"To testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24
**PUBLISHED AS A MISSION PROJECT OF CENTRAL BAPTIST CHURCH**
September 1, 2006
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In this Issue:
SALVATION BY GRACE CONSUMMATED IN GLORIFICATION
THE DANGERS OF DOGMATISM AND PRAGMATISM IN ESCHATOLOGICAL PROCLAMATIONS AND PROMULGATIONS
WATCHING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
SALVATION BY GRACE CONSUMMATED IN GLORIFICATION
By Wayne Camp
“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, THEM HE ALSO GLORIFIED.”
The word “consummated” means “brought to completion or perfection.” To consummate something is to bring it to its highest degree of perfection and completion.
Our salvation will only be consummated when we have been brought to the perfection of Christ in mind, body, and spirit. David wrote: “I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness.” God has begun a work in every one of his elect. He will perform that work until all of his sheep have been brought into a perfect likeness to Jesus Christ.
The perfection of the salvation of the Lord's elect will come to pass when we are glorified together with and in the likeness of Jesus Christ. In this message we will consider three blessed thoughts. First, let us notice the fact and certainty of our glorification. Secondly, we will discover the source and cause of our glorification. Thirdly, we will inquire as to the nature of our glorification.
THE FACT AND CERTAINTY OF GLORIFICATION
There are many reasons that we might set forth that assure the glorification of all those whom God has purposed to bring to glory. God's promises pertaining to the glorification of the saints are based upon the everlasting covenant of redemption. This covenant is not with man nor is it in any way dependent on man. The parties to this covenant are the three Holy Persons of the Godhead. Christ is the Surety for his people and the success or failure of the covenant was dependent on his fulfilling the work that he undertook for his people. It is also dependent upon the ability of the Holy Spirit to quicken and call to salvation those given to Christ by the Father.
The reason that salvation is by grace Through faith is clearly set forth in Rom. 4:16 where Paul writes, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; TO THE END THE PROMISE MIGHT BE SURE TO ALL THE SEED.” Every seed must be brought to glory or salvation is not sure. If all men were the seed of Christ then all would be glorified. Since all are not glorified and will not be glorified then we may safely assert that all are not his seed. God said of Christ's seed: “His seed also will I make to endure forever” (Psa. 89:29).
All those who are called according to God's eternal purpose have already been glorified in the mind and purpose of God. “Whom he called . . . them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30). Before the foundation of the world God set his love on a people. Their names were “written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 17:8) just as the names of others “were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” In his mind and purpose God predestinated that these chosen ones be conformed to the image and likeness of his Son. He called, justified and glorified these persons. How marvelous that in the mind and purpose of God every one that shall ever be saved is already glorified. Romans 8:29-30 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Surely, we can rest assured that we will be glorified in fact since we have been glorified in the eternal purpose of God. Is it possible that God could glorify someone in his eternal purpose and then be unable to bring to pass his or her actual glorification? Never fear! God has declared: “I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10-11).
There is no difficulty so great and no physical corruption so complete that God cannot raise up every one of his dear children in the likeness of his glorified Son, Jesus. Job rested in this assurance and declared, “After my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). John had this assurance and wrote: “We KNOW that, when he shall appear, we shall be for we shall see him as he is” (I Jn. 3:2).
Paul wrote of the saints' sure hope of glorification with absolute confidence in the fact and certainty of it. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:4). To the Philippian church Paul wrote, “. . . we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).
These great saints, these holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit to pen these words of confident assurance concerning the glorification of every one of his people knew of what they wrote.
THE SOURCE AND CAUSE OF GLORIFICATION
As with every aspect of our salvation, our glorification is “of the Lord.” We could simply stop with those words and we would have covered this portion of our subject. Man, however, does not like to give God the full glory for the salvation of the saints. Therefore, we must give more Biblical evidence than we have thus far.
THE TRINITY: THE SOURCE OF GLORIFICATION
As to the source and fountain from which proceeds our glorification we have already seen that in the mind and purpose of God the elect have already been glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30). With the one who “works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11), our glorification is a settled matter. “Whom he did foreknow (know in electing love as he knows all his sheep), . . . them he also glorified.” Paul referred to this purpose as “the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (I Cor. 2:7).
God has not only provided for our glorification but he will receive us into it. David wrote: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psa. 73:24). It will be wonderful to be united once again with our loved ones who are in glory. That, however, will pale into insignificance compared with the reception into glory that we will receive with God himself at the head of the receiving line. “Thou . . . shalt receive me to glory.”
God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, will also be involved in the glorification of the saints. “I will come again” he promised, “and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn. 14:3). When he does come and receive us unto himself “we shall be like him” (I Jn. 3:2) for he “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). It is the will of God that Christ will glorify all those whom he has given unto him. Christ has assured us that he will fully and perfectly do the Father's will in this matter. “I come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:38-40).
God, the Holy Spirit, will be the power in our bodily resurrection. Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
What a glorious event to contemplate! The Holy Spirit will quicken our bodies, Christ will change them and fashion them like unto his glorious body, and then we will be received into the glory that God purposed and prepared for us before the foundation of the world! What a day that will be!
