2. The Apostles referred to the Redeemers Return in the language of Imminency.
"Knowing the time, that now it is high time
to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off
the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light" (Rom. 13:11,12).
The "salvation," to which the apostle here refers is the completing and
consummating of our salvation, when we shall, in spirit and soul and body, be
fully conformed to the image of God's Son. The time when this will be realized
is the time of our Redeemer's Return, for, "when He shall appear we shall be
like Him" (1 John 3:2). That time will be the believer's "day," that
"perfect day" unto which the path of the just "shineth more and more" (Peov.
4:18). The "night," spoken of above, is the present period during which the
Light of the world is absent. Observe that the apostle, under the Holy Spirit,
regarded the night as "far spent," and the day as "at hand!"
"And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under
your feet shortly" (Rom. 16:20). The reference here is to Gen. 3:15
where we have recorded Jehovah's promise to our first parents that the woman's
Seed should bruise the head of the Serpent. As believers will, in the coming
day, rule and reign "with Christ" (see Rev. 3:21; 19:14, 20:4) it is here said
"The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet." In the use of
the word "shortly" we learn that the apostle did not regard the fulfillment of
this promise as something which lay in the far distant future, but rather as
that which was even then impending.
"I thank my God always on your behalf, for the
grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in everything ye are
enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge, even as the testimony
of Christ was confirmed in you; So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting
for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 1:4-7). From this passage
we learn: first, that these Corinthian saints were "waiting" for the Coming of
the Lord Jesus, which proves they were looking for Him to return in their
generation; second, that the apostle commanded them for their
attitude, yea, "thanked God always on their behalf;" third, that this
expectation on the part of these Corinthian believers was the very summum
bonum of Christian experience, inasmuch as it is said, they "came behind in
no gift," and then as a climax it is added - "Waiting for the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ."
"Let us consider one another to provoke unto love
and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the
manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye
see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:24,25). The coming "Day" with its
glories and blessedness was that which filled the apostle's vision. The
promised "Day" - the Day of Christ - which was to follow this dark night of
sorrow when the Bridegroom is absent, was the hope which stayed his heart. He
could "see," by faith, that day was approaching, and on the fact of its
imminency he bases an exhortation to those who are partakers of the
heavenly calling to conduct themselves in the present in a manner befitting
those who are the children of light. Again, in this same chapter the apostle
says, For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will
not tarry" (vs. 37). How clear it is from these words that the Holy Spirit
desired the first century believers to be "looking for that blessed hope
and the glorious appearing of the great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ"!
So real was the hope of the Redeemer's Return to
the heart of the apostle Paul and so imminent did this event appear to him that
we find he included himself among those who might not fall asleep but be
among the living saints when the Assembling Shout should be heard. Said he,
"Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:51,52). Again,
"For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour,
the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our (not "your") vile body, that
it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Phil. 3:19,20). Once more,
"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 (not "ye") 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. $:16,17). The enemies of the faith
have seized upon these very statements to show that the apostle Paul was in
error, that he wrote by unaided human wisdom, that he merely recorded in his
Epistles his own beliefs, and that in some of these he was clearly
mistaken. But such an objection is quite pointless to the saints who believe
that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." We hope to show
further on in this chapter why the Holy Spirit moved the apostles to
write of the Second Advent of Christ as an event which might take place in
their own day.
The apostle Paul was not alone in this regard: we
find that the other apostles also regarded the Return of our Lord as something
which might occur at any time. The apostle James wrote, "Be ye also
patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh"
(Jas. 5:8). There is no ambiguity about this language: such a statement
not only argued the pre-millennial Coming of Christ, inasmuch as His Coming
could not be said to have "drawn nigh" if a whole Millennium intervened, but it
also announced the imminency of His return - something which might be
expected at any time. The apostle Peter declared, "But the end of all
things (all things connected with this present regime) is at hand: be ye
therefore sober, and watch unto prayer" (1 Pet. 4:7). The apostle was
expecting the speedy winding up of this present economy and the introduction of
a new order of things when his Lord returned and took the government upon His
shoulder. The apostle John said, "Little children it is the last
time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there
many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time" (1 John 2:18). The
"last time" or "last hour" (Greek hora) must be distinguished from "the
last days" (2 Tim. 3:1) and "the last day" (Greek hemera - John 6:39). The
"last days" refer to the closing decades of this present dispensation. The
"last day" looks forward to the Millennium when the saints shall participate in
the "first resurrection" - it is the last Day of God's dispensational week,
foreshadowed by the Sabbath. The "last hour" is connected with the Antichrist.
It is the "last hour" of Satan's freedom for, excepting the "little
season" referred to in Rev. 20, after this dispensation Satan will be
for ever banished from these scenes. This dispensation then is Satan's "last
hour" as the "Prince of this world" and it is during the closing moments of
this "last hour" that the Antichrist shall be revealed. The force then of the
apostle's statement was to the effect that though the personal Antichrist had
not appeared up to the time when he wrote this epistle, yet, the saints must
not conclude from this that the Second Coming of Christ was necessarily a long
way off. No; even then there were many Antichrists by which they were
to know it was the "last time." Thus we see that the testimony of the apostles
was uniform and explicit. They were looking for their Lord to return at any
time. Such ought to be our attitude too.
"Let not my eyes with tears be dim,
Let joy their upward glance illume;
Look up, and watch, and wait for Him -
Soon, soon the Lord will come.
Soon will that star-paved milky way,
Soon will that beauteous azure dome,
Glories, ne'er yet conceived display -
Soon, soon the Lord will come.
Changed in the twinkling of an eye,
Invested with immortal bloom,
I shall behold Him throned on high,
And sing, "The Lord is come!"
One beam from His all-glorious face
These mortal garments will consume,
Each sinful blemish will efface -
Lord Jesus, quickly come!
What will it be with Thee to dwell,
Thyself my everlasting Home!
Oh, bliss- Oh, joy ineffable!
Lord Jesus, quickly come!"