WILL CHRIST BE BACK BEFORE . . . ?
HOW soon may we expect our Lordís Return? Will it be in our lifetime if we are not so very old? Two thousand years ago hidden in the Father's counsels(Acts 1 : 7), no one knew its day or hour; nor, probably, its month or year ; nor again, possibly, its decade or century. But this total uncertainty may not hold to-day, even if it ever did. For our Lord did not make ignorance of it so complete, nor did He say it would remain so. On the contrary, while He enjoined perpetual watchfulness, and prudent preparation, He reminded His hearers that there were signs of the times - clues (other than clock or calendar) as to what might occur in the evening or the morning. Indeed. Jesus gave His keen disciples answers to their threefold apocalyptic questions in His Olivet discourse (Matt. 24 : 3). Coming events cast their shadows before them. We can feel spring in the air - see its flowers, hear its cuckoos and swallows. White harvest fields proclaim the culminating summer ; so does the rebudding of Israel's age-long withered fig-tree - and of all other trees. The natural world is full of parables, parallels and reflections of the spiritual and the Divine.
God has His own plan and timetable. Israel's Egyptian exodus was dated, also her Canaan entrance, to a day(Ex. 12 : 41 ; Deut. 31 : 2). So was the Babylonian exodus, and the re-entrance into Canaan. To-day we may be sure Christ's coming again is dated ; neither delayed for indulgence, nor advanced for impatience. No: it is related, calculated and dated, as truly as both birth and harvest. His First Advent was "when the fulness of the time was come" (Gals. 4 : 4). When, in the Presence and Person of the King, the promised Kingdom had drawn near, He declared: "The time is fulfilled" (Mark 1 : 15). The Corn of Wheat died only when its hour was come ; and its timed rising was foretold. The Harvest, Jesus tells us, is the end of the age (Matt. 13 : 39), and the sickle - the reaping angel-band - is thrust in, as soon as it is ripe, that is, earth-dried, heaven-filled (Mark. 4 : 29; Rev. 14 : 15). In the great world-field not all grain ripens at once and together ; wheat and rye follow flax and barley (Ex. 9 : 31-32). Hence, harvesting is a protracted and progressive business, lasting several weeks (Ruth 1 : 22 ; 2 : 23 ; 2 Samuel 21 : 9). Jordan overflows its perilous banks all the days of harvest (Josh 3 : 15 ; Jer. 49 : 19 ; 1 Chron. 12: 1, 8, 15), challenging to exploits exiled David's knowing devotees who may, however, pass dryshod over the river of death ; with Joshua as in rapture, with Joseph as in resurrection, led on by the Ark and Pavilion of the secret Presence into Promised Rest and Glory (Josh. 3 : 3). And how near to this are we ?
Our earth may be very old ; its creation belongs to a dateless, possibly remotest, past. But man is recent. His history coincides with Biblical chronology. Humanity is six millennial days old. But pre-history is guesswork - godless, evolutionary, unreliable. Its advocates rule out creation, and make time (which is but rationed energy, mostly running down), infinite, creative, constructive. They rule out, too, Divine intervention in judgment and curse, ignoring the flood of water behind and of fire ahead, trusting to an imagined continuity or uniformitarianism, even in this self-described Nucular age(2Pet.3:4). Sir Arthur Keith ("Antiquity of Man," pp.15-16), by two strokes of his pen, first halves and then quarters the so-called Pleistocene, or most recent, geological period. His 75 per cent. error, we may well suppose, will greatly increase with further discovery and study. Christians, then, are wise to be willingly ignorant of godless pre-history, knowing that the Lord (e.g., fossilizing Lot's wife and super-salting Dead Sea) can do in one day what men fancy took a thousand - or thousand million - years without Him. Yea "in one hour so great riches ... come to nought" (Rev. 18 : 17). Though God may take time, in order to reveal processes, and keep to a timetable to prove His reliability to us, yet He does not need time, and may act in an hour when men think not. His creation and destruction (after due warning) are sudden, instantaneous, unexpected - because unbelieved.
Now there is no creation story in the Bible - only a brief creation statement. "He spoke, and it was"(Ps. 33 : 6, 9; 46 : 6). The six days are not of creation, but of restoration, after discontinuity or cataclysm : "But the earth had become desolate and uninhabited (Gen. 1 : 2). The six days are almost certainly literal days, for they consist of evening and morning, are serially numbered, and constitute a working week, followed by a literal seventh day of rest, swiftly marred by the first man's disobedience, entailing all our woe. There is, in consequence, no second and conflicting story of creation, this time making animals not before but after man (Gen. 2 : 19), for God "formed" is the same word as God "had formed" (as in 2 : 8 ; 3. 1), there being in Hebrew no separate pluperfect tense with "had".