GRACE: THE CAUSE OF OUR GLORIFICATION
God is the source of our glorification and his marvelous grace is the cause. This is one of the reasons that several years ago I rejected the split-rapture theory. The proponents of the split-rapture theory advocate that the faithful saved will be raptured or resurrected at the beginning of the tribulation and the unfaithful saved will not be raptured or resurrected until during or at the end of the tribulation. I have even known some who held that unfaithful children of God would go through the one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth in a place of outer darkness. Our glorification is not dependent on our works but is wholly of grace as is every aspect of our salvation.
The mediatorial work of Christ is a work of grace and our blessed Mediator prayed for our glorification. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” When we are with him we “shall be like him,” therefore we are correct in saying that he prayed for our glorification when he prayed for our presence with him.
Salvation is by grace, and only a grace-caused salvation is sure and certain (Rom. 4:16). Glorification is grace-caused or it would not be sure (Rom. 4:16; Eph. 2:8-10; Jn. 5:29).
THE NATURE OF GLORIFICATION
We have seen that our glorification is a sure and certain fact. We have also considered its source, which is the blessed Trinity, and its cause, which is grace. We will now consider the nature of our glorification. What does it involve?
Our glorification will involve a bodily resurrection from the grave. The reader is urged to read the entire fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians for Paul's inspired discussion of the resurrection. Within that chapter Paul declares of the saved dead, “The dead shall be raised incorruptible . . . for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (v-52-53).
Paul also reveals that our resurrected and glorified, or changed and glorified, bodies will “be caught up” when Christ returns (I Thes. 1:13-18). When we are caught up we will be changed into the likeness of God and Christ. “As for me,” rejoiced the Psalmist, “I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness” (Psa. 17:15). Christ will “change our vile body” and will fashion “it like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). “We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him” (I Jn. 3:2). “In” our “flesh,” our glorified flesh, we “shall see God” even though the skin worms have devoured our mortal flesh (Job 19:25-27).
What a glorious day awaits God's elect. When “the last trump . . . shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we (the living saved) shall be changed,” death will be “swallowed up in victory . . . through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:52-57). All the saints of all the ages will meet in the air in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Our salvation will be brought to full fruition, perfection, and consummation. We are “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) who will, change these vile, wretched bodies like unto his glorious body (Phil. 3:21) and we shall live and reign with him on earth for a glorious 1000 years and throughout all ages, world without end. Jesus said: “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20). We join with the beloved apostle and cry, “AMEN. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). AMEN! and AMEN!
Rejoice! Rejoice! In Christ Our Saviour
Who Died that We Might Live Again!
Rejoice! Rejoice! For He Is Coming
And On Earth Shall Reign!
Together Let Our Praises Ring!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!In Christ Our Coming King!
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THE DANGERS OF DOGMATISM AND PRAGMATISM IN ESCHATOLOGICAL PROCLAMATIONS AND PROMULGATIONS
It is not my intention in this editorial to try to impress anyone with my “smarts” (if I have any). As a matter of fact, I had to consult my spelling dictionary to spell Eschatological. The title of this editorial was designed to get your attention, and since you are reading this I suppose it succeeded. I am writing this editorial because I wrote an article for this issue on the second coming of Christ, and when I proofed it after the type was set, I realized it was rather dogmatic and pragmatic in its content. I pulled the article and will not print it, even though I spent several hours researching and writing it.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Perhaps, it would be wise to define some terms relating to this article.
ESCHATOLOGY is “any of various Christian doctrines concerning the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, or the nature of human existence upon the completion of history.” We sometimes simply refer to eschatology as a study of end-time events.
PRAGMATIC is a word that “carries a strong connotation of self-importance and self-assurance, opinionated.”
Tryon Edwards, great-grandson of the renowned Jonathan Edwards, who was a preacher as was his great-grandfather, wrote of a pragmatic, opinionated person: “Our opinions on all subjects are more largely formed by our sympathies than by carefully sifted evidence. He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, and will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today.”
The pragmatic preacher or writer will freely use such expressions as: “In my opinion,” “As I see it,” etc. Another characteristic is that many times the pragmatic writer will begin sentences with the personal pronoun “I.” It is sometimes necessary to use that pronoun (I) but it should be used very sparingly.
DOGMATIC is a word that “implies the attitude of an authoritative or authoritarian teacher or preacher laying down principles or dogmas as true and beyond dispute.” It also “implies an assertive (sometimes an arrogant) attitude that discourages, if it does not inhibit, debate.”
(Definitions are from Webster’s Dictionary of synonyms and New Collegiate Dictionary)
“When men are the most sure and arrogant, they are commonly the most mistaken and have there given reins to passion without proper deliberation and suspense which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities” (David Hume).
