Some Objections Considered
No. I. It Discourages Missions
It is objected that this doctrine discourages missions. This is not true. The missionary spirit among the evangelists of to-day is a sufficient answer to this. And let us name, among the missionaries who held this faith, Ben Ezra, Joseph Wolf, James McGregor Bertram, L. D. Mansfield, Gonsalves, Dr. Kelley and Hewitson.
"This was the hope that inspired Heber, the great missionary bishop of the English Church, who gave us that glorious missionary hymn, 'From Greenland's Icy Mountains,' and who spent his strength and rested from his labors 'on India's coral strand!'
"This was the hope that energized Gutzlaff, the opener of China, and Bethlehem, the opener of Japan; that inspired the noble Duff, who, under its influence, woke moderate Scotland from its lethargy, and was the pioneer of his indomitable race in India. This was the hope that inspired and cheered and everjoyed McCheyne and our own Poor, and Lowrie, and Rankin, and Lowenthal, and a host of others."
Mr. Lord affirms that among missionaries of all denominations, there is as great proportion of pre-millennialists, as there is among the ministry at home. They earnestly labor, as did the apostle, to save some from the wrath to come.
No. II. It Discourages Work
It is objected that it discourages work. This is most inconsistent and untrue, for the very essence of the doctrine is to WATCH, WORK AND WAIT, and to work NOW for the night cometh when no man can work.
No. III. So Many Unsaved Friends
Some object that they have so many unsaved friends, they cannot wish Jesus to come.
WORK THEN, for we read "all that my Father giveth me, shall come to me" (John 6 :37-39), and whosoever will may come. Knowing the terror (fear) of the Lord, let us persuade men. 2 Cor. 5 :11.
The Antedeluvians would not heed the preaching of Noah, and even Lot's kindred (his sons-in-law) would not go with him out of Sodom. So there will be those who will not accept of Christ. But of all who believe in Him4 not one will be lost. The Israelites were often led to repentance, in the midst of adversity and calamity, and so if our friends will not be entreated to accept of Christ now, it is perhaps possible that they may do so under the visible judgments of God, during the Tribulation.
But whether they will or not, let us consider, that the great mass of humanity are engulfed in the maelstrom of sin, which is sweeping its millions down to graves of destruction (Mat. 7 :13), and compared to them, in numbers, the true believers are but a handful. In the Millennium all this will be changed, "for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11 :9), and all men shall bow to the righteous scepter of King Immanuel.
We would not sacrifice the hundreds of lives upon a passenger train, to save the life of even a FRIEND who willfully exposed himself to danger upon the track; and are not all men our brothers? and shall we not yearn to save them from the tide of spiritual death? Oh I then, let us cry with the Holy Spirit: "Even so come, Lord Jesus." Rev. 22 :20. For when He comes the work will be cut short in righteousness.
No. IV. My Kingdom Is Not of This World
It is objected that Jesus said: "My Kingdom is not of this world." John 18 :36. True! not of the spirit of the world (1 John 2:15-17); just as believers are not of the world. John 15:19. The correct rendering of the passage is, "My Kingdom is not (ek) out of this world." That is, it does not emanate from this world. He is not (ek) out of this world. Both He and His Kingdom are from above. But it will be set up on this earth, in accordance with the prayer which He taught us "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." Luke 11 :2. Earthly kingdoms are corrupted by the deception of Satan. But in the Millennial Kingdom he will not deceive them, for he shall be bound.
There is nothing essentially sinful in matter. Adam was sinless before his fall and he had a material body. Christ has a material body and is without sin. The earth was cursed because of sin and the spirit of the world clings to sin. But when the curse is removed, and all things that offend are gathered out of the kingdom, then shall all creation have that for which it groans, and the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
No. V. The Kingdom Within You
It is objected, that the kingdom of God is not material and visible, but that it is spiritual and invisible. In support of this the following words of Jesus in Luke 17 :20-21 are cited: "When He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said: The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, here! or, there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
Observation should be translated "careful watching," see Dr. Adam Clarke, or "narrow watching," see Rotherham. The marginal, and better reading for "within you" is "among you," see Rotherham, Wilson, Prof. Whitting, and others. He did not say that the kingdom' of God was within, or in the hearts of those wicked Pharisees, but that it was among them, viz.: within the Jewish nation. As Bengel states it, "within is here used, not in any respect of the heart of individual Pharisees, . . . . but in respect to the whole Jewish people. The King, Messiah, and therefore the kingdom is here: ye see and ye hear."
The sense, then, is as follows: The kingdom of God cometh not with "careful watching." That is, not in such a way as to be discerned only by sagacious critics, nor is it to be seen only by those who are scrupulously watching for it. They shall not say, Behold here or there, for the kingdom of God is among you, to-wit: it was then visibly present among them, in the person of Jesus the King, And so it will be visibly present when He comes again. It did not, and will not, need scrupulous watching to discern it, Had they received Him with faith,-instead of (narrowly) watching Him with deceitful spies they might have realized that their King was then visibly present, and ready to usherin the universal manifestation of the kingdom, which had been seen by the favored disciples of the Mount. How gladly He would have then fully manifested Himself as King, and established His Kingdom among them, is shown by His words of tender yearning in Mat. 23 :37-39 :
"0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate, For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,"
He came in His Father's name; but the Israelites to whom He spoke would not receive Him.
