10. The analogy between the two Advents of Christ.
That there will be a close analogy between
the first and second Advents of our Lord is intimated by two Scriptures
which contain a similar expression. In Gal. 4:4 we read, "When the fullness
of time was come God sent forth His Son, born of a woman." This, of
course, has reference to the first advent. In Eph. 1:10 we are told "that in
the dispensation of the fullness of times H might gather together in one
all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in
Him." This has reference to that which shall immediately follow the second
advent. The Millennium will be "the Dispensation of the fullness of times"
inasmuch as it will be the final one of earth's Ages. The "gathering together
in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth"
points to the uniting of heaven's and earth's interests under His blessed
reign. Then will be fulfilled that word of John 1:51 - "Hereafter ye shall see
heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of
Man," for then will perfect communication be established between heaven and
earth, or rather, earth and heaven. In order to understand the force of this
expression "fullness of times" let us ponder the words "fullness of time" (Gal.
4:4) in the light of the conditions which prevailed at the Divine
The coming of Christ to this earth was not some
sudden, isolated, unexpected event. The advent of our blessed Lord, and with
it the dawn of Christianity, marked a climax and a consummation. The world was
prepared through long processes for the coming of the one and the preaching of
the other. From Paradise to Bethlehem the centuries were preparing for the
appearing of Emmanuel. As the processes of creation prepared the earth for
man, so all history prepared the way for the birth of the Saviour. The Holy
Scriptures focus the preparation in one race, but all peoples shared in the
process. Outside of the elect, God was at work, and all streams converged to
If we look closely at the character of the age
when Christ was born, we may, in some measure at least, understand the
"fullness" of which Gal. 4:4 makes mention. It consisted chiefly in two things
- preparation and need. There was a wonderful combination of
circumstances tending to prepare the world for the Gospel, and a terrible
climax in the world's need of redemption. The break up of old heathen faiths
and the passing away of the prejudices of antiquity disposed men for a new
revelation which was spiritual, humane and universal. The utter failure of
Pagan religion from its immorality, and of pagan philosophy from its impotency
to cure that immorality and the misery which accompanied it, called loudly for
some fresh faith which should be both pure and powerful.
The century immediately preceding our Lord's
advent was probably the most remarkable in all history. Everything was in a
state of transition. Old things were passing away and there seemed little
prospect that they would give birth to a better and brighter future. The fruit
of the ancient order was rotting upon the tree without yielding the seeds of a
new order. And yet there were strange rumors of coming relief afloat, and
singular hopes stirred the hearts of men that some Great One was to appear and
renovate the world. But to particularize -
The world had reached its climacteric of sin.
History has given a faithful record of the
terrible moral conditions which obtained among men in the century which
immediately preceded our Lord's appearing. At Rome, which was then the
metropolis of the world, the Court of Caesar was steeped in luxury and
licentiousness. To provide amusement for his senators, six hundred gladiators
fought a hand to hand conflict in the public theater. Not to be outdone,
Pompey turned five hundred lions into the arena to engage an equal number of
his braves, and delicate ladies (?) sat applauding and gloating over the flow
of blood that followed. At this period children were the property of the
State, to be disposed of as was deemed best for the public interests. Weak and
sickly infants were looked upon as a useless encumbrance and generally suffered
an early and cruel death. The aged and infirm were often banished to an island
of the Tiber, there to starve out their few remaining days. Marriage, if such
this holy institution could then be called, was wholly a matter of sensual
caprice. Divorces were so common and frequent that it became the custom for
women to count them by the number of rings worn on their fingers. Almost
two-thirds of the population of the entire civilized (?) world were computed to
have been slaves. Those who were in this unhappy situation were treated with
the utmost cruelty. Their masters had absolute power over them and were
permitted to scourge or put them to death at pleasure. This right was
exercised in the most merciless manner. When punished capitally slaves were
generally crucified. So wretched was the lot of mankind that the sanest
of the philosophers of that time calmly advocated suicide as the best way of
escape from the miseries of life.
Conditions in Greece were even worse. Sensual
indulgence and every species of cruelty were carried to the highest pitch.
Eating, or we should say, gluttony, became the chief occupation, everything
being ransacked to gratify the appetite. Fornication was indulged without
restraint. Parents were at liberty to expose their children to perish with
cold and hunger or to be eaten up by wild beasts. Such exposure was frequently
practiced and passed without punishment or censure. Wars were carried on with
the utmost ferocity. If any of the vanquished escaped death slavery of the
most abject kind was the only prospect before them and in consequence death was
considered preferable to capture. The nature of their conflicts then can well
be imagined. The Greeks commonly sacrificed their captives at the tombs of
their heroes. With what truth then did the Scriptures declare that, "the dark
places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty"!
