver. 14-17.
Observe how the Saviour’s explanation in the parable confirms the previous Secret Rapture. “The Son of man shall send forth His Angels, and they shall gather (together) out of His kingdom all things that offend [all stumbling-blocks] and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. There shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father.”
Then if the righteous shine out like the sun in the heavens, they must previously have been in the heavens; though for awhile hidden by a cloud: 1 Thess. 4. “Caught up in clouds.” It is not taught in the parable, that Christ appears in glory before the angels are sent to assemble the righteous to Himself. We know that the righteous appear on high in the glory as soon as the Saviour appears: Col. 3.
We have hitherto been chiefly engaged with (1) ‘the Presence’ of Christ. But three other Greek words are employed in reference to our Lord’s return. These may be stated generally to be equivalent to the English words - (1) ‘Appearing,’ (2) ‘Revelation,’ and (3) ‘Manifestation’ respectively. It is here that our opponents think they find the strength of their cause. Let us see if they will avail them.
1. 1 Cor. 1: 7: “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming [‘revelation,’ - Greek and Revised Version] of our Lord Jesus Christ.” On which one observes: ‘Saints are not (on your views) to look for the Revelation of Christ; for they will (you say) have been taken away from earth years before. But see! the Apostle commends them for this. They were therefore right in so doing; and we ought to be looking for the “Revelation of Christ.”’
Whereto we reply: ‘The Revelation of Christ takes place to the saints in the secret of His Presence on and before He appears to the world.’ He is not unveiled to His saints at the moment when He is revealed to the earth. They have beheld Him long before; they come with Him: 1 Thess. 2: 18-20’ 3: 12, 13; 4: 17.
“Revelation” is a word and an idea* applied both to the Saviour and to His antagonist. In each ease the word refers to the manifestation of the Person of each. “Until the Apostasy have come, and the Man of Sin be revealed.” “Then shall the Lawless One be revealed.” Concerning Christ we have: “At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven.” “Your faith, found unto glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ:” 1 Pet. 1: 7. The unveiling of Christ in heaven speaks of His previous concealment there.
* The substantive is used three times of the Saviour; the verb, three times of the Usurper.
Both the True Christ and the Pretender are already in existence. Both have once lived on earth. But the One is in heaven; the other in the bottomless pit: Rev. 11: 11; 11: 7; 17: 8. He is revealed by coming up from below: Rev. 13: 1. The Son of man is revealed by coming down: first, from, the heaven into air, where He is seen by His saints; then, from the air to the earth, when He is seen by the world.
2. Take another passage adduced against us: “Keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing, [‘Epiphany’] of our Lord Jesus Christ:” 1 Tim. 6: 14. On which some argue thus: ‘Why was Timothy to keep the command till the appearing of our Lord? Was not his trial in that respect to end years before, by his removal to the heaven? and the Secret Presence of the Redeemer?’
On the meaning of the word which
occurs here, I would make an observation or two. The Greek word implies, (1) Light shining (2)
on high, and (3) suddenly appearing: as may be learned from Liddell and Scott’s
Greek Lexicon. Josephus uses the word of
the sudden out-shining of the glory of the Lord on high, when Joshua and Caleb
were in peril from the madness of unbelieving
This view is remarkably confirmed by the circumstance, that while ‘Revelation’ and a Presence are attributed in common to both Christ and Antichrist, an appearing (Epiphany) is never assigned to the False Christ, even where the Saviour’s presence is brought into closest proximity to his. The reason is now plain. The Deceiver does not appear in light on high..
These observations will, I think, suffice to clear the ground of objections arising from passages akin to these. There shall be an unveiling, an appearing, a manifestation of Christ to both His saints and to the world, but at different limes, and in divers manners. To the saints the Saviour appears first in the Secret of the Presence; to the world afterwards. The fallacy on which our opponents have rested, is, that the ‘appearing’ ‘revelation,’ ‘manifestation,’ refer only to the Lord’s discovery of Himself to the world.
Let us now look at some
TYPES FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT, AND FROM THE NEW
1. ENOCH, pleasing God, and caught away from earth before the wrath of the Flood, forms our first type. We, as men of faith, if we please God, believing in Him, as the Rewarder of those that diligently seek Him, shall be caught away before the Day of earth’s tribulation descend upon it: Heb. 11: 5, 6.