Preferring a robber, they rejected and crucified their King and so the kingdom waits until they shall accept Him,21 when the kingdom of the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord's and of His Christ's and He shall reign for the AGES OF AGEs.
Oh! Blessed "KING OF KINGS !" COME, and may "THY KINGDOM COME."The King there in His beauty, Without a veil Is seen; It were a well-spent journey, Though sev'n deaths lay between, The Lamb, with His fair army, Doth on Mount Zion stand, And glory, glory dwelleth In Immanuel's land.
No. VI. The Kingdom Is Not Meat and Drink
It is objected that Paul said, "The Kingdom of God Is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Romans 14:17.
Indeed it is not "meat and drink," or eating and drinking, or simply outward observances. Neither was the Kingdom of Israel meat and drink, nor the Roman Empire. But the subjects of each did eat and drink, and Paul simply taught that they should do so circumspectly and with charity. So will the subjects of the kingdom of God eat and drink. "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." -Luke 14:15. "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. -" Revelation 19:9, See the Feast of Isaiah 25 :6-8.
Jesus himself said, "I will not drink henceforth of this. fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." -Matthew 26:29.
And again: "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom." -Luke 22:29-30. This is the strongest proof that the kingdom will be literal and material, though it shall be freed from the curse of sin. 24
No. VII. Flesh and Blood
It is objected that flesh and blood cannot inherit the' kingdom of God.
Certainly we do not INHERIT it through the flesh-the unregenerate man. But through the Spirit we are born again, created anew in Christ Jesus, and made "joint heirs" with Him. The flesh profiteth nothing. The Spirit quickeneth.
Paul in this chapter (1 Corinthians 15) is treating of the subject of the resurrection which he proves to be so important, that without it, we could not inherit, or become possessed of the kingdom of God. "Flesh and blood" he says cannot inherit it, and therefore he shows that at the resurrection, our bodies of corruptible flesh and blood, which have died, shall be raised in incorruption and immortality. And the bodies of those who are living at that time shall be changed and "fashioned like unto His glorious body." Now, in our flesh and blood, we are bearing the image of Adam, the first man, "which is of the earth, earthy." But at the resurrection we shall be changed so as to "bear the image of the heavenly" "the second man," "the Lord from heaven."
And He who raised up Christ from the dead, and who hath given us the Spirit of adoption (sonship) whereby we become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, will, by His Spirit that dwelleth in us, also quicken (or make alive) our mortal bodies. Then, and then only, can we inherit, or come into possession of the kingdom, which God hath promised to give unto us. Hence, we see the vital importance of the resurrection, without which we could not inherit the kingdom of God. The evident purpose of this objection is to support the assertion made by Post-millennialists that the kingdom is only spiritual and that there is nothing literal or material in it. But Paul says nothing of the kind and his whole argument is entirely to the contrary. For he asserts that our (soma-body) which is sown in corruption, dishonor and weakness, will be raised in incorruption, glory and power, or if living, will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. In these glorified bodies we shall "inherit the kingdom prepared for" us "from the foundation of the world." For Christ the rightful heir of all things will be there and we shall be there to reign with Him.
And He will have his glorified body, His body that was raised and ascended and entered into heaven.
The glorified body which Stephen saw there, and which Paul saw (Acts 9:5) and also John, Rev. 1:13.
The body which bears the scars of the cross ;44 "A Lamb as it had been slain." Yes, He will return in the flesh. Acts 1 :11. The true reading of 2 John 7, is, "who confess not Jesus Christ coming in the flesh." See also Isaiah 63: 1-6, and Rev. 19 :11-16. And "we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him." 1 John 3 :2. Therefore it is clear, that we, in these same bodies, changed into the image of Christ's glorious body, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.
No. VIII. The Work of the Holy Spirit a Failure
It is objected that this doctrine disparages the work of the Holy Spirit.
Not so! For what is the work of the Holy Spirit? He is gathering the bride. He teaches, guides, and comforts her, until she is presented to Christ.
At the same time he reproves the world of sin, and of righteousness, and judgment. John 16 :8.
He may be grieved, resisted, and quenched now, but He will not always strive with man. His present work will be finished, and the King of kings and Lord of lords will come forth with the armies of heaven to subdue His enemies (Rev. 19) and finish the work.
It was "the Spirit of God," which "moved upon the face of the waters" in the beginning (Gen. 1:2), and we believe He had a part in all the work of creation, Gen. 1 :26. He strove with sinners before the flood, Gen. 6 :3. He spake by the prophets, Acts 1 :16; 2 Pet. 1 :21. He was specially granted unto Joseph and others. Gen. 41:38; Ex. 31:3; Num. 11:17; 24:2; 27:18; 2 Kings 2:9, etc. In short, He has been engaged in all the work of creation and redemption. We do not believe that His work is a failure because of the flood, nor because the Jews have rejected Christ, and as natural branches, have been broken off. Rom. 11 :20. Neither do we believe His work will be a failure, though the preaching of the gospel in the present dispensation shall only result in the salvation of "some." We feel sure that He shall have a part in the glory and triumph of the millennial dispensation, for even the Israelites shall then have a new Spirit within them. And the nations are to be ruled, in peace and righteousness, by Him upon whom the Spirit of the Lord doth rest.