Of dogmatism the great English hymn writer, Isaac Watts wrote:
“A dogmatical spirit inclines a man to be censorious of his neighbors. Every one of his opinions appears to him to be written as sunbeams, and he grows angry that his neighbors do not see it in the same light. He is tempted to disdain his correspondents as men of low and dark understanding because they do not believe what he does.”
Peter Bayne wrote: “Those who refuse the long drudgery of thought, and think with the heart rather than the head, are ever most fiercely dogmatic.”
A dogmatic person tends to “preach down” or “write down” to those who disagree with him. He is apt to consider his interpretation of Scripture to be the only one that is sensible and looks upon those who disagree with him as hysterical ignoramuses and heretical “boys.”
The dogmatist may even admit that what he preaches and teaches is not explicitly taught in Scripture and yet argue tenaciously and grandiloquently that it simply cannot be any other way but his. In the realm of Biblical interpretation he is apt to look upon those who disagree with his position as apostates and heretics.
Now the matter of the danger of pragmatism and dogmatism in eschatological matters should be considered.
The problem of end-time events lies in the fact that God has not chosen to reveal in any place an unquestioned chronological order of events. While the Book of Revelation and Daniel come close to giving us an order, recognized scholars, Baptist preachers, and Baptist confessions of faith are, by no means, in agreement on these events. To be too dogmatic about these events of the end-time puts us in such variance with our dear Baptist forefathers that we end up castigating them for their eschatological views while embracing them as true Baptists and beloved brethren.
THE PHILADELPHIA CONFESSION
Both the London Confession of Faith and the Philadelphia confession reveal that a majority of these dear brethren and forefathers held to the a-millennial, general-judgment view of end-time events.
Of the rapture and resurrection they declared, “At the last day, such of the saints as are found alive shall not sleep, but be (II Cor. XV. 51-52 Thes. IV. 17) changed: And all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and (Job .19:26, 27) none other; although with different (I Cor. XV. 42; 43) qualities, which shall be united again to their souls for ever.
The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised, to dishonour (Acts XXIV. 15, John V. 28, 29; Phil. 3:21) and be made conformable to this own glorious body.”
From this last paragraph, it is clear that these brethren held to a general resurrection and the next article in their confession (which is to long to quote in this editorial) clearly sets forth a general judgment. This does not, however, keep us premillennialists from embracing them as dear brethren and true sovereign-grace, Missionary Baptists. Are we consistent if we condemn as heretics living amillennialists who agree with us otherwise, while we embrace dead amillennialists and magnify them as defenders of the once-delivered faith and hold them up as one of our historical links to the church at Jerusalem. When we do this, are we not like the Pharisees and scribes who ‘“build the tombs of the. prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous” and then crucify the Christ of whom they all gave witness (Matt. 23:29; Acts 10:43).
C. H. Spurgeon
What did Spurgeon believe on the order of end-time events? Frankly, after reading eleven sermons which he preached on the resurrection, this editor found it hard to be exactly sure of what he did believe.
In 1861 Spurgeon wrote as he discussed Rev. 20:4-6: “I think the word of God teaches, and teaches indisputably, that the saints shall rise first. And be the interval of time whatever it may, whether the thousand years are literal years, or—a very long period of time, I am not now about to determine (note that he was not dogmatic on a literal thousand years). I have nothing to do except with the fact that there are two resurrections, a resurrection of the just, and afterwards of the unjust time when the saints of God shall arise, and aftertime when the wicked shall rise to the resurrection of damnation.” Spurgeon further declared that there would be “a thousand years between the first resurrection and ‘the end’.’ Again Spurgeon said: “Since we know that a first resurrection implies a second, and since we know that the wicked dead are to rise as well as the righteous dead, we draw the inference that the wicked dead shall rise at the second resurrection, after the interval between the two resurrections shall have been accomplished” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 7, pp. 346-347).
It does not appear, however, from any of his sermons that Spurgeon believed in a “two-phase” second coming. He wrote on the text, Job 19:25-27, in 1863. On the expression of Job that the Redeemer would “stand in the latter day upon the earth” Spurgeon said: “He was looking to the second advent of Christ as being the period of the resurrection.... We are persuaded that the latter day refers to the advent of glory rather than that of shame—Beloved, we believe that the same Jesus who ascended from Olivet shall so come in like manner as he ascended up into heaven. We believe in the personal advent and reign. We believe and expect when both wise and foolish virgins shall slumber; in the night when sleep is heavy upon the saints; when men shall be eating and drinking as in the days of Noah, that suddenly as the lightening flasheth from heaven, so Christ shall descend with a shout, and the dead in Christ shall rise and reign with him. We are looking forward to the literal, personal, and actual standing of Christ upon the earth when creation’s groans shall be silenced forever, and, the earnest expectation of the creature shall be fulfilled.
“Mark, that Job. describes Christ as standing....as the earth has become the charnel-house of the dead, Jesus shall rise to the contest and say, “Earth, I am against thee; give up thy dead! Ye clods of the valley cease to be custodians of my people’s bodies! Silent deeps, and you, ye caverns of the earth, deliver, once for all, those whom ye have imprisoned!”