2. There is, I am
persuaded, a tacit comparison instituted by the Spirit, between Moses’ mission,
and Paul’s. God, in the Gospel, has
called and is calling out of the world a new chosen race. Paul’s testimony, like that of Moses, was not
in word only, but also in power. The
word was well received by the Thessalonians, but at once affliction attacked
* 1 Thess. 2: 15.
3. The scenes at SINAI lend much confirmation to our
the covenant is ratified by the blood of bulls and goats, the seventy-two
invited elders go up through the cloud; and are admitted to God’s
Presence. They behold God, while
They are commanded to abide there
till the return of Moses. But they soon
grow tired; their faith fails, they descend to the level of the people. Their own disobedience and unbelief
concerning Moses, set in vehement motion the unbelief
of the people. Then came the Apostasy. “Up, make
us gods, which shall go
before us; as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of
Thus many Christians have left, and are leaving their place of separation from an evil world, and their waiting for Christ, and those who do so will be caught at last in the whirlpool of the evil day at hand.
Observe, that the Aposlasy and the idol occur in front of the Presence of Jehovah. The Calf is made as soon as unbelief in Moses’ return pervades the camp. It is made after the ascent of the favoured seventy.
Then, but for Moses’ intercession, the fire of God’s wrath had consumed the nation. Moses descends, and the wrath of the Lord comes on them as a thief. While they are naked and dancing, believing that all was ‘Peace and Safety,’ Moses comes upon them, and beholds their sin; and the “sudden destruction” of about three thousand displayed the indignation of Jehovah.
At Moses’ cry for vengeance, the sons of Levi “gather together to him” with the sword, and slay. Thus the armies of Christ gather to Him in heaven, in preparation for “the battle of the Great Day of God Almighty.”
Later on in the history, we have
another Apostasy, when the people disbelieve the power of their God to bring
them into the land. “And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let
us return into
We have another outburst of unbelief in the conspiracy of Koran and Dathan to set aside the leadership of Moses, and the priesthood of Aaron. The tabernacle is the scene of the conflict. And fire comes forth from the Lord, and cuts off the two hundred and fifty offerers of false fire, pretenders to the priesthood.
In the NEW TESTAMENT the glory of the Transfiguration was not only kept
Afterward came the Saviour’s manifested earthly glory, when
He presented Himself to
Let me now sum up the main conclusions.
The argument here maintained is, I suppose, decisive against‑
I. The so-called PROTESTANT INTERPRETATION.
1. Its great error is the confusion between the present Day of mercy, and the future one of judgment. The Apostasy, and Man of Sin, cannot make their appearance in the Gospel-day of mercy. The Hinderers God has set prevent the appearing of Apostasy and the Antichrist till the Day, when wickedness has risen to the full, and God’s indignation is openly poured out in certain specified supernatural plagues, on the refusers of the True Christ, and the worshippers of the False Christ.
2. Its error is, in a modified form, the very
one against which the Apostle, by the Spirit, directed his blows. It supposes the Day of wrath to have fallen for ages, alike on the
Church, and on the world. The barriers
set by God have (it teaches) for ages been removed, the Man of Sin has been for
centuries sitting in the
In short, it has revived the ancient deceit of the enemy. – ‘The Day of wrath precedes the Presence of Christ and the rapture of the watchful.’ But, “Let none deceive you by any means!” The putting the Day before the Presence overthrows God’s order, and the Apostle’s comfort to the Thessalonians is destroyed. ‘The whole Church has to pass through the Day of Tribulation, or the wrath of God!’ This, if true, would exasperate the fears of the believers then, and now. Thank God it is not true!
II. It is decisive, I believe, also against - MR. NEWTON’S VIEW. That rests mainly on the mistranslation of Parousia by ‘coming’ it is on the true rendering of it by ‘PRESENCE’ that the argument of the present tract turns. The Presence begins, when the Saviour has descended out of heaven into air, and His people are caught up to meet Him. It has two aspects: (1) first of SECRECY, for the assembly of His Saints to Himself, and their adjudication before Him, when their entry into the millennial glory or not, and their posts in the [Millennial] Kingdom, will be decided. This secret aspect is needed also for the world. Its concealment allows time, after the saints are withdrawn, for the renunciation of Christ by the nations, and for the rise and reign of the Antichrist. It is strongly confirmed by the types at Sinai. There is first an ascending of nobles to God’s Presence on Horeb, before the lawless demand for the idol arises. And the Calf is made, and Aaron becomes its; High Priest, in front of the Mount of the Presence, and within view of ascended Moses!