Let us then have no fear of jealousy on the part of the Spirit, because of the triumphs of Christ. Rather let us be sure that He seeks to hasten the presentation of the bride. -which is being sealed by Him (Eph. 4:30), -unto her Lord-who hath the Spirit without measure, that these twain, united into one, may be the one perfect man, the Holy Temple, built for the habitation of God in Spirit. And who can estimate what shall be accomplished by the Spirit, through this holy, living Temple, in which He shall dwell. No wonder that He yearns to hasten its completion. See the type of His haste in Gen. 24 :56. But this completion shall not take place until the Lord comes, when the Head shall forever be united to the body. 1 Thessalonians 4 :18. Therefore, in this we may realize, to some extent, the meaning of that yearning cry of the Spirit "EVEN SO COME LORD JESUS." Rev. 22 :20.
No. IX. The Gospel a Failure
It is said that it makes the gospel a failure. But this is not so. Man is a failure. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth (Rom. 1:16). It is not the incompetency of the gospel, but the willful unbelief of sinners that prevents the conversion of the world. Jesus said: "Him that cometh unto me I Will in no wise cast out." John 6:37. But He also said "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." John 5 :40. While we are to preach the gospel everywhere, we are not to expect that all will receive it. For, when He said unto them, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," He also added, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16 :15-16. But "what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make THE TRUTH of God of none effect? God forbid." Rom. 3 :3. Salvation shall be revealed in the last time.
Jesus shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied Isaiah 53 :11.
"After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our God Which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." Rev. 7:9-10. Alleluia; Amen; Alleluia.
No. X. The Gospel Not Preached in All the World
It is objected that the gospel has not yet been preached in all the world, as Christ asserted it should be, in Mat. 24:14, and therefore we cannot yet look for Christ, nor the end to come. Let us carefully examine this passage: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
1st. The end is unquestionably the end of the age (tou aionos) of which the disciples asked in verse 3.
2d. The world (oikoumenee) means habitable, that is, the inhabited earth.
3d. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news, or glad tidings of the kingdom to come.
These glad tidings, it is asserted, shall be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth for a witness unto all nations and then (tote) shall come the end of this age-or dispensation. It will be noticed that the time, during which the preaching shall continue, is determined entirely by the qualifying clause "for a witness unto all nations." When the witness is complete, then shall the end come.
When the Witness Is Complete
Now, no finite mind can determine when the witness is complete. If we could, the evidence is to the effect that it has passed already. For when the gospel was preached on the day of Pentecost, there were present "devout men out of every nation under heaven." Acts 2 :5. Afterward the disciples were scattered abroad and went about preaching the Word. Acts 8 :4. "And they went forth and preached everywhere." Mark 16 :20. Paul says, in Rom. 10 :18, "Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world," (world here being from the same word oikoumenee that is used in Mat.24:14).
And again he says in Col. 1 :23 that the gospel had already been "preached to every creature which is under heaven."
These inspired statements as to the universal preaching of the gospel ought to be conclusive. Mighty as it makes the work of the early disciples, I do not see how we can refuse to accept it. (See Dr. A. Clarke on Mat. 24:14 as to the special point of the universality of this preaching, also the authorities previously cited.) Surely we must give no broader meaning to the word (oikoumenee) used by the Holy Spirit in Mat. 24:14 than in Rom. 10 :18, or than to the equally strong words used in Col. 1:6 and 23. If we limit the one, we can, with equal propriety, limit the other. Because we have so full an account of Paul's work, we are apt to depreciate what was accomplished by the other Apostles and Disciples. Peter was in Babylon (1 Pet. 5:13), and tradition gives us account of the preaching of the gospel in Parthia, India, Ethiopia, Scythia, Spain and Britain.
So then we may rest confidently on the plain statement of Col. 1 :23, as being such fulfillment of Mat. 24 :14, that the Church from that day to the present has not had, neither can have, in this, any sign or prophesied event 'standing between believers and the Lord's coming. If we take it upon ourselves to judge that the witness is not complete, or more presumingly, that it cannot be complete for centuries to come, then are we foolishly assuming a prerogative which belongs to God only.
Only God Knows
Surely, only God can judge when the witness to all nations is complete, and here lies the essence of this entire question. If the Church is the agent which is to proclaim the gospel until the witness is complete, no mortal can judge but what the witness shall be completed this moment. But we have no evidence that the Church is the only agent, and it is quite probable that she is not, for we read of another agent in Rev. 14:6.
Therefore the witness may not be completed, until after the Church is taken away, and this other heavenly messenger proclaims the everlasting gospel to them that dwell on the earth, even unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people. Rev. 14:6 (see Greek). In this case it is not the Church which shall complete the witness and it evidently can be no sign to her.
We conclude then that like the "day and hour," it is known to God only, and the Church can have no definite sign in it. Therefore nothing is left for us to do, but faithfully to continue proclaiming the glad tidings of the coming kingdom while we watch momentarily for the Bridegroom.
