The Return of Our Lord
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.
“For them must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the age hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation.”—Hebrews 9:24, 26, 28
You will observe in these passages that we have three appearances.
First, He appears at the end of the age, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. That is what took place at Calvary when “He died, the just for the unjust,” and made full atonement for sin.
Now He appears in the presence of God for us. There “He ever lives to make intercession for us.” But He is to appear again here on the earth, “a second time” without sin, unto salvation.
By His death on the Cross, He delivered us from the PENALTY of sin. By His intercession now in the presence of God, we are delivered from the POWER of sin, and when He comes again we will be delivered from the very PRESENCE of sin.
I am sure that all who hear me this night are agreed as to the fact of Christ’s first coming to his world. There is no great even in history that is more thoroughly established than the fact of His appearing among men almost two thousand years ago.
Any man or woman who honestly reads the Old Testament must know that a great many prophecies regarding the work and the ministry of the Messiah, for whom the Jewish people waited, were not fulfilled at His first coming. Therefore of necessity there must be another coming in order to fulfill all those prophecies, for all must be fulfilled.
“No word He hath spoken
Shall Ever be broken,
For He means just what He says.”
It is very evident to those who read their Bibles with any degree of care that the Old Testament prophets saw the birth of Christ. They predicted that “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
They also had visions of His ministry, of healing and of suffering. They saw the crucifixion of Jesus (Isaiah 53). They saw also the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They saw Him as the “Sun of righteousness” with healing in His wings. They saw the millennial kingdom, “when the whole earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,” and also the “new heaven and the new earth.” They looked down over those years from where they stood, to the day when the Messiah would be all and in all, but they seemed to think that it was one continuous ministry from His birth to His glory. They did not see the great valley between the mountain peak of Calvary where He died, and Mt. Olivet, to which He shall come in all His glory. The church was unknown to the Old Testament prophet. It was a mystery until after the Holy Spirit had been outpoured upon the apostles, therefore these prophets did not distinguish between His suffering and His glory, between the cross and the crown.
But we are left without excuse, for we have not only the Old Testament, but the “new covenant in His blood,” and I have a conviction that all the light any man or woman needs is in the Bible. If men would only come to this Book as God’s revealed purpose and plan for the human family, I am sure it would settle all these questions. When we come as simple believers, the Bible talks to our hearts and it satisfies us, and solves all our problems.
Some of our friends who are opposed to the pre-millenarian teaching would classify us as faddists and fanatics, because of our strong stand regarding this truth. Now we have as a foundation for this hope the plainest and most emphatic testimony, both of our Lord and of the apostles.
Just let me call your attention to some of this testimony.
FIRST, from Jesus Himself. “When the son of man SHALL COME IN HIS GLORY, and all the holy angels with him, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Remember, this testimony was given by our Master at the close of His earthly ministry, thirty years after He had been born a babe in Bethlehem, and just a few days before His death on Calvary. The references, therefore, are to a future coming, without any doubt.
SECOND. Two witnesses from heaven. Acts 1:10-11.
“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel.
“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
These two visitors appeared at the time of His transfiguration, in connection with His death. They talked about His decease. Later they appeared again on the morning of the resurrection and said unto the women who were at the tomb, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”
But here, on the day of His ascension, they witness to His second coming. Their testimony is unmistakably plain and simple. “This same Jesus…shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen Him go into heaven.”
They were not mistaken when they witnessed to His death. We are all agreed that the testimony to the resurrection was absolutely correct. And why should any one doubt that they mean anything different to what they said on the occasion of His ascension.
Then we have PAUL, the great apostle to the Gentiles. He knew what regeneration was. He had received Christ into his heart and was dominated by the passion of his Master, and yet speaking of his citizenship, which was in Heaven, he says, “from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Who shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto His own glorious body.”
And again, we are “looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
JAMES, writing to troubled and oppressed Christians, urges them to be patient, and establish their hearts in hope, “for the coming of the Lord draweth night.”
PETER says, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”
JUDE tells us that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints.”
JOHN, the beloved disciple, says, “Little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” “Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”
And again, whenever we take our place at the Lord’s table we give a two-fold testimony. We look back to the Cross, back to the place of sacrifice where He laid down His life for us, and we thank God that through His blood we have salvation. But we also look forward to the Throne, and the crowning day “when He shall come to be glorified in His saints.”
How solemn, how suggestive is the testimony of our Lord’s words, “For as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death TILL HE COME.”
It is a memorial feast between the crucifixion and the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I never sit down at the table of the Lord, but what I say in my heart, “Well, it may be, this is the last time until we sit down with Him at ‘THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB.’”
I often wonder why some of my brethren come to the Lord’s table at all, when I find them trampling, as it were, the blood of the Crucified One beneath their feet. It is a sad fact that all over the world men are substituting something else for the vicarious suffering of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. How a man like this can drink of the wine representing His shed blood is a puzzle to me. It is the worst kind of sin. It is mockery and sham.