Here, then, we see a period of six days followed by a seventh or sabbath day of rest, fixed in the Commandments(Ex. 20 : 8-11). We see also a period of six years followed by a seventh or sabbath of rest (Lev. 25, 1-7). We see, further, a period of seven sevens of years followed by a sabbath year, a jubilee of release and rejoicing, acceptable year (Lev. 25: 8-13; Is. 61:1-3; 63:4; Luke 4:18-21). we see, similarly and finally, six millennial days - six periods of a thousand years - followed by a sabbath millennium, Christ's restful Reign of Reward and Honour. Six times this millennium is named : Rev. 20.
Now inHeb. 4: 9 (margin) this 1,000-year Period of Rest is called a "sabbatismos," that is, a sabbath or seventh, with its implication of six days, not literal days or years, but millennia, completing manís week of toil and strife and strike, the week of human history, before the Sabbath Day of God. To enter this Rest of Glory - not a gift, but a prize or reward, from which the disobedient, as Israel from Canaan, are excluded (1 Cor. 10 : 1-12 ; Heb. 3 : 7-19) - we have to labour, and be accounted worthy (Heb. 4 : 11).
One day is with the Lord as 1,000 years with us; the Day of God is our morrow for which we labour in this last vital hour in His vineyard: and the two Denaril ("2-D," as we still say) of the Good Samaritan represent sustenance and provision for the two millennial days before He comes again(Luke 10 : 35 ; Deut. 30 : 20 b., John 1: 4).
We may therefore affirm that Christ will be returning and reigning with His princely companions - overcomers(Is. 32: 1 ; Rev. 3 : 21) by the end of man's sixth day., i.e. "After two days" (Hosea 6: 2).
But He is coining for His people ere He comes with them - not three comings, but the second coming interrupted and halted as the Parousia-Pavilion, "in the air." And how long before? Long enough to allow apostate christendom to cast away the cords of God and Christ ; long enough for unbridled nations to rage and imagine a vain thing - giving unseemly honour to their Wilful King, the Man of Sin, whom God rebukes with storm at harvest tide(1 Sam. 13: 18 Prov. 26 : 1 ; Rev. 12 : 13) ; long enough for Israel to revive ; long enough for all the Harvest of the Church to be gathered into the Garner, and have their chaff removed, i.e., for every individual Christian to be made manifest before the judgment Seat of Christ. "All the days of harvest" were forty or fifty days (Lev. 23 : 16). If, then, in the antitype, these days mean years, we can see how near we must be to the beginning of barley harvest and the return to Bethlehem. "Watch therefore,* and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to be set before the Son of Man" (Luke 21 . 36), "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh" (Matt. 25 :13). "Therefore be, ye also ready" (Matt. 24 : 44).
*WATCH therefore against the leaven of false doctrine. Remember that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. Remember that bad money is never marked bad, or else it would never pass. Be very jealous for the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Do not put up with a grain of error merely for the sake of a pound of fruit : Do not tolerate a little false doctrine one bit more than you would tolerate a little sin. Watch and pray !
Watch therefore against slothfulness about Bible study and private prayer. There is nothing so spiritual but we may at last do it formally. Most backsliding began in the closet. When a tree is snapped in two by a high wind, we generally find there had been some hidden decay. Watch and pray!
Watch therefore against bitterness and uncharitableness toward others. A little love is more valuable than many gifts. Be eagle-eyed in seeing the good that is in your brethren. Let your memory be a strong box for their graces, but a sieve for their faults. Watch and pray !
Watch therefore against pride and self-conceit. Peter said at first, "Though all deny Thee, yet will not I" Presently he fell. Pride is the highroad to fall. Watch and pray !
Watch therefore against the sins of Galatia, Ephesus and Laodicea. Believers may run well for a season and lose their first love and then become lukewarm. Watch and pray !
Watch not least against the sin of Jehu. A man may have great zeal to all appearance and yet have very bad motives. It is quite another thing to love the truth. Watch and pray.
Let us watch for the world's sake. We are the books they chiefly read. They mark our ways far more than we think. Let us aim to be living epistles of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us watch for our own sakes. As our walk is, so will be our peace. Above all, let us watch for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake. Let us live though His glory was concerned in our behaviour. Let us live though every slip and fall was a reflection on the honour of our Lord. Let us live as though every allowed sin was one more thorn in His Head - one more nail in His feet.
O, let us exercise godly jealousy over thoughts, words, and actions, motives, manners and walk! Never let us fear being too strict. Never let us think we can watch too much.