No. XI. Some Here Live to See Kingdom
It is objected, that we are taught in Mat. 16 :28; Mark 9:1, and Luke 9 :27, that the coming of Christ, and of the kingdom, should occur during the lifetime of some of the multitude ( Mar. 8 :34) to whom Jesus spake, and that therefore His coming 'and kingdom can only be interpreted spiritually, viz.: the establishment of the power of the gospel by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, or as some hold, figuratively, viz.: the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish polity by the Romans, and the establishment of the Church. That is, as they say,-Christ came, by His Spirit, on the day of Pentecost and manifested His power through the disciples, in the preaching of the gospel, performing of miracles, etc.,-or, He came through the Roman army, destroyed Jerusalem and overthrew the Jewish polity,-and that His Kingdom' is the Church over which He now reigns, or (as some say) in which or through which He now reigns over the nations of the earth.
We answer-The Holy Spirit is a distinct person, not to be confounded with the person of Christ. The Savior expressly said: "I will pray the Father and He shall give you another comforter" (John 14:16), and if it be another, it cannot be Himself. He, the Holy Spirit, came according to the promises,67 and it is entirely inconsistent to confound this event with Christ's return, which latter is in accordance with other promises, that He should Himself come again. They are two events, as distinct as the births of Moses and John.
It is true that Christ is spiritually with, or in, believers, and it is just as true that He always has been, and that in this sense He has never left them, for He said: "Lo, I am with you always," Mat. 28:20. Mark the language: "I AM with you always!' He was with them during those days of prayer previous to the day of Pentecost, and He has been with His people all the time. But suddenly the (Parakleetos) Comforter came, another person and for a special and glorious purpose. It IS, therefore, conclusive, that this coming of the Holy Spirit is a manifestation of the Divine presence, entirely different from, and superadded to, the spiritual presence of Christ, which latter, according to His own language, has never been withdrawn from His people. He never went away spiritually, but He did go bodily and visibly, and in like manner shall He return.
Again, after the day of Pentecost, the disciples continued to talk of the coming of Christ, which they surely would not have done if His promise to return was fulfilled on that day. And after the destruction of Jerusalem (about A. D. 71), St. John wrote the book of Revelation (about A. D. 96), in which he repeatedly speaks of the coming of Christ as being yet future, clearly showing that it could not have been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Again, as we have before shown, the Church is not the kingdom, but the body of Christ? She is not to be reigned over but to suffer and reign with Christ. She is "to be 'counted worthy of the Kingdom of God for which she suffers," and therefore Paul exhorts the disciples (members of the Church) "that they must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), and Peter stirs us up, putting us in remembrance to add the Christian graces and give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto us "into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." 2 Pet. 1 :5-11.
Surely this language plainly distinguishes between the Church and the kingdom, and as plainly asserts that the kingdom is yet future. So we see that both the spiritual and figurative interpretations of the coming of Christ are without foundation.
Another theory has been advanced, viz.: that the coming of Christ in His Kingdom (Mat. 16 :28) was fulfilled in what they term the spiritual coming on the day of Pentecost,-and that His coming in the clouds of heaven, in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels, etc., is his real, personal, visible coming at the end of the gospel age (which they also hold to be the end of time and of the world).
This seems to us to be founded upon a mere distinction of terms, where there is no difference in fact. For is it not at His coming in His Kingdom that He shall be manifested in His glory? History proves:-and all our ideas of the glory of Kings coincide with the fact-that such glory is identical with the majesty and manifestation of their kingdoms.
It is in Christ's Kingdom that He shall rule all nations with a rod of iron, and it is in His Kingdom that He is to be manifested as "the Blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of 10rds." Therefore His coming in His Kingdom and His coming in His glory are synonymous, and both are yet future.
Some of Them Did See the Kingdom
Then what do the passages mean, to wit: Mat. 16 :28, "verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom,"-or as in Mark 9 :1, "till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power,"-or as in Luke 9:27, "till they see the Kingdom of God."
death" may have the deep signification, in which sense the true believers, who were standing there, shall never experience it. This is certainly the signification the same language has in Hebrews 2 :9,78 and if we understand it likewise in these passages, then we have all eternity for the fulfillment. However we only suggest this. We do not rely upon it, for we believe the word "till" more than intimates that the "some" should taste of death, and that therefore natural death or separation of soul and body was meant.
Peter Saw It
But now let us mark well what the "some" standing there were to see, and then let us go up the Mount of Transfiguration, and gaze through the favored eyes of Peter, James and John upon the scene which is recorded immediately after the passage we are considering. Behold His face shining as the sun and His raiment white and glistening as the snow, or as the light. See Moses and Elias as they appear in glory with Him, and listen to the communings of this exalted trio. Then bow in silent awe, as the cloud of surpassing glory overshadows them, and reverently listen to the voice of God, the Father, saying "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him." No wonder that even the favored and beloved disciples trembled with fear beneath this supernatural majesty and effulgent glory. Surely this was I AM spanning the centuries and giving these apostles a view of His coming and kingdom.
So they understood it and Peter especially confirms it
"For," he says, "we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor 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." 2 Pet. 1:16-18.