(2) But the Presence has also its time of MANIFESTATION; when the questions touching the saints have been arranged by Christ above, and the impiety of His foes below has reached its ripeness for vengeance. Accordingly in 2 Thess. 2. the Presence is twice named: first, in its aspect of secrecy for the assembling of the ready and then in its out-shining to destroy the Enemy and his adherents.
Many are the proofs of the Secrecy of the Presence.
1. It is spoken of more than once by the Old Testament. “He made darkness His secret _place, His pavilion around Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies:” Psa. 18: 11. The, two next verses give the manifestation of His Presence as the preceding verses have described the resurrection of Saints: ver. 6-9. “Thou shalt hide them in the Secret of thy Presence from the judgment of man; thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues:” Psa. 31: 20; 27: 5.
2. The parable of ‘the Days of Noah’ supposes the Saviour’s unseen Presence. For a sign of it is asked and given. And the sign is not a manifestation; but an instantaneous disappearance of the approved one. “He was not; for God took him.” As the Presence is secret, the sign is a disappearance, and both are of one quality. The disappearance below corresponds to the appearing on high. That it is secret, appears again, in that it hinders not the development of wickedness on earth. After the removal of this Enoch, the lawlessness of men brings on the Flood of foretold wrath.
3. In the Epistle to the Thessalonians the Saints are caught up “in clouds.” As the Saviour went up unseen by the world, so do they.
4. The angel of
5. All the passages which speak of Christ’s coming as the Thief establish the same view.
6. As the Presence precedes the Day of vengeance, it must be first in secret, that the wickedness of the earth may come to a head, before destruction overtakes it.
7. It is morally fitting that the servants’ giving in of their account to the Master should be in secret, before they come with Him in glory to exercise judgment on others. The armies of Christ gather on high before they are seen in the sky, accompanying the Captain of the Host of God to the battle.
8. We are to be changed into His image by seeing Christ in the glory: 1 John 3: 2. This is not true of those below: Rev. 1: 7. And we come with Christ in the glory. Our rapture above takes place, therefore, in secret, before the Saviour appears.
Time is needed for the change on God’s part from the Day of grace to the Days of vengeance. For God is slow to wrath. The Church is now God’s witness of mercy; and all the time that it is owned of God, it must so continue to witness. It must therefore be withdrawn from its present post, and its message silenced before the impiety of the lawless calls out Satan’s full miraculous power of deceit, and God’s avenging mission of delusion on the lost. Before the proclamation goes forth from God, - “The hour of His judgment is come” - the present proclaination – “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” - must cease: 2 Cor. 6: 2. Great is the change from sons worshipping the Father; to men worshipping God as the Creator of heaven, of the sea and the fountains of the waters of earth: Rev. 14: 6, 7.
It is necessary again, that the
secrecy of the Presence be of some considerable duration. It
cannot be, that the Saviour comes for and with His
people in one day; for the reasons above given. Its duration cannot be less than four years;
for the Antichrist’s reign is for three years and a half, and time will be
needed after the rapture of the saints, to allow of the joint renunciation of
Christ by the rebellious nations, and for their assembly to
If the Saviour’s coming for and with His Saints take place in one day, that day must be the last day of the reign of Antichrist, for the glory paralyzes Him. And then the whole Church must pass through the future Great Tribulation.
On Mr. Newton’s views, also, the Day of wrath is to precede the Presence of Christ and the Rapture. His teaching, also, removes Paul’s comfort, and would have exasperated the Thessalonians’ fears. That the Presence and its Rapture precede the Day is God’s order, which sets aside this error. Also both systems overlook the abiding of the Hinderers in the midst, who keep down both the sin of man, and the answering wrath of God. Both make the time of the Church’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s sojourn, to be the Antichrist’s own time!
