THE SECOND ADVENT, Part 3
This is the third part of our discussion concerning the second advent of our Lord. In the first part we discussed the OBJECT or work of our Lord’s second advent, and in the second we examined the manner or way in which the Lord reveled himself after his resurrection to his followers, at his first advent thus hoping to shed some light on the manner of his second advent.
Let us now continue with our discussion, where we left off.
“That our Lord at his second advent could assume human form, and thus appear to men, as he did to his disciples after his resurrection, there can be no question; not only because he thus appeared in human form during those forty days, but because spirit beings have in the past manifested the power to appear as men in flesh and in various forms. But such a manifestation (during the Second Advent) would be out of harmony with the general tenor of God’s plan, as well as out of harmony with the Scriptural indications given, relative to the manner of his manifestations, as we shall see. Instead, it is the Lord’s plan that his spiritual kingdom shall communicate, operate, and manifest its presence and power THROUGH human, earthly agencies. Just as the prince of this world, Satan, though unseen by men, exercises a wide influence in the world through those subject to him, and possessed of and controlled by his spirit, so the new Prince of Peace, the Lord, will chiefly operate in, and manifest his presence and power through, human beings, subject to him and possessed of and controlled by his spirit.
Seeing with the natural eye and hearing with the natural ear are not all there is of seeing and hearing. “No man hath seen God at any time” thus, yet all God’s children have seen him, and known him, and held communion with him. (John 1:18; 5:37; 14:7) We hear God’s call, our “high calling,” we hear the voice of our Shepherd, and are constantly looking unto Jesus, and see the prize, the crown of life which he promises–not by natural sight and hearing, but by our understanding. Far more precious is the sight we have of our glorified Lord as the spiritual, highly exalted King of glory, our Redeemer as well as our King, by the eyes of our understanding and faith, than the sight afforded to the natural eye before Pentecost.
There was a necessity for our Lord’s appearing in the manner he did to his disciples, after his resurrection, which will not exist at his second advent. His object then will be better served in a different way. In fact, to appear so at his second advent would be detrimental to the purpose then to be accomplished. His object in appearing to his disciples after his resurrection was to convince them that he who was dead is alive forevermore, that they might go forth as witnesses to the fact of his resurrection (Luke 24:48), and that their testimony might be a sure foundation for the faith of coming generations. Since no man can come to God acceptably, to receive the Holy Spirit of adoption, without faith in Christ, it became necessary; not only for the sake of the disciples then, but for all since, that the evidences of his resurrection and change should be such as natural men could grasp and appreciate.
After they had become partakers of the Holy Spirit and understood spiritual things (See 1 Cor. 2:12-16), they could have believed the angels at the sepulcher, that he had risen from the dead condition, even if they had seen the fleshly body of the man Christ Jesus still lying in the tomb; but not so before–the body must be away to make faith in his resurrection possible to them. After the holy Spirit had enabled them to discern spiritual things they could have believed the testimony of the prophets that he must needs die, and would rise from the dead, and that he would be highly exalted as King of glory, without its being needful for him to appear as a man, and assume various bodies of flesh as a garment, so that they could handle him and see him ascend. But all this was needful for them and for all natural men. By believing, we come to God by him and receive forgiveness of sins and the Spirit of adoption, to understand spiritual things.
Even while removing the natural obstacles to faith, by assuming human form, etc., our Lord convinced the disciples, and made them witnesses to others, not by their natural sight and touch, but by reasoning with them out of the Scriptures…
With our Lord, after his resurrection, it was simply a question of expediency as to which way of appearing to his disciples would best accomplish his object, of making known his resurrection and change of nature. Had he appeared as a flame of fire, as the angel appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exod. 3:2), he might indeed have conversed with them, but the evidence thus given would have been far from being as convincing as the method he did adopt, both to the apostles and to the world at large to whom they witnessed.
If he had appeared in the glory of the spirit form, as the angel did to Daniel (Dan. 10:5-8), the glory would have been greater than the witnesses could have borne. They would probably have been so alarmed as to be unable to receive instructions from him. To none except Paul did the Lord ever thus show himself; and Paul was so overcome by that glimpse of his glory that he fell to the ground and was blinded by its brightness, which was above that of the sun at noonday.