We cannot tell how much of the future they saw in that enraptured hour, but doubtless they had a specific vision of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in His kingdom and glory.
John Saw It
We have only to turn to Revelation, where we find that He "which is and which was, and which is to come" permitted John to see (Rev. 1:2, 11, etc.) it most definitely. His enraptured vision swept the centuries. Time, to him, was annihilated and he gazed upon the literal facts. He actually saw them. Thirty-six times does he say "I saw," seven times "I beheld," and five times "I looked," besides many similar expressions. And he saw the very things mentioned in the passages.
"And I SAW heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and Truth. and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire and on His head were many crowns,. . . . and He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.. . . And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
He saw the beast and kings of the earth gathered and taken and cast into the lake of fire. He saw Satan bound, and he saw Christ and His saints reigning for a thousand years. He saw it all in perfect fulfillment of the statements in the passages we are considering. Rev. 19 :20.
Paul Saw It
Paul also saw Christ in His glory and doubtless he saw all that John did, and probably more, for he saw things that it was impossible for a man to utter. (2 Corinthians 12 :4, margin.) Surely these are an absolute and literal fulfillment of what Jesus promised "some" should see, and satisfactorily explain the passages in question.
Ye Shall Not Have Gone Over the Cities of Israel
Another passage is cited in support of the above theories, viz.: the spiritual coming on the day of Pentecost or the figurative coming, in the destruction of Jerusalem, etc., and that is Mat. 10 :23, "verily I say unto you ye shall not have gone over (or finish) the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come."
In regard to this we answer, that this was spoken to the twelve disciples, when Jesus sent them forth two by two, with a message especially for and exclusively to Israel. We find from Mark 6 :30, and Luke 9 :10, that they returned to the Master, of course, without finishing the cities. And there is no evidence that they ever, in like manner, renewed the visitation preaching the message "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Indeed they could not, for Israel had rejected their King, and the kingdom had become like a nobleman which went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and return.
But from the force of the word "till" we believe that the message will be renewed (perhaps by the "two witnesses" after the Church is taken away), to the unbelieving Israelites, who shall yet return to their land and restore Judaism, and before they shall have gone over the rebuilt cities, the Son of Man shall appear again.
No. XII. Gloomy View of the Future
It is objected that this doctrine presents a gloomy view of the future; that "it is the philosophy of despair," that it stands opposed to the popular idea, viz.: that the world is growing better, and "if it is true," it is sarcastically said, "we might as well fold our hands and wait for Christ to come."
We candidly think that many who raise these objections have altogether mistaken the spirit and work of pre-millennialists.
We do Not Despair
We neither despair, nor fold our hands to sleep. On the contrary, we are filled with a lively (Greek-living) hope (1 Pet. 1:3), the most "blessed hope" (Tit. 2:13), while we strive to save some from this worldly. sinful and adulterous generation, which is nigh unto cursing and whose end is to be burned.
We would not deceive them with the hallucination that they are "growing better," for, as the apostle has said, "we know that we are of God and the whole world lieth in wickedness" (Greek-in the wicked one), 1 John 5:19- and therefore we would tell them in the plain words of Scripture, that they are in the broad way that leadeth to destruction (Mat. 7:13), and that they must repent or perish. Luke 13 :3. And further, that this same world, once overflowed by the flood, is now "stored with fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." 2 Pet. 3:5-7.
We rejoice over every one of those, who, by believing the gospel, the good news of the coming kingdom, are saved from this awful fate and made "joint heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17) "to an inheritance. . . reserved in heaven for us," and "who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time," and who "hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto" us "at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Pet. 1 :4-5-13.
Surely this positive conviction of coming doom is a mightier incentive to action than can be the quieting fallacy that things are moving on prosperously and that EVEN THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER.
And this is clearly proved by the zeal and faithful work of the ministers, evangelists and laymen, who hold and proclaim this doctrine of the pre-millennial coming of Christ.
It is true that they do not expect the conversion of the world in this present evil age* (Gal. 1:4), but they do believe that a millennial age of peace is coming, and they do strive "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," to :'shine a lights in the world holding forth the word of life" (Phil. 2:15-16), that they may snatch some brands from the burning (Mal. 4:1; 1 Cor. 3:13-15; to increase the godly company who shall be ready to welcome the Bridegroom.
Why, then, should they be so bitterly opposed for pro. claiming this scriptural doctrine' Are they not all members of the body of Christ' And, as such, do they not merit the warmest sympathy and prayers of the Church? Shall they be condemned because, like the early Church, they are holding the traditions (or teachings handed down) of the apostles, and looking for Jesus? God forbid! But let us remember that "we be brethren," strangers and pilgrims (Heb. 11 :13), whose "citizenship" is in heaven (Phil. 3 :20). And let us speak "the truth in love," be built up in love (Eph. 4:15-16), and "walk in love" (Eph. 5:2), "redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
The Days Are Evil
Yes, THE DAYS ARE EVIL, and we freely admit that this doctrine does present a gloomy future in the present evil age, for this world of sinners, who are full of unbelief and radically opposed to Christ, His people and His salvation. They are rejecting God's gracious entreaties for reconciliation, and rushing madly on toward the day of wrath. Rev. 6 :15-17.