We say then, the world had reached its
climacteric of sin. Often-times a disease cannot be treated until it `comes to
a head.' In view of the above conditions surely the world was ready for the
appearing of the Great Physician, and surely we can now discover a deeper
meaning in the words, "When the fullness of time was come, God sent
forth His Son."
The world had reached its consummation of Want.
It had been predicted of old that the Messiah
should be "the Desire of all nations," and to this end there must be a complete
exposure of the failure of all human plans of deliverance. This time had fully
come when Christ was born. Never before had the abject misery and need of men
been so apparent and so extensive. Philosophy had lost its power to satisfy
men, and the old religions were dead.
The Greeks and Romans, stood at the head of the
nations at the time our Lord appeared on the earth, and the religious state of
these people in that age is too well known to require any lengthy description
from us. Without exception all were idolaters. The fundamental truth of the
Unity of God was held by the Jews alone. Among the heathen, Polytheism and
Pantheism were the popular concepts. Innumerable deities were worshipped and
to these deities were attributed the most abominable characteristics. Pagan
worshipers represented their gods as guilty of drunkenness, thefts, quarrels
and incest. Mercury was a thief; Bacchus a drunkard; Venus was a harlot; and
Saturn murdered his own children. The worship of their devotees entirely
correspond with the characters their gods bore. Human sacrifices were
frequently offered upon their altars.
Among the Romans, infidelity and atheism were
rampant. The altars were forsaken and the temples were deserted. The general
skepticism of his countrymen seems to have been voiced by the bitter words of
Pilate - "What is truth?"
Judaism was also fully ripe for the
accomplishment of ancient prophecy. Sadduceeism had leavened the ruling
classes and afflicted the whole nation with rationalism. Phariseeism, which
represented the ideas and ideals of the popular party, was too often only
formal and hypocritical, and at best was cold and hard "binding heavy burdens"
and laying on men's shoulders a load which they refused to touch with their
fingers (Matt. 23:4). The Jewish people were under the government of Rome and
were thoroughly dejected. Was there then no eye to pity, no arm to save? Was
God unmindful of the tragic conditions of mankind? No; blessed be His name.
The "fullness of time" had now come. Earth's fields were "white unto harvest."
A platform was erected on which the glories of God's grace might be exhibited.
His own blessed Son now appeared among men and the glorious Gospel was
proclaimed far and wide. The "fullness of time," then, spoke of ripeness of
opportunity and consummation of need.
History repeats itself. As it was in connection
with the first advent so it is concerning the second. Just as there was a
definite and unmistakable movement in all history preparing the way for the
Dispensation of Grace, so is there a similar one going on now making ready the
world for the Millennium. Just as the world's urgent need was fully
demonstrated before the Saviour appeared among men, so shall it also be ere
He comes back as the Prince of Peace to take the government upon His shoulder.
And to those who have "understanding of the times," to those whose eyes are not
blinded by the glare of a false and foolish optimism, it is evident that the
"fullness of times" is rapidly drawing nigh, yea, that it is already almost
History is repeating itself. Conditions
in the world today more closely resemble those which obtained just before the
first coming of Christ, than have those of any other generation since then.
Today the same luxury and licentiousness; the same skepticism and credulity;
the same coldness and formality among those who profess to be God's people; the
same lack of natural affection toward children and disrespect for the aged; the
same military spirit and lust for blood, followed now by the enslaving of the
conquered - deportation of the Belgians. The need of the world for a
competent and righteous Ruler was never so apparent as now. The "Dispensation
of the fullness of times" must be at hand. As all History prepared the
world for our Lord's first advent, so it is now "making straight His way" for
His second coming, when He shall be seen not in a manger but on a throne of
Glory; not as the victim, but as the Victor.
But we must restrain our pen and conclude in few
words. We have examined many Scriptures, we have listened to the evidence of
numerous witnesses, we have compared sundry and independent lines of prophecy,
and we have found that they harmonize in their testimony, that they are
mutually corroborative, that each sustains the truthfulness of the others, that
singly and unitedly they affirm with voice loud and clear "the Coming of the
Lord draweth nigh!" Never before did the Church of God gaze upon such a
constellation of Signs attesting the near approach of the Redeemer, as it does
today. Never before was there such unmistakable demonstration that this Gospel
age is rapidly drawing to a close. Never before was there such reason for the
sinner to heed that word "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found; Call
ye upon Him while He is near." And never before was there such urgent
need for believers to obey that admonition - "Let your loins be girded about,
and your lights burning: and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their
Lord" (Luke 12:36,37). The Bridegroom cometh! Then trim your lamps and go
forth to meet Him.