X. THE REDEEMERS RETURN IS NECESSITATED BY THE EXPECTATION OF THE DEAD IN CHRIST.
This argument may be summarized thus: - The
Intermediate state into which the souls of the redeemed pass at death is not
the perfect state, it is but an "unclothed" (2 Cor. 5:1-3) condition. Like
their brethren who are still upon earth, those now in Paradise are
"waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom.
8:23). A countless multitude of those who fell asleep in Jesus are yet in the
disembodied state, and in that state they are "waiting," waiting for the
time when this corruptible shall put on incorruption and when this mortal shall
put on immortality. Those, who while on earth, looked and longed for the
Return of their Redeemer, and who are still waiting that blest event shall not
wait thus for ever, as it is written, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from
heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of
God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive
and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the
Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
In the last book of the Bible, where the veil
that separates between the present and the future and between this world and
the next is pulled aside, we find a Scripture that bears closely upon the point
now under consideration. We refer to Rev. 6:9, 10 - "And when he had opened
the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of them that were slain
for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried
with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou
not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" This passage,
stript of its symbolism, signifies that martyred believers now in the
Intermediate state are waiting with eager expectation the time when God
shall avenge their death, which time is reached immediately before our Lord
returns to this earth. That which we wish to specially emphasize is the fact
that souls now in Paradise are here represented as crying "How long?"
Thus we learn that those "present with the Lord," as well as believers
still "in the body," are eagerly expecting and waiting for the time of their
Redeemer's Return. The answer made to these disembodied "souls" is very
striking - "And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said
unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their
fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were,
should be fulfilled" (Rev. 6:11).
The "dead in Christ" are waiting in hope, waiting
for the fulfillment of that promise, "So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in
dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:42-44).
Is their hope nothing more than an idle dream? Are they to wait thus for ever?
No, blessed be God. His Word, declares that at the time of our Redeemer's
Return, "Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him" (1
Thess. 4:14). Therefore we say that the present unclothed condition of the
dead in Christ with their expectation of the Resurrection morn requires and
necessitates the personal Return of our Lord.
To sum up. At least ten reasons require that
Christ shall come back again -- the declarations of Old Testament prophecy; the
affirmations of our Lord Himself; the ratification of the Holy Spirit through
the writers of the New Testament Epistles; the humiliation of the Cross,
requiring a corresponding vindication of Christ in power and glory; the present
disorganization of Israel; the exaltation of Satan and the powerlessness of
man to depose him; the degradation and desolation of the world; the
lamentations of a Creation waiting to be delivered from its bondage of
corruption; the supplications of the Church crying "Even so, come, Lord Jesus;"
and the expectation of the dead in Christ waiting for their glorification,
singly and collectively necessitate and demand the personal Return of our
THE HOPE OF THE REDEEMER'S RETURN
In 1 Cor. 13:13 we learn there are three cardinal
Christian graces namely, faith, hope, and love. Concerning the first and third
of these, believers, generally, are well informed, but regarding the second,
many of the Lord's people have the vaguest conceptions. When Christians are
questioned upon the subject of Faith they are, for the most part, able to
answer promptly and intelligently; but interrogate the average church-member
about the believer's Hope, and his replies are indistinct and uncertain. Let
Christian Love come up for discussion and we all feel that we are upon solid
ground, but when asked to pursue the theme of Christian Hope many step
cautiously and hesitatingly.
That there is the greatest confusion of thought
and belief among Christians concerning their Hope may readily be proven by
questioning a number regarding the nature of their hope. Ask the
average church-goer what his hope is, and he will say, Salvation - he hopes to
be saved when he comes to die. Ask another and he will tell you that Death is
his hope, for it is then that he will be released from all the sufferings of
the flesh. Ask a third and he would say that Heaven was his hope. Perhaps
this last reply would better express the common and popular belief than either
of the others. But to say that our hope is future happiness, is to say no more
than any heathen would say. There are several Scriptures which distinguish
between Heaven and the believer's Hope. "Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again
unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to
an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,
reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:3-,4). Here the "living hope"
unto which we have been begotten is separated in thought from the "inheritance"
which is "reserved in heaven" for us. Though closely connected, Heaven and the
believer's Hope are certainly not synonymous as is clear from Col. 1:5 where
they are again distinguished - "For the hope which is laid up for you in
heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel."
Heaven is not here said to be the believer's hope, for the hope is "laid up"
for him "in heaven." What then is our Hope?
It is strange that there should be such ignorance
and confusion upon this subject for Hope is made almost as prominent in the New
Testament as is either Faith or Love. The Church epistles have much to say
upon the subject. In the epistle to the Romans when setting forth the
consequences or results of justification, the apostle wrote, "Therefore being
justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by
whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and
rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (5:1). And again in 8:24, 25 -
"For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who
hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then
do we with patience wait for it" (R. V.). To the Corinthians Paul wrote, "If
in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most
miserable" (1 Cor. 15:19). To the Galatians he wrote, "For we through the
Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (5:5). For the
Ephesians he prayed that the eyes of their understanding might be enlightened,
and that they might know "what is the hope of His calling, and what the
riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18), and in
setting forth the sevenfold Unity of the Spirit, even as ye are called in
one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and
Father of all" (4:4-6), and there can no more be two different hopes
than there can be two Lords, or two faiths.
To the Thessalonian saints the apostle Paul
wrote, "Sorrow not, even as others which have no hope" (1 Thess.
4:13), and again, "Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father,
which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope
through grace" (2 Thess. 2:16). Unto Titus he wrote, "For the grace of God
that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying
ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly,
in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious
appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2: 11-13). And
unto the Hebrews he said, "And we desire that every one of you do show the same
diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. ** That by two
immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a
strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope
set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure
and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil" (6:11,18,19).
The apostle Peter found cause for
rejoicing in that God had "according to His abundant mercy, begotten us again
unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1
Pet. 1:3); and again, he exhorted his readers to "Be ready always to give an
answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you
with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:15).
The apostle John wrote, "Beloved, now are
we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know
that, when He shall appear we shall be like him; for we shall see Him as He is.
And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He
is pure" (1 John 3:2,3). Thus we see that the New Testament abounds in
passages which speak of the believer's hope."
In all ages God's people have had a hope set
before them, and that hope has always centered in Christ. In Eden God
gave to Adam the promise that the woman's Seed should come and bruise the
Serpent's head and the anticipation of the fulfillment of this promise
constituted the hope of the saints in those far-off days. Said Jacob, "I have
waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Gen. 49:18). The Hope that God set
before Abram was that his "Seed" should be a blessing unto all nations, which
hope, as we learn from Gal. 3:16, had particular reference to Christ. The Hope
which God set before Moses was expressed as follows, "I will raise them up a
Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in His
mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him" (Deut.
18:18). For the fulfillment of this prophecy see John 12:49; 14:10, etc. The
Hope which God set before David was stated as follows, "And when thy days be
fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy Seed after
thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His Kingdom.
He shall build a house for My name, and I will stablish the throne of His
Kingdom for ever" (2 Sam. 7:12, 13). And later, through His prophets, God
again and again set before Israel the Hope of the appearing of their Messiah.
This leads us to inquire now into -