In our examination of the method of manifestation adopted by our Lord during those forty days, we saw that he “permitted” himself to become manifest even to the chosen witnesses only a few times, and then but briefly. The entire time that he was manifest to them, had it all been crowded into one day instead of being at intervals during the forty days, would probably have been less than twelve hours, or one eightieth of that entire time. This being true, it is evident that he was present with them unseen about seventy-nine eightieths of that period of forty days. And even when they did have manifestations, they were not (except once, repeated to Thomas) in a form exactly like the one they had known so intimately for three years, and had seen but a few days before. It is not once intimated that they knew him by the familiar features of his face, nor even that he was recognized by the same appearance as in other manifestations.
Mary supposed him to be “the gardener.” To the two on their way to Emmaus he was “a stranger.” He was also a stranger to the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, and to the eleven in the upper room. On every occasion he was recognized by his actions, his words, or the familiar tones of his voice.
When Thomas declared that only the proof, which addressed his natural sight and touch, would be acceptable to him, the Lord, though he granted that demand, gently reproved him, saying, Because thou has seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are those who believe, not having seen. (John 20:27-29) The stronger evidence was that which was not addressed to natural sight, and more blessed are those who hold themselves in readiness to receive the truth through whatsoever proofs God is pleased to substantiate it.
He thus showed them, not only that he now had the power to appear in a variety of ways and forms, but also that no one of those bodies which they saw was his spiritual, glorious body, though the facts of his resurrection and presence were thus manifested to them. The different forms, and the long intervals of invisible presence with no outward manifestation, made evident the fact that though their Lord and teacher was alive and not yet ascended to the Father, he was now a spirit being, really invisible to human sight, but with ability to manifest his presence and power in a variety of ways at pleasure.
The creating of the body and clothing in which he appeared to them, in the very room in which they were gathered, was proof unquestionable that Christ was no longer a human being, though he assured his disciples that the body which they saw, and which Thomas handled, was a veritable flesh and bone body, and not a mere vision or appearance… this he gave them clearly to understand when he ate before them, and invited them to handle him and see that the body was real flesh and bones, saying, “Why are ye troubled?…Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”
Some Christians draw very absurd conclusions from this expression of our Lord as to the verity of his assumed flesh and bone body. They regard the assumed body as his spirit body, and declare that a spirit body is flesh and bones, and just like a human body, excepting that an indefinable something, which they call spirit, flows through its veins instead of blood. They seem to disregard the statement of our Lord that this was not a spirit body–that a spirit being has not flesh and bones. Do they also forget John’s statement, that “It doth not yet appear” what a spirit body is, and that we shall not know until we are changed and made like him and see him, not as he was, but as he is? (1 John 3:2) Do they also forget the Apostle Paul’s express statement that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God“–and his further assurance that therefore all the heirs with Christ must also “be changed?” 1 Cor. 15:50, 51
Many Christians have the idea that our Lord’s glorious spiritual body is the very same body that was crucified and laid away in Joseph’s tomb: they expect, when they see the Lord in glory, to identify him by the scars he received on Calvary. This is a great mistake, which a very little consideration should make manifest–Firstly, It would prove that his resurrection body is not glorious or perfect, but scarred and disfigured: Secondly, It would prove that we do know what a spirit body is, notwithstanding the Apostle’s statement to the contrary: Thirdly, It would prove that our redemption price was taken back; for Jesus said, “My flesh I will give for the life of the world.” It was his flesh, his life as a man, his humanity, which was sacrificed for our redemption. And when he was raised to life again by the power of the Father, it was not to human existence; because that was sacrificed as our purchase price. And if that price had been taken back, we would still be under the condemnation of death, and without hope.
We have no more reason to suppose that our Lord’s spirit body since his resurrection is a human body than we have for supposing that his spirit body prior to his first advent was human, or that other spirit beings have human bodies; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones; and, says the Apostle Peter, our Lord was “put to death in the flesh but made alive in spirit.”
Our Lord’s human body was, however, supernaturally removed from the tomb; because had it remained there it would have been an insurmountable obstacle to the faith of the disciples, who were not yet instructed in spiritual things–for “the spirit was not yet given.” (John 7:39) We know nothing about what became of it, except that it did not decay or corrupt. (Acts 2:27, 31) Whether it was dissolved into gases or whether it is still preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God’s love, of Christ’s obedience, and of our redemption, no one knows–nor is such knowledge necessary. (B122-129)
We will continue once again with our next post.