“And He shall send Jesus Christ, which [who] before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:20, 21
That our Lord intended his disciples to understand that for some purpose, in some manner, and at some time, he would come again, is, we presume, admitted and believed by all familiar with the Scriptures. True, Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and by his spirit and by his Word he has been with the Church continually, guiding, directing, comforting and sustaining his saints, and cheering them in the midst of all their afflictions. But though the Church has been blessedly conscious of the Lord’s knowledge of all her ways and of his constant care and love, yet she longs for his promised personal return; for, when he said, “If I go, I will come again” (John 14:3), he certainly referred to a second personal coming.
Some think he referred to the descent of the holy Spirit at Pentecost; others, to the destruction of Jerusalem, etc.; but these apparently overlook the fact that in the last book of the Bible, written some sixty years after Pentecost, and twenty-six years after Jerusalem’s destruction, he that was dead and is alive speaks of the event as yet future, saying: “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.” And the inspired John replies, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Rev. 22:12, 20
Quite a number think that when sinners are converted that forms a part of the coming of Christ, and that so he will continue coming until the entire world is converted. Then, say they, he will have fully come.
These evidently forget the testimony of the Scriptures on the subject, which declares the reverse of their expectation: that at the time of our Lord’s second coming the world will be far from converted to God; that “In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:1-4); that “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (Verse 13) They forget the Master’s special warning to his little flock: “Take heed to yourselves lest that day come upon you unawares, for as a snare shall it come on all them [not taking heed] that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:34, 35)
Again, we may rest assured that when it is said, “All kindred’s of the earth shall wail because of him,” when they see him coming (Rev. 1:7), no reference is made to the conversion of sinners. Do all men wail because of the conversion of sinners? On the contrary, if this passage refers, as almost all admit, to Christ’s presence on earth, it teaches that all on earth will not love his appearing, as they certainly would do if all were converted.
Some expect an actual coming and presence of the Lord, but set the time of the event a long way off, claiming that through the efforts of the Church in its present condition the world must be converted, and thus the Millennial age be introduced. They claim that when the world has been converted, and Satan bound, and the knowledge of the Lord caused to fill the whole earth, and when the nations learn war no more, then the work of the Church in her present condition will be ended; and that when she has accomplished this great and difficult task, the Lord will come to wind up earthly affairs, reward believers and condemn sinners.
Some scriptures, taken disconnectedly, seem to favor this view; but when God’s Word and plan are viewed as a whole, these will all be found to favor the opposite view, viz.: that Christ comes before the conversion of the world, and reigns for the purpose of converting the world; that the Church is now being tried, and that the reward promised the over-comers is that after being glorified they shall share with the Lord Jesus in that reign, which is God’s appointed means of blessing the world and causing the knowledge of the Lord to come to every creature. Such are the Lord’s special promises: “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne.” (Rev. 3:21) “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Rev. 20:4
There are two texts chiefly relied upon by those (Post Millennialist) who claim that the Lord will not come until after the Millennium, to which we would here call attention. One is, “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matt. 24:14 they claim this as having reference to the conversion of the world before the end of the Gospel age. But witnessing to the world does not imply the conversion of the world. The text says nothing about how the testimony will be received. This witness has already been given. In 1861 the reports of the Bible Societies showed that the Gospel had been published in every language of earth, though not all of earth’s millions had received it. No, not one half of the sixteen hundred millions living (at that time) have ever heard the name of Jesus. Yet the condition of the text is fulfilled: the gospel has been preached in the entire world for a witness—to every nation.
The Apostle (Acts 15:14) tells that the main object of the gospel in the present age is “to take out a people” for Christ’s name–the overcoming Church, which, at his second advent, will be united to him and receive his name. The witnessing to the world during this age is a secondary object.
The other text is, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool.” (Psa. 110:1; Compare 1 Cor 15:25) The vague, indefinite idea regarding this text seems to be that Christ sits on a material throne somewhere in the heavens until the work of subduing all things is accomplished for him through the Church, and that then he comes to reign. This is a misconception. The throne of God referred to is not a material one, but refers to his supreme authority and ruler-ship; and the Lord Jesus has been exalted to a share in that ruler-ship. Paul declares, “God hath highly exalted him [Jesus] and given him a name above every name.” He hath given him authority above every other, next to the Father. If Christ sits upon a material throne until his enemies are made his footstool [all subdued], then of course he cannot come until all things are subdued. But if “right hand” in this text refers, not to a fixed locality and bench, but, as we claim, to power, authority, ruler-ship, it follows that the text under consideration would in no wise conflict with the other scripture which teaches that he comes to “subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:21), by virtue of the power vested in him. To illustrate: it was said back then, ‘Emperor William sits upon the throne of Germany’, yet what was implied was not that he was physically sitting upon the royal bench or throne, something which he seldom did, but rather that he rules Germany.
The Right hand signifies the chief place, position of excellence or favor, next to the chief ruler. Thus Prince Bismarck was exalted or seated at the right hand of power, by the German Emperor; and Joseph was at the right hand of Pharaoh in the kingdom of Egypt–not literally, but after the customary figure of speech. Jesus’ words to Caiaphas agree with this thought: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 26:64) He will be on the right hand when coming, and will remain on the right hand during the millennial age, and forever.
A further examination of God’s revealed plans will give a broader view of the object of both the first and second advents; and we should remember that both events stand related as parts of one plan. The specific work of the first advent was to redeem men; and that of the second is to restore, and bless, and liberate the redeemed. Having given his life a ransom for all, our Savior ascended to present that sacrifice to the Father, thus making reconciliation for man’s iniquity. He tarries and permits “the prince of this world” to continue the rule of evil, until after the selection of “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” who, to be accounted worthy of such honor, must overcome the influences of the present evil world. Then the work of giving to the world of mankind the great blessings secured to them by his sacrifice will be due to commence, and he will come forth to bless all the families of the earth.
True, the restoring and blessing could have commenced at once, when the ransom price was paid by the Redeemer, and then the coming of Messiah would have been but one event, the reign and blessing beginning at once, as the apostles at first expected. (Acts 1:6) But God had provided “some better thing for us“–the Christian Church (Heb. 11:40); hence it is in our interest that the reign of Christ (the Second Advent) is separated from the sufferings of the Head (the first advent) by these past twenty centuries. (A89-93)
Continued with next post.