Spurgeon set forth a “one-phase” second coming in another sermon on the “Ascension and Second Advent” (MTP, Vol. 31, P. 23). This “one-phase” coming is again seen in an 1887 message on Rev. 1:7. (MTP, Vol. 9, pp. 589-600). In this latter sermon Spurgeon does leave the possibility open that all may not see Christ at exactly the same moment. “All they that dwell upon the face of the earth, if not at the same moment, yet with the same certainty, shall behold the once crucified Lord...yes” writes Spurgeon, “I shall stand in that great throng.” Again he writes: “He will be seen of those who have been long dead. What a sight that will be for Judas, and for Pilate, and for Caiaphas, and for Herod!” It seems that in 1887, Spurgeon may have been preaching a general resurrection. This is seen in an 1869 message also. “The resurrection of the dead will take place at once; at the sound of the archangel’s trump the righteous will rise to their glory; and after them the ungodly will rise to their shame; but the resurrection will not be a gradual, uprising, a slow development for all at once the myriads shall swarm on land and sea. Conceive then what a marvel this must be to a mere natural mind! A graveyard suddenly enlivened into an assembly; a battle-field, whereon tens of thousands had fallen suddenly, disgorging all its slain” (MTP, Vol. 15, P. 579).
It seems to this editor, after reading 11 sermons on the resurrection and 6 on the second coming, that Spurgeon originally held to two resurrections separated by 1000 years or a long period of time. He seems to have believed that Christ’s second coming was a one-phase coming. Latter in his ministry, however, he may have preached a general resurrection. Then, in a sermon published in 1891, Spurgeon again mentions the millennial age. He wrote: We bethink us of the truth that there is to be a millennial age—a time of glory, and peace, and joy, and truth, and righteousness....The Lord Jesus will come, and begin his personal reign on earth among his ancients. In like manner as he went up into heaven, and the disciples saw him, so will he descend a second time, to be seen here among men; and his glorious presence shall fashion the golden age, the thousand years of peace.” (MTP, Vol. 37, pp. 5-6).
We rejoice in the sayings and sermons of our departed benefactor, C. H. Spurgeon. Shall we castigate those who may agree with his eschatological views while we garnish his grave and read his books and preach his sermons?
In his comments on I Thes. 4:15-16, Dr. John Gill wrote: “There will be saints alive at Christ’s second coming; he will have a seed to serve him till he comes again; he always had in the worst of times, and will have, and that even in the last days, in the days of the Son of man which are said to be like those of Noah and Lot: and these are said to remain, or to be left; these will be a remnant, the residue and remainder of the election of grace; and will be such as have escaped the fury of anti-Christ and his followers or of the persecutors of the saints: now these shall not prevent (I Thes. 4:13-17) them that are asleep; that is that are dead...these will rise first, before the wicked, which is the first resurrection, (Rev. 20:5, 7); even a thousand years before them; the righteous will rise in the morning of the resurrection, and so will have the dominion in the morning, Psa. 49:14; even at the beginning of the thousand years, as soon as Christ will come; but the wicked will not rise till the evening of that day, or till the close of the thousand years (Gill’s Commentary, Vol. VI, pp. 560-561).
It is clear from these statements, and their context that Dr. Gill believed that those saints who will be living and raptured at the return of Christ will be “such as have escaped the fury of antichrist and his followers.” He believed the dead saints would be raised in the morning of the resurrection,—even at the beginning of the thousand years, as soon as our Lord shall come.
Dr. Gill would today be classified as an unsensible post-trib boy by some. Yet, we freely quote him as a sound, Sovereign grace man.
In concluding this editorial it may be well if I state that I am a pre-millennialist. I believe in the return of Christ before his literal 1000 year reign on earth. I believe that his saints will be caught up into the air where they will be with him for a period of time, possibly a very brief period of time, before he actually comes to the earth with his saints.
My purpose in quoting variant views from what I believe is to show that our Baptist forefathers differed greatly on end-time events. If we become too dogmatic and to pragmatic in our eschatological proclamations and promulgations we are in serious danger of discrediting our own monuments of Baptist Church perpetuity.
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WATCHING FOR CHRIST’S COMING
By C. H. Spurgeon
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Some years ago a brother sent me some information in which he felt there was an indication that C. H. Spurgeon became an A-millennialist in his later years. I had never answered his questions concerning that matter. I will let Spurgeon answer the brother’s questions.
C. H. Spurgeon first preached in the New Park Street Chapel in December of 1853 when he was only 19 years of age. He preached again for three Sundays in January of 1854. He was asked to preach for six months on probation. The congregation, however, extended him a call to pastor the church in April, 1854, some time before the probationary period was ended.
On April 7, 1889, thirty six years later, Spurgeon preached the following message on the subject, “Watching For Christ’s Coming” in the evening service at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, less than three years before his death on January 31, 1892. The message was read again in the Tabernacle on April 2, 1893. Spurgeon, “being dead, yet speaketh.”