But there is no gloom in the future for those "who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us," and "who have received the Spirit of adoption," become "children" and "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ . . . For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." Rom. 8 :15-18.
There seems to be a prevailing disposition to balance up the good and the bad in the world by a process of general average, in which the triumphs of art and science, the progress in inventions, discoveries, etc., are counted as moral goodness, and it is concluded that the world, on the average, is growing better.
But this is utterly fallacious and, we fear, a grand deception of Satan.
The Church and the World
First, there is no such thing as averaging together the true church and the world. There is no possible consanguinity. The one is "from beneath,"-the other "from above." The one "is of this world,"-the other "not of this world." John 8:2 They must not be yoked together, for there is no fellowship, communion, concord, part or agreement between them. They are and always must be separate. The true church is in the world, but not of it, There are three parties in the world, viz.: the Jew, the Gentile and the Church of God, As the Jews were a separate, called-out and peculiar people, not to be reckoned among the nations, so is this true church a separate and peculiar people, called unto cleansing and holiness, sealed by the Spirit of God, unto the day of redemption (Eph, 4:30), no longer darkness, but "children of light," and exhorted to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5 :8-11), They are of God, while the whole world lies in the wicked one. There is an irrepressible conflict between them - no possible harmony exists. On the contrary, their principles and tendencies are absolutely opposite. It is therefore entirely inconsistent that they should be spoken of as forming one general mass.
Art, Science and Invention
Second, the triumphs of art and science, the progress in inventions, discoveries, etc., by no means argue an increase in godliness.
Many of the acknowledged leaders today in science and philosophy-yes, even those who rank the very highest among them, are positive infidels. And very many more, who disclaim absolute infidelity, deny the divinity of Jesus Christ.
It is strange, indeed, that the Christian optimists, in their noisy trumpetings of the strides of science, should lose sight of this momentous fact. And history bears a similar testimony. The power, splendor and wisdom of David and Solomon were followed by the idolatry and innocent blood of Ahab and Manasseh, resulting in the overthrow of Jerusalem and the Babylonish captivity.
The temple, built by Herod, was one of the grandest works of art. It fairly flashed with splendor, and the temple service was conducted on a magnificent scale. The Jews of his time enjoyed great privileges in literature and learning, and yet they crucified the Lord Jesus.
The Greeks rose to a pinnacle of triumph in literature, poetry and art, and yet they failed by wisdom to find out God. To them he was the unknown God. See how plainly this is brought out in 1 Cor. chapters, 1, 2 and 3: "For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 :21). The trouble is not with the heads, but with the hearts of men. No matter how great the learning, man must have "a new heart, and this is obtained not by education, but by the operation of the Spirit of God. It was not many wise men after the flesh who received the grace of God in Corinth, but the simple and the despised. "I thank Thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth," said Jesus, "that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent (discerning ones) and hast revealed them unto babes." Luke 10 :21.
The world, then, by "wisdom" or "philosophy" (Col. 2: 8), or "science falsely so called" (1 Tim. 6:20), can never find out God. Indeed, we have a clear evidence of this in the rationalism, infidelity and atheism of our day. No matter how refined and polished is their garb or the delicacy with which they may be set forth, still they are only the poisonous deceptions of him who can appear as "an angel of light." I The truth is that Satan is the arch enemy of God, and the world, in this present evil age (Gal. 1:4), is in his power (1 John 5:19), so that he besets the people of God with his "wiles," and arrays against them "principalities. . . . powers. . . . and the rulers of the darkness of this world." '.. Eph. 6 :11-13. Therefore the Christian must "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2 :15-16.
The World Not Growing Better
Surely, then, this wicked world, which is so radically opposed to God, and under the present control of His arch enemy, is not growing better. On the contrary, judgment, fire and perdition are before it.l03 Perilous times are coming.104 "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." The tares, which naturally grow much faster than the wheat, shall continue up to the harvest. Mat. 13 :40. "The mystery of iniquity" which already worked in the days of the apostles, shall culminate in "the man of sin," the personal antichrist, whom even the mass of the Jews will receive; and who will be so great and rule with such universal authority that he is to be destroyed only by the personal appearing of the Lord Himself.
There is no hope, then, for the world, but in the coming of Christ the King. And, praised be God for the promises, the Lord will come at the end of this age. Antichrist will be destroyed. All things that offend shall be gathered out and the Millennial Kingdom of righteousness shall be established on the earth. So, while there is a gloomy prospect for the world during this evil age, there is a bright and glorious prospect during the coming millennial age.
Civilization and Beneficent Institutions
But perhaps it is still insisted that the world has made great progress in civilization and refinement, in benevolence, in personal liberty, international fraternity, Christian work, etc. In proof of this, the abrogation of slavery is cited; also the cessation of the inquisition and martyrdom, the establishment of charitable institutions, the great postal and commercial means of communication, built upon the agencies of steam and lightning; the right of trial by jury, international arbitration, missionary triumphs, etc.
Well, first of all we answer that Civilization and Refinement are not the Source of Holiness. They may elevate the head, while the heart is untouched. The gilded palace of sin is as certainly the gateway to hell as the darkest den of vice.
