The Redeemer's Return! Here is a theme which in this day is regarded by many well-meaning people as an ideal of visionaries or as the pet hobby of certain cranks. So grievously has the study of Prophecy been ignored, so little place is given in the modern pulpit to the exposition of eschatology, and so generally is the daily reading of the Bible neglected by those in the pew, that it is an easy matter to persuade the average church-goer that the subject of the Second Coming of Christ is impractical and one that had better be left alone. Moreover, this subject has suffered so grievously at the hands of those who are the enemies of the Cross, that many Christians have been prejudiced against it.
Satan has not been slow to avail himself of the wild and unscriptural teaching of such men as Irving and Joseph Smith, and more recently, Dowie and Russell; nay, he has employed them to cast reproach on those who do seek to search and interpret the Prophetic Scriptures. Yet, notwithstanding, it is the imperative duty of every believer to seriously and prayerfully examine the Scriptures for himself and see what the Word of God has to say about Coming Events. In that Word we are plainly warned that in the "last days" (of this age) there should arise those who ridicule and mock at the very doctrine of which we are now speaking (see 2 Pet. 3:3, 4). Therefore we need not be surprised if we hear and read of those who seek to cast reproach upon this blessed theme; instead, as the Dispensation draws to a close, we should expect just what we now hear and see on every side.
The Redeemer's Return! Is there anything that can be compared with this momentous and stupendous prospect? Excepting the Cross of Calvary, the greatest event of all in the past history of the world was the Advent of God's Son to our earth. The Divine Incarnation was the theme of Old Testament prophecy. The very first promise ever given to fallen man was that the woman's Seed should come and bruise the Serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). When the Divine revelation was committed to writing, numerous passages recorded the promised descent of God's Son to this earth. The prophets of Israel made known the fact that the Coming One was to be of the stock of Abraham and a lineal descendant of David, and thus for fifteen centuries the Hope of Israel was the Messianic Hope. And, when the fullness of time was come God sent forth His Son born of a woman.
It is impossible for us to fully estimate the tremendous importance of the first Advent of Christ to this earth, The Divine Incarnation is without a parallel in the annals of the human race. Heaven itself was stirred at the miraculous birth of the God-Man. Unto the angels was entrusted the honorous commission of announcing the birth of the Saviour. Heathendom was affected, the good news being conveyed to Chaldea by means of a mysterious "star" which heralded the birth of the King of the Jews. The Coming of Christ to this world changed its chronology, for all civilized time is now by common consent dated from the Bethlehem manger. As the result of the first Advent a new era was inaugurated, a new prospect was set before the sons of men, the door of mercy was flung wide open, and command was given that the glad tidings should be made known to every creature.
But wondrous and blessed as was the first Advent of our Lord in many respects, His Second Coming will be even more momentous. At His first appearing He was here in weakness and humiliation, but at His second He shall come in power and glory. When He was here before He was "despised and rejected of men," but when He comes back again every knee shall bow before Him and every tongue confess His Lordship. When He was here before He paid tribute to Caesar, but when He returns He shall reign as King of Kings and Lord of lords. When He was here before His personal ministry was confined to the land of Palestine, but when He returns "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
Who can comprehend or enumerate the blessings which shall attend the Return of our Redeemer! Then will it be that the "dead in Christ" shall be raised from their graves and the living saints "changed," so that every believer will then be "conformed to the image of God's Son." Then it will be that the Lord's servants will be rewarded for their labors and those that were despised and hated by the world shall be recognized and honored by the Christ of God. Then it will be that Israel shall repent of their sins, receive Christ as their Messiah and Saviour, and be restored to the Holy Land. Then will the promise made to the patriarchs be literally and completely fulfilled. Then it will be that that old Serpent the Devil shall be removed from these scenes where he has wrought such havoc and produced such misery, to be chained for a thousand years in the Bottomless Pit. Then it will be that a groaning Creation shall be delivered from its present bondage, when the Curse which now rests upon all Nature shall be removed, and when the wilderness and the solitary place shall be made glad; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose (Is. 35:1). And, best of all, then it shall be that Christ Himself shall enter into His blood-brought inheritance, when He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Therefore, ought not such a subject, which presents such a glorious prospect, gladden our hearts and secure our most diligent attention!
God does not desire His dear people to remain in ignorance of His future purposes concerning them, concerning His Son, and concerning this earth. Said the apostle as he was moved by the Holy Spirit, "We have also a more sure Word of Prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Pet. 1:19). If then we give diligent heed to the Prophetic Word, if we will prayerfully study that which God has been pleased to reveal unto us concerning things to come, and if we will believe in our hearts all that the prophets have spoken, then shall we be like the Thessalonians of whom it could be said--"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thess. 5:1-6).