The thing that is significant about this message is the pre-millennial view that Spurgeon still held not three years before his death. Some have advocated otherwise, but it would appear from this message that Spurgeon died a pre-millennialist.
One may find quotations in his sermons where it seems that he may have changed his view and espoused the a-millennial position. But, this sermon spells out clearly that he was obviously pre-millennial less than three years before his death and apparently remained so by this sermon being read after his death. I present it here for the reader’s own study and edification.)
A Sermon Delivered by
C. H. Spurgeon
At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord’s Day Evening, April 7th, 1889
Luke 12:37-38 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
I am about to speak of the Second Coming of Christ; and I felt thankful that my dear brother’s prayer, although we had not been in consultation with one another upon the matter, was in every way so suitable to the subject upon which I am to speak. He led us in prayer to think of our coming Lord; so that I trust you are on the margin of the subject now, and that you will not have to make any great exertion of mind to plunge into mid-stream, and be carried away with the full current of thought concerning the Second Advent of the Saviour. It is a very appropriate topic when we come to the Lord’s table; for, as that prayer reminded us, the Lord’s supper looks backward, and is a memorial of his agony; but it looks forward, and is an anticipation of his glory. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “For as often as ye eat of this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” By looking forward, in a right state of heart, to that Second Coming of Christ which is the joy of his Church, you will be also in a right state of heart for coming to the communion-table. May the Holy Ghost make it to be so!
The posture at the communion-table, as you know, according to our Lord’s example, was not that of kneeling, but that of reclining. The easiest position which you can assume is the most fitting for the Lord’s supper; and yet remember that the supper was no sooner finished, than “they sang a hymn” and when the hymn was concluded, they went out to the Mount of Olives to the agonies of Gethsemane. It often seems to me as if now, after finding rest at the table by feeding upon Christ, whose real presence we have, not after a carnal sort, but after a spiritual sort, after that, we sing a hymn, as if we would go out to meet our Lord in his Second Coming, not going to the Mount of Olives to see him in a bloody sweat, but to hear that word of the angel, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” I do not think we ought to feel at all surprised if we were to go out from the table of fellowship to-night, and meet our Lord at once; nay, we should be always waiting for his appearing, ever expecting him, not knowing at what hour the Master of the house shall come. The world does not expect him; it goes on with its eating and drinking, its marrying and giving in marriage; but his family should expect him. When he will return from the wedding, I trust that he will not find the door shut against him, but that we shall be ready to open to our Lord immediately he knocketh. This is the object of the few words that I shall have to say to-night, to stir you up, and my own heart also, to be ever watching for Christ’s Second Coming.
I. FIRST, THE LORD WILL COME. He that has come once is to come again; he will come a second time. The Lord will come.
He will come again, for he has promised to return. We have his own word for it. That is our first reason for expecting him. Among the last of the words which he spoke to his servant John are these, “Surely I come quickly.” You may read it, “I am coming quickly. I am even now upon the road. I am traveling as fast as wisdom allows. I am always coming, and coming quickly.” Our Lord has promised to come, and to come in person. Some try to explain the Second Coming of Christ as though it meant the believer dying. You may, if you like, consider that Christ comes to his saints in death. In a certain sense, he does; but that sense will never bear out the full meaning of the teaching of the Second Advent with which the Scripture is full. No, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” He who went up to heaven will come down from heaven, and stand in the latter day upon the earth. Every redeemed soul can say with Job, “Though after my skin worms shall destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” Christ will as certainly be here again in glory as he once was here in shame, for he has promised to return.
Moreover, the great scheme of redemption requires Christ’s return. It is a part of that scheme that, as he came once with a sin-offering, that, as he came once to redeem, he should come a second time to claim the inheritance which he has so dearly bought. He came once, that his heel might be bruised; he comes again, to break the serpent’s head, and, with a rod of iron, to dash his enemies in pieces, as potter’s vessels. He came once to wear a crown of thorns; he must come again, to wear the diadem of universal dominion. He comec to the marriage supper; he comes to gather his saints together; he comes to glorify them with himself on this same earth where once he and they were despised and rejected of men. Make you sure of this, that the whole drama of redemption cannot be perfected without this last act of the coming of the King. The complete history of Paradise Regained requires that the New Jerusalem should come down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and it also requires that the heavenly Bridegroom should come riding forth on his white horse, conquering and to conquer, King of kings and Lord of lords, amidst the everlasting hallelujahs of saints and angels. It must be so. The man of Nazareth will come again. None shall spit in his face then; but every knee shall bow before him. The crucified shall come again; and though the nail prints will be visible, no nails shall then fasten his dear hands to the tree; but instead thereof, he shall grasp the scepter of universal sovereignty; and he shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!