The cultured and scientific atheist is as surely in the service of Satan as the thief or the murderer. Jesus Himself classed them all together when He said, "He that is not with Me is against Me." Mat. 12 :30. So it matters not how much more like an angel of light the serpent may appear, nor how civilized and refined the world may be. Satan is the devil still.
And the world is still the world
His manifestations and methods may be changed, but the spirit of darkness is the same. And accordingly we see that while slavery is disappearing, communism, socialism and nihilism are lifting their godless, headless forms. And darker are their forebodings than were even the days of the inquisition and martyrdom. Oppressing monopolies, systematic peculation and fraud are parallel with charitable institutions. The mails, so useful for news and correspondence, afford a most convenient agency for disseminating the flood of obscene literature which is blasting the morals of the young. Trial by jury has too often proved a mere farce, in which the criminal escapes. The nation which opened the way for the missionary also forced upon the teeming millions of China the awful curse of opium.
While missionary efforts have been greatly blessed abroad (and praise God that they have), infallibility, ritualism, skepticism and desecration of the Lord's day have more than equally triumphed at home. And let it not be forgotten that the monstrous assumption of infallibility has triumphed in what was once an apostolic church of Christ.
The past century has had its full share of war and carnage. Numerous, dark and fearful have been the fields of blood up to this very year. In short, Satan is on the alert and fully up to the times, multiplying his deceptions on either hand, as he will continue to do, until chained by the angel at the beginning of the Millennium.
Is the Church Progressing?
Lastly, it is argued that, as Christians are the light of the world and the salt of the earth the greatly increased number of professed Christians must certainly have augmented the light and the salt, and consequently have made the world better.
Jesus was indeed the light of the world, but He shone in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not. Men loving and clinging to the darkness, because their deeds were evil, would not see the light, and were not made better by it. So true Christians, reflecting the light from heaven, only intensify the darkness about them. The darkness is still darkness and cannot be improved. The sinner must forsake it and come to the light, or he can never be saved.
Losing the Saltness
Let us notice carefully that Jesus speaks of the salt losing its saltness and becoming good for nothing, and He also intimates that the light may be hid under a bushel. And therefore He exhorts, "Have salt in yourselves." Mark 9 :50. Evidently the Jews lost their "savour" (Mat. 5 :13) and "were broken Off." This leads to the solemn query, is the professing Church progressing or declining in faith and spiritual life?
The kingdom in mystery or the state of Christendom until Christ comes again, is taught us, we believe, by the parables of Mat. 13.
"The parable of the Sower shows the varied and imperfect reception of the Word. The parable of the Tares shows the early and continued effects of Satan's presence among the saints. The parable of the Mustard-seed shows outward growth sheltering evil. The parable of the Leaven shows the gradual and utter corruption of the truth. The parable of the Treasure hid in a field shows what Israel is to be in the world. The parable of the Pearl of great price shows what the Church is to Christ. And the parable of the Dragnet shows the cleansing of the kingdom at His second coming."
There is, perhaps, but little opposition to this interpretation of the parables, excepting that of the Leaven, which has quite extensively been interpreted to teach exactly the opposite, viz.: that the power and influence of the gospel or Christian life is to permeate the masses of the world, until the whole is leavened into holiness. The inconsistency of this is seen when we consider that precisely the contrary is taught by the parable of the sower and the tares, each of which most undisputedly shows that evil is to continue and grow up to the end of the age. This is surely the most sufficient and scriptural reason for assigning the same typical meaning to the Leaven, in this and the correlative passage, which we find it to bear in the numerous other passages, where the same word is used, viz.: the corrupting influence of evil and the symbol of death. See carefully Mat. 16 :6-12. Here then we 'are most emphatically taught not only that the world is growing no better, but that the professing Church itself will lose its saltness, becoming nominal and lukewarm, fit only to be spued out of the Master's mouth. The entire teaching of the Word of God, we believe, agrees with this.
And we have but to take an unprejudiced survey of the Church even now, to see the truth of it. The loss of spiritual power in the different branches of the great nominal Church has not resulted from the casting out of truth, but from the imbibing and internal workings of false doctrine, which, like leaven, has fermented the mass. Little by little the ordinary bishop of. Rome has developed into an infallible Pope. Image worship, the confessional, world conformity and post-millennialism have all worked out their enormous growth like the little leaven in the meal.
How do the great Papal and Greek churches, in their stateliness, formality, popularity and spiritual weakness of today, compare with the despised Nazarene and his followers, or with the persecuted, consecrated and godly congregations (ekkleesias) of the first two centuries?
And are not the present evangelical denominations, by worldly conformity and increeping doubts regarding the inspiration of the Word, etc., dangerously tending in the same direction? How very few of the members in them are to-day crying out for separation and holiness. Surely, no one can fail to see the corrupting influences of the leaven permeating them.
We realize that this is an awful fact. It is not even pleasant to state it. But, while Noah's preaching was not pleasant to them that heard it, still it was true and the flood did come. Likewise the prophesying of Jeremiah was exceedingly unpleasant, but it was true and was followed by the terrible fate of the city, and the Babylonian captivity. The preaching of Jesus was at times of fearful severity, but was it not true? So would we humbly yet faithfully proclaim the Word of God. We would "cry aloud and spare not," fully believing that, upon an apostate church rebellious and murderous Israel, and a sinful world, the day of darkness is coming.