The Redeemer's Return! This was the great hope of the early Christians. In the first century of the Christian era it was the normal and regular thing to find that the expectation of the returning Saviour filled the vision and hearts of His followers. The apostles themselves taught their converts to look for the appearing of Christ. Writing to the Thessalonian saints the apostle Paul reminded them how they had "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven" (1 Thess. 1:9, 10). Writing to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, the apostle James bade them be patient and stablish their hearts, basing his exhortation on the fact that "The Coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jas. 5:8).
Writing to "the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia "who were in heaviness through manifold temptations," the apostle Peter expressed the wish that the trial of their faith "might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ"(1 Pet. 1:7). Writing to his "little children" (a term of endearment) the apostle John lovingly exhorted them to abide in Christ so that when He should appear they might have confidence and "not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28). Writing of the apostasy which was to come, the apostle Jude quoted the prophecy of Enoch, who declared, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all" (Jude 1:14, 15). Thus we find that it was the uniform practice of the apostles to hold up a returning Saviour before the children of God.
Right at the close of the first century A. D. when the time had come for the Sacred Canon to be completed, our Lord Himself sent His angel to communicate a special message to each of the seven Churches which were in Asia, and in five of them, namely, in the Epistles addressed to the Churches in Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis and Philadelphia (see Rev. 2:5, 16, 25; 3:3, 11) Christ makes distinct reference to His imminent appearing, while His last words to His loved disciple were, "Surely I come quickly" (Rev. 22:20).
We have thus shown that this Age began with a ringing testimony to the truth of our Lord's Return. Each of the apostles, of whose writings we have any inspired record, taught their converts to look for their Saviour's appearing. Alas! that this testimony was not maintained. Alas! that this Blessed Hope should ever have become dim. Alas! that it should, for more than a thousand years, have been almost totally lost to the Lord's people. Yet so it was. The immediate successors of the apostles turned their attention to other things: as it was with the Pharisees in the days of our Lord, so these tithed anise and mint but "omitted the weightier matters." Instead of expounding the Prophetic Scriptures and setting before the Church its one great Hope, the early "Church Fathers," for the most part, spent their time in wrangling among themselves. Even before the apostles themselves had left the earth, false teachers crept in and began to devour the flock, and within three centuries the whole professing Church had become Paganized. Then followed the Dark Ages, aptly named, for the lamp of Prophecy had ceased to shine and the prospect of the speedy return of the Morning Star had completely disappeared. As our Lord Himself had foretold, the virgins all slumbered and slept: no longer were His people looking for the Coming of the Bridegroom. 1
We need not remind our readers it was during this period known as the Dark Ages that the Roman Catholic Church sprang into prominence and the power, holding sway over all Europe and binding burdens on the souls of men which were grievous to be borne. The Bible was withheld from the laity and the vain traditions of men were substituted for the living Oracles of God. Instead of proclaiming salvation by the finished work of Christ, the multitudes were taught that heaven could only be obtained by penance, legal works, priestly mediation, and purgatorial fires. Instead of teaching her people that the hope of the saints was the appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, Rome taught that the hope of humanity lay in the subjugation of the entire world to the imperial rule of the Pope. Instead of exhorting believers to "look up" (Luke 21:28), the Roman Pontiff sought to dazzle the eyes of his devotees with the gorgeous ceremonialism of an earthly ritual.
After a thousand years of spiritual darkness the Sun of Righteousness shone forth over Europe with healing in His beams. During the sixteenth century God raised up a number of mighty men who, by the power of His Spirit, were delivered from the iron shackles of the Papacy and made to rejoice in the freedom into which, the Lord Jesus brings His people. Under God, these men brought about what is known as the great Reformation. During this Reformation the Holy Scriptures were restored to the people and given to them in their own native tongues. The glorious doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, was sounded forth throughout Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the British Isles, and multitudes were "added unto the Lord."
Many precious truths, which for long centuries had lain buried beneath the rubbish heap of human traditions, were recovered and given out to the masses. But the Reformation, glorious as it was, witnessed only a partial recovery of long lost truths. The Hope of the Church was not yet restored! The prospect of a soon returning Redeemer was not yet set before God's people again. Three more centuries passed by before the third part of our Lord's prophecy in the Parable of the Virgins received its fulfillment. It was not until the nineteenth century that the midnight cry arose "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him" (Matt. 25:6). Then it was that God raised up another band of witnesses, sent forth by Him to herald the approach of His Son. The result has been that an ever increasing number of the saints have given studious attention to the prophetic portions of the Word, until, to-day, in every section of Christendom, there are companies of believers who are eagerly waiting for the Shout of the Lord which shall call them away from this earth to be for ever with Him.
It is our humble desire to unite with these witnesses of God in testifying that the Coming of the Lord "draweth nigh." The Signs of the times speak plainly to those who have ears to hear, and singly and collectively bear witness to the fact that this Dispensation of Grace is now almost ended. The prophecies of the New Testament show clearly that we are living in the "last days" of this Age, and by the help of the Spirit of Truth we would herein call attention to those Scriptures which make known to us the stupendous events which shall surely and shortly come to pass.