When will he come? Ah, that is the question, the question of questions! He will come in his own time. He will come in due time. A brother minister, calling upon me, said as we sat together, “I should like to ask you a lot of questions about the future.” “Oh, well!” I replied, “I cannot answer you, for I dare say I know no more about it than you do.” “But,” said he, “what about the Lord’s Second Advent? Will there not be the millennium first?” I said, “I cannot tell whether there will be the millennium first; but this I know, the Scripture has left the whole matter, as far as I can see, with an intentional indistinctness, that we may be always expecting Christ to come, and that we may be watching for his coming at any hour and every hour. I think that the millennium will commence after his coming, and not before it. (Emp. Mine. RWC). I cannot imagine the kingdom with the King absent. It seems to me to be an essential part of the millennial glory that the King shall be revealed; at the same time, I am not going to lay down anything definite upon that point. He may not come for a thousand years; he may come to-night. The teaching of Scripture is, first of all, ‘In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.’ It is clear that, if it were revealed that a thousand years might elapse before he would come, we might very well go to sleep for that time, for we should have no reason to expect that he would come when Scripture told us he would not.”
“Well,” answered my friend, ‘but when Christ comes, that will be the general judgment, will it not?” Then I quoted these texts, “The dead in Christ shall rise first.” “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” I said, “There is a resurrection from among the dead to which the Apostle Paul labored to attain. We shall all rise; but the righteous shall rise a thousand years before the ungodly. There is to be that interval of time between the one and the other; whether that is the millennial glory, or not, this deponent sayeth not, though he thinks it is. But this is the main point, the Lord shall come. We know not when we are to expect his coming; we are not to lay down, as absolutely fixed, any definite prediction or circumstance that would allow us to go to sleep until that prediction was fulfilled, or that circumstance was apparent.”
“Will not the Jews be converted to Christ, and restored to their land?” enquired my friend. I replied, “Yes, I think so. Surely they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son; and God shall give them the kingdom and the glory, for they are his people, whom he has not for ever cast away. The Jews, who are the natural olive branches, shall yet be grafted into their own olive tree again, and then shall be the fulness of the Gentiles.” “Will that be before Christ comes, or after?” asked my friend. I answered, “I think it will be after he comes; but whether or no, I am not going to commit myself to any definite opinion on the subject.”
To you, my dear friends, I say,—Read for yourselves, and search for yourselves; for still this stands first, and is the only thing that I will insist upon to-night, the Lord will come. He may come now; he may come tomorrow; he may come in the first watch of the night, or the second watch, or he may wait until the morning watch; but the one word that he gives to you all is, “Watch! Watch! Watch!” that whenever he shall come you may be ready to open to him, and to say, in the language of the hymn we sang just now—
Welcome, welcome, Judge divine!”
So far I know that we are Scriptural, and therefore perfectly safe in our statements about the Lord’s Second Advent.
Brethren, I would be earnest on this point, for the notion of the delay of Christ’s Coming is always harmful, however you arrive at it, whether it be by studying prophecy, or in any other way. If you come to be of the opinion of the servant mentioned in the forty-fifth verse, you are wrong: “If that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” Do not, therefore, get the idea that the Lord delayeth his Coming, and that he will not or cannot come as yet. Far better would it be for you to stand on the tiptoe of expectation, and to be rather disappointed to think that he does not come. I do not wish you to be shaken in mind so as to act fanatically or foolishly, as certain people did in America, when they went out into the wood with ascension dresses on, so as to go straight up all of a sudden. Fall into none of those absurd ideas that have led people to leave a chair vacant at the table and to put an empty plate, because the Lord might come and want; and try to avoid all other superstitious nonsense. To stand star-gazing at the prophecies with your mouth wide open, is just the wrong thing; far better will it be to go on working for your Lord, getting yourself and your service ready for his appearing, and cheering yourself all the while with this thought, “While I am at work, my Master may come. Before I get weary, my Master may return. While others are mocking at me, my Master may appear; and whether they mock or applaud, is nothing to me. I live before the great Task-master’s eye, and do my service knowing that he sees me, and expecting that, by-and-by, he will reveal himself to me, and then he will reveal me and my right intention to misrepresenting men.” That is the first point, brethren, the Lord will come. Settle that in your minds. He will come in his own time, and we are always to be looking for his appearing.
II. Now, secondly, THE LORD BIDS US WATCH FOR HIM. That is the marrow of the text: “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching.”