The Faithful Remnant
But even in the darkness, so gloomy for the ungodly, there is hope-bright, glorious hope for the faithful. For God always has had, and ever will have a faithful remnant. There were those, in blind unbelieving Israel, who waited for and accepted the Messiah. Luke 2, etc. So there will be those in the Church who will wait for (1 Thes. 1 :10) and welcome the coming Bridegroom. Mat. 25 :10. And there shall be a remnant in Israel, who, passing through the darkness and fire (Zech. 13:9), will yet accept their King. Zech. 12 :10; Rom. 9 :27; 11 :25-26. And there shall even be a remnant (residue or remainder) among the Gentiles (ungodly world) who shall seek after the Lord.
Glory to God! the darkness shall yet flee away before the Sun of Righteousness, arising with healing in His wings, when He comes to sit in the throne of His glory. The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established and all nations shall flow unto it (Isa. 2 :1-6; Mic. 4 :1-5, please read it) during that bright millennial day of peace and glory, which shall follow "this present evil age" (Gal. 1 :4) and in which even the creature "shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Rom. 8 :21. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Isa. 11 :9.
"A better day is coming, a morning promised long, When girded Right. with holy Might, will overthrow the wrong;
When God the Lord will listen to every plaintive sigh, And stretch His hand o'er .every land, with justice by and by.
The boast of haughty Error no more will fill the air, But Age and Youth will love the truth and spread it everywhere;
No more from want and sorrow will come the hopeless cry; And strife will cease, and perfect peace will flourish by and by.
Oh! for that holy dawning we watch, and wait, and pray. Till o'er the height the morning light shall drive the gloom away;
And when the heavenly glory shall flood the earth and sky, We'll bless the Lord for all His Word, and praise Him by and by."
No. XIII. Cruel to the Unsaved
It is objected that it would be cruel for Christ to come in Judgment upon the world, while there are so many millions unsaved.
We answer, Is not such a declaration a presumptuous criticism of God's motives? Was the flood an expression of cruelty, or rather was it not a manifestation of God's love and mercy, toward them who should live after, in that He swept away the great overflow of wickedness? Surely it was done in mercy. And now let us remember that this world DIES every thirty-three years. The average of human life is even a little less than this. The world is in the power of the devil, and he has the power of death. He has slain this world with the sword of death, over fifty times in the present dispensation.
Think of it! more than fifty worlds gone down in the whirlpool of death. Each generation brings on to the scene an entirely new world. And how few out of these are converted. How few are reached by the gospel lifeboat, and how few of those reached heed the message of salvation. The great mass sweep on, like a wrecked vessel, in darkness and unbelief, to the Judgment.
The coming of Christ will inaugurate a far better state of things. For, when He comes, all things that offend shall be gathered out and the kingdom shall be established in righteousness And even though the subjects of the kingdom (not the reigning ones) may die during the millennial age, yet shall they die in a good old age, the child even a hundred years old and' their death shall be blessed, and though the Millennium is not the perfect state, yet Judgment will speedily follow the sinner of that day, or the nation which shall swerve from serving God.
Surely, then, His speedy coming cannot be counted an unmerciful event. The wonder is rather at the long-suffering of God, which now (as before the flood) waits in such patient pleading. But He will fulfill His promise, and the Coming One will come and cut short the work in righteousness. Rom. 9 :28.
Then let us not look upon Christ's coming as cruel or unmerciful. He has said "SURELY I COME QUICKLY," and let us have the mind of the Holy Spirit, who replied "EVEN! SO COME LORD JESUS." Rev. 22 :20.
"Then welcome, thrice welcome, ye tokens of God. What else but His coming can comfort afford? What presence but His set this prisoned earth free? O Star of the Morning, our hope is in Thee!"
No. XIV. This Generation
Jesus said: "This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled." Lu. 21 :32. See also Mat. 24 :34; Mar. 13:30.
Some have construed "generation" to mean a time of thirty or forty years; and, as Jerusalem was destroyed within forty years after Christ spoke, they refer all he said to that event.
Israel the Generation That Passes Not Away.
We believe "generation," as there used, means the whole existence of the Israelitish race. Compare the following passages where the same Greek word is used.
In Psalm 22 :30, we read: "A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation." And in Psalm 24:6: "This is the generation of them that seek Him."
In Proverbs 30:11-14, the generation of the righteous and the generation of the wicked are clearly distinguished. Hence we conclude that the generation of the Israelites were not only to see the destruction of Jerusalem, but the COMING of Christ (at the revelation) and the end of the age. Mat. 24 :3.
And their wonderful preservation, as a distinct people, through all the persecutions, vicissitudes and wanderings of the past eighteen centuries down to the present moment, is a standing miracle, attesting the truth of God's word, and assuring us of His purposes in their future history.
Said Frederick the Great to his chaplain: "Doctor, if your religion is a true one, it ought to be capable of very brief and simple proof. Will you give me an evidence of its truth in ONE WORD ", The good man answered, "Israel." Other nations come and go, but Israel remains. She passes not away. God says of her, "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer." Isaiah 54:7-8.