Sufficient proofs, I suppose,
have been given, that the ready ones
of the Church do not go through the tribulation arising out of God’s wrath on refusers of the Gospel.
That the watchful of the Church are not to go through the Days of vengeance is clear, from the Saviour’s promises to the ready, from His directing us to pray to escape them, and from the prophecy of the Apocalypse. That shows the waiting and ready caught up on high; some (1) before a Seal is opened, (2) the Great Multitude assembled in front of the throne before the Seventh Seal, and (3) the Manchild caught up to the throne of God, before Satan is cast down from heaven, and the time of extreme woe to earth begins. That any of the Church are left during that period of suffering is owing to misconduct; the want of prayer or watchfulness, or preparation. It is a dishonour and chastisement inflicted by Christ on such, after warnings given. The being on earth in that day is full, also of trouble and dishonour from men; while those accounted worthy to escape are honoured on high, in the Presence of the Great Deliverer from the coming wrath.
The mystery of lawlessness has not yet developed into apostasy. It cannot, while the Hinderers are present. It cannot, till the Presence of Christ and the Rapture have come. Here, then, the oneness of the removal of the Hinderers, and the Rapture of the Saints, is shown.
The removal of the Hinderers brings on the Apostasy. The removal of the Church and the Holy Spirit would give the world over to darkness and corruption. Here then it is seen, that the Hinderers are the Church and Holy Spirit.
The Presence of the Hinderers maintains the Gospel’s time of mercy. The Presence of the Church and the Holy Spirit does the same. Then the Hinderers are the Church and Holy Spirit. It is clear that ‘the Day of mercy’ and the “Days of vengeance” cannot run on together.
The removal of the Hinderers cannot take place before the Presence and the Rapture; or the Lawless One and the Day of wrath would be afflicting the Church, and the Apostle’s comfort be denied. Their removal cannot take place after the Presence and its Rapture, or the time would be the Antichrist’s own season. As then their removal cannot be either before or after the Presence and Rapture, it takes place at the same moment. That is; the removal of the Hinderers is the same substantially as the Rapture of the Saints.
The moral effects on men of the presence of the Hinderers, and of the presence of the Church and the Holy Spirit for good, are the same. The moral effects also of their removal for evil, are the same. That is, the Hinderers are the Church and the Holy Spirit.
The moral effects on God for blessing to men, resulting from the presence of the Hinderers, and from the presence of the Church and Spirit, are the same. Removal of the Hinderers, and that of the Church and Spirit bring woe and wrath on men. Again we conclude, that the Church and Holy Spirit are the Hinderers.
The Hinderers - the Church and the Spirit - prevent the Apostasy which draws down the wrath of the Day. Proofs have been offered, that the Hinderers are the Church and the Spirit. If any continue to deny that they are the, Hinderers, still, whatever they be, they must be removed before the Day of Wrath. They prevent the last form of impiety; and till that is come, the Day cannot arrive, for the sin and the wrath are related, as cause and effect. The Day of wrath and justice is relief to the saint, trouble only to the sinner.
If the Presence of Christ, taking the ready to Himself, is to precede the Day of sin and woe, the Church cannot pass through the Day of trouble. That is apostolic comfort to those justly afraid of the Day and its terrors. The Church is appointed to suffer from unbelievers during the Gospel-day of mercy, as God’s ambassadors, disliked because of their offices, character, and message. But the Church’s day of Great Trouble
is over, before the trumpets of God sound war of the Most High against the earth. “That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Aye, and the coming day will be the time of “the manifestation of the righteous judgment of God.”
The key to the whole question is - THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST REMOVING HIS SAINTS MUST PRECEDE THE DA.Y OF WRATH. This is a latter, not of arbitrary arrangement, but of moral fitness. The approved of Christ are not to undergo God’s wrath sent on apostates. The Church’s message of grace to the world cannot coexist with the Day of vengeance, “cruel with wrath and fierce anger, to lay earth desolate, and to destroy sinners out of it.” It were not seemly and truthful, that ambassadors owned of God, wooing men with words of peace, should be left to the time of God’s war against Apostates. As soon as the Day of national refusal of Christ is set in, the Church’s standing is set aside, and her message of mercy recalled.