Now what is watching? Not wishing to use my own words, I thought that I would call your attention to the context. The first essential part of this watching is that we are not to be taken up with present things. You remember that the twenty-second verse is about not taking thought what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; you are not to be absorbed with that. You who are Christians are not to live the fleshly, selfish life that asks, “What shall I eat and drink? How can I store up my goods? How can I get food and raiment here?” You are something more than dumb, driven cattle, that must think of hay and water. You have immortal spirits. Rise to the dignity of you immortality. Begin to think of the kingdom, the kingdom so soon to come, the kingdom which your Father has given you, and which, therefore, you must certainly inherit, the kingdom which Christ has prepared for you, and for which he is making you kings and priests unto God, that you may reign with him for ever and ever. Oh, be not earth-bound! Do not cast your anchor here in these troubled waters. Build not your nest on any of these trees; they are all marked for the axe, and are coming down; and your nest will come down, too, if you build it here. Set your affection on things above, up yonder,—
“Up where eternal ages roll,
Where solid pleasures never die,
And fruits eternal feast the soul;”
there project your thoughts and your anxieties, and have a care about the world to come. Be not anxious about the things that pertain to this life. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Reading further down, in the thirty-fifth verse, you will notice that watching implies keeping ourselves in a serviceable condition: “Let you loins be girded about.” You know how the Orientals wear flowing robes, which are always getting in their way. They cannot walk without being tripped up; so that, if a man has a piece of work on hand, he just tucks in his robe under his girdle, ties his girdle up tightly, and gets ready for his task, as we should say in English, turning the Oriental into the Western figure, rolling up your shirt-sleeves, and preparing for work.. That is the way to wait for the Lord, ready for service, that, when he comes, he may never find you idle. I called to see a sister one morning; and when I called, she was cleaning the front steps with some whitening, and she said, “Oh, my dear pastor, I am sorry that you should call upon me just now! I would not have had you see me like this on any account.” I answered, “That is how I like to see you, busy at your work. I should not have liked to have come in, and caught you talking to your neighbour over the back palings. That would not have pleased me at all. May your Lord, when he comes, find you just so, doing your duty!” You see exactly what is meant; you are to be doing your duty; you are to be engaged about those vocations to which God has called you. You are to be doing it all out of love to Christ, and as service for him. Oh, that we might watch in that style, with our loins girded about! Work, and wait, and watch! This is what your Master asks of you.
And next, he would have us wait with our lights burning. If the Master comes home late, let us sit up late for him. It is not for us to go to bed til he comes home. Have the lights all trimmed; have his chamber well lit up; have the entrance-hall ready for his approach. When the King comes, have your torches flaming, that you may go out to meet the royal Bridegroom, and escort him to his home. If we are to watch for the Lord, as we ought, it must be with lamps burning. Are you making your light to shine among men? Do you think that your conduct and character are an example that will do your neighbours good, and are you trying to teach others the way of salvation? Some professors are like dark lanterns, or candles under a bushel. May we never be such! May we stand with our lamps trimmed, and our lights burning, and we ourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord; not walking in darkness, nor concealing our light, but letting it shine brightly! That is the way to watch for Christ, with your girdle tight about you because your are ready for work, and your lamp flaming out with brightness because you are anxious to illuminate the dark world in which you live.
To put it very plainly, I think that watching for the Coming of the Lord means acting just as you would wish to be acting if he were to come. I saw, in the Orphanage school-room, that little motto, “What would Jesus do?” That is a very splendid motto for our whole life, “What would Jesus do in such a case and in such a case?” Do just that. Another good motto is, “What would Jesus think of me if he were to come?” There are some places into which a Christian could not go, for he would not like his Master to come and find him there. There are some kinds of amusements into which a believer would never enter, for he would be ashamed for his Master to come and find him there. There are some conditions of angry temper, of pride, petulance, or spiritual sloth, in which your would not like to be if you felt that the Master was coming. Suppose an angel’s wing should brush your cheek just as you have spoken some unkind word, and a voice should say, “You Master is coming,” you would tremble, I am sure, to meet him in such a condition. Oh, beloved, let us try every morning to get up as if that were the morning in which Christ would come; and when we go up to bed at night, may we lie down with this thought, “Perhaps I shall be awakened by the ringing out of the silver trumpets heralding his Coming. Before the sun arises, I may be startled from my dreams by the greatest of all cries, ‘The Lord is come! The Lord is come!’” What a check, what an incentive, what a bridle, what a spur, such thoughts as these would be to us! Take this for the guide of your whole life. Act as if Jesus would come during the act in which your are engaged; and if you would not wish to be caught in that act by the coming of the Lord, let it not be your act.
The second verse of our text speaks about the Master coming in the second watch, or in the third watch. We are to act as those who keep the watches of the age for Christ. Among the Romans, it was as it is on board ship, there were certain watches. A Roman soldier, perhaps, stood on guard for three hours, and when he had been on the watch for three hours, there came another sentry who took his place, and the fresh sentinel stood in his place during his allotted time. Brethren, we have succeeded a long line of watchmen. Since the days of our Lord, when he sent out the chose twelve to stand upon the citadel, and tell how the night waxed or waned, how have the watchers come and gone! Our God has changed the watchers, but he has kept the watch. He still sets watchmen on the walls of Zion, who cannot hold their peace day or night, but must watch for the Coming of their Master, watch against evil times,, watch against error, and watch for the souls of men. At this time, some of us are called to be specially on the watch, and dare we sleep? After such a line of lynx-eyed watchmen, who counted not their lives dear unto them that they might hold their post, and watch against the foe, shall we be cravens, and be afraid; or shall we be sluggards, and go to our beds? By him that liveth, and was dead, and is alive for evermore, we pray that we may never be guilty of treason to his sacred name and truth; but may we watch on to the last moment when there shall ring out the clarion cry, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” People of the Tabernacle, you are set to watch to-night just as they did in the brave days of old! Whitefield and Wesley’s men were watchers; and those before them, in the days of Luther and Calvin, and backward even to the days of our Lord. They kept the watches of the night, and you must do the same, until—
“Upstarting at the midnight cry,
‘Behold your heavenly Bridegroom nigh,’”
you go forth to welcome your returning Lord.
We are to wait with one object in view, viz., to open the door to him, and to welcome him: “that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.” Perhaps you know what it is to go home to a loving, tender wife and children who are watching for you. You have been on a journey; you have been absent for some little time; you have written them letters which they have greatly valued; you have heard from them; but all that is nothing like your personal presence. They are looking out for you; and if, perchance, the boat should fail you, or the train be late, if you arrived at eleven or twelve o’clock at night, you would not expect to find the house all shut up, and nobody watching for you. No, you had told them that you would come, and your were quite sure that they would watch for you. I feel rebuked myself, sometimes, for not watching for my Master, when I know that, at this very time, my dogs are sitting against the door, waiting for me; and long before I reach home, there they will be, and at the first sound of the carriage-wheels, they will lift up their voices with delight because their master is coming home. Oh, if we loved our Lord as dogs love their masters, how we should catch the first sound of his Coming, and be waiting, always waiting, and never happy until at last we should see him! Pardon me for using a dog as a picture of what you ought to be; but when you have attained to a state above that, I will find another illustration to explain my meaning.
III. Now, lastly, THERE IS A REWARD FOR WATCHERS. Their reward is this, “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching.”
They have a present blessedness. It is a very blessed thing to be on the watch for Christ, it is a blessing to us now. How it detaches you from the world! You can be poor without murmuring; you can be rich without worldliness; you can be sick without sorrowing; you can be healthy without presumption. If you are always waiting for Christ’s Coming, untold blessings are wrapped up in that glorious hope. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.” Blessednesses are heaped up one upon another in that state of heart in which a man is always looking for his Lord.
But what will be the blessedness when Jesus does come? Well, a part of that blessedness will be in future service. You must not think that, when you have done working here, you Sunday-school teachers, and those of us who preach and teach, that the Master will say, “I have discharged you from my service. Go and sit on a heavenly mount, and sing yourselves away for ever and ever.” Not a bit of it. I am but learning how to preach now; I shall be able to preach by-and-by. You are only learning how to teach now; you will be able to teach by-and-by. Yes, to angels, and principalities, and powers, you shall make known the manifold wisdom of God. I sometimes aspire to the thought of a congregation of angels and archangels, who shall sit and wonder, as I tell what God has done for me; and I shall be to them and everlasting monument of the grace of God to an unworthy wretch, upon whom he looked with infinite compassion, and saved with a wonderful salvation. All those stars, those worlds of light, who knows how many of them are inhabited? I believe there are regions beyond our imagination to which every child of God shall be an everlasting illumination, a living example of the love of God in Christ Jesus. The people in those far-distant lands could not see Calvary as this world has seen it; but they shall hear of it from the redeemed. Remember how the Lord will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.” He is to keep on doing something, you see. Instead of having some little bit of a village to govern, he is to be made ruler over some great province. So it is in this passage. Read the forty-fourth verse: “Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.” That is, the man who has been a faithful and wise steward of God here, will be called of God to more eminent service hereafter. If he serve his Master well, when his Master comes, he will promote him to still higher service. Do you not know how it used to be in the Spartan army? Here is a man who has fought well, and been a splendid soldier. He is covered with wounds on his breast. The next time that there is a war, they say, “Poor fellow, we will reward him! He shall lead the way in the first battle. He fought so well before, when he met one hundred with a little troop behind him; now he shall meet ten thousand with a larger troop.” “Oh!” say you, “that is giving him more work.” That is God’s way of rewarding his people and a blessed thing it is for the industrious servant. His rest is in serving God with all his might. This shall be our heaven, not to go there to roost, but to be always on the wing; for ever flying, and for ever resting at the same time. “They do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” “His servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face.” These two things blended together make a noble ambition for every Christian.
May the Lord keep you waiting, working, and watching, that when he comes, you may have the blessedness of entering upon some larger, higher, nobler service than you could accomplish now, for which you are preparing by the lowlier and more arduous service of this world! God bless you, beloved, and if any of you do not know my Lord, and therefore do not look for his appearing, remember that he will come whether you look for him or not; and when he comes, you will have to stand at his bar. One of the events that will follow his Coming will be your being summoned before his judgment-seat, and how will you answer him then? How will you answer him if you have refused his love, and turned a deaf ear to the invitations of his mercy? If you have delayed, and delayed, and delayed, and delayed, how will you answer him? How will you answer him in that day? If you stand speechless, your silence will condemn you, and the King will say, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away.” God grant that we may believe in the Lord Jesus unto life eternal, and then wait for his appearing from heaven, for his love’s sake! Amen.
(This message was taken from the METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE PULPIT, Vol. 39, A. D. 1893, Pp. 157-165.)
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