In the face of these Scriptures, if we do not believe that Jesus is coming back, a real personal Christ, we must do one of two things. Either we must reject the authority of the Scriptures, and take the ground that we no longer believe the Bible is inspired (or at best that it is inspired in spots only), or we must make these Scriptures mean what they do not say.
Personally, I believe that the Word of God is inspired from Genesis to Revelation. I have no doubt about that at all, but I must say that if we are not going to accept the teaching of the Lord’s literal appearing on the earth again, then we must reject the authority of the Scriptures—maybe not all of it—but when you reject a little bit of it, it will not be long until you will be rejecting all of it. It is a dangerous principle to follow. May God save us from it!
Mr. W.E. Blackstone, author of “JESUS IS COMING,” relates a conversation that took place between a Jew and a preacher of the Gospel, regarding a passage in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 1:30-33.
The Hebrew asked the preacher if he really believed that Jesus was born of a virgin, without a human father.
“Why, yes,” said the preacher, “I do.”
“Very well,” said the Hebrew, “What about this statement regarding the kingdom?
“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.
“And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
“Oh,” said the minister, “I believe that refers to His spiritual reign over the church.”
“Why,” said the Hebrew, greatly astonished, “you take the part of the angel’s announcement that seems absolutely incredible, in the most literal way, and that which is credible and reasonable, you spiritualize it away. Do you call this believing the Bible?”
It is best for us to just believe that God meant what He said, and that He said exactly what He meant. When the reading of a text is good sense, to try and give it any other meaning is nonsense. When one considers the differ interpretations given to those promises of Christ’s return, it would be really amusing if it were not so sad.
Some tell us that the promise of the second coming of Christ is fulfilled whenever a believer dies. In other words, that death is really the second coming. Others tell us that when a soul is converted Christ comes to that soul, therefore THAT is the second coming. Others say the fulfillment of the promise was in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. The strange things about it all is that these dear friends holding these different views regarding His coming seem to get on very well together, but when one contends for the literal, personal and pre-millennial coming of Jesus Christ, he is looked upon as a troublemaker, spoiling the fellowship. Indeed, it would appear that anything but the REAL thing will do.
Now, I will try to give you some reasons why I believe that Christ must appear again on this earth before there can be any millennium, and I mean by the millennium a thousand years of righteousness, peace and prosperity, such as the world has never known in all its history since the days of Adam. Undoubtedly there is a longing in the hearts of men for these conditions. The socialists and other idealists are ever agitating and legislating with the hope that they can usher in the golden day, but I have lost faith in every method but the Divine method.
I do not think that man can ever bring it about, except the man Christ Jesus. Did it ever occur to you that He came here to Earth and lived among men and proved without doubt that He was quite capable of managing the affairs of this world? He did not have an army; He did not have money; He did not have prestige, but He had power over disease and death, and power over the elements of nature. He could feed the poor. He could heal the sick. He could raise the dead. He could calm the raging sea, and when He said, “Peace be still!” not only did the winds and the waves obey Him, but a great calm and deep rest came to the hearts of those to whom the words were addressed.
He Was Not Wanted
But the world did not want Him. He was despised and rejected of men, and they crucified Him on a Cross. So He left the world to continue its struggle and try to solve its own problems, but we are no nearer a solution now than we were two thousand years ago. Nor will these problems ever be solved until HE REIGNS WHOSE RIGHT IT IS.
Another reason for believing that His coming is pre-millennial is the fact that certain events are associated with His coming in the Scripture that do not take place in connection with a believer’s conversion, or the death of a Christian, nor did they take place at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
For instance, according to the teachings of Christ in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, the wheat and the tares are to grow together until the harvest, then they are to be separated, and He tells us that the harvest will be when He comes again.
Then there is the resurrection of the saints, spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 3:13-18.
It is when He descends from Heaven that the dead in Christ arise, and are caught up to meet Him. You can’t make this fit in with conversion or other events mentioned.
I do not think there ever was a more absurd and ridiculous interpretation given to the Scriptures that predict His coming, than to say that these promises are fulfilled at the death of a Christian. Why death takes our loved ones from us, puts them into the grave where we cannot see them again, and the body goes back to dust and ashes, but at the coming of Christ they shall come forth from the grave in a body “fashioned like unto His own glorious body,” and we shall be reunited, “Caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.”
Binding of Satan
Again, according to Revelation, chapter nineteen, at the coming of Christ, Satan is to be bound and locked up in the abyss for a thousand years. You see the millennium does not begin until Satan is disposed of, and that will take place at the COMING of the Lord Jesus Christ.
All who accept the authorities of the Scriptures believe in a personal devil, who is the “ruler of this world’s darkness.” Paul said he was the “god of this world.” Christ refers to him as the “prince of this world,” and he is still in authority, still at work, influencing the hearts and minds of men, “the deceiver of the nations,” “the accuser of the brethren.”
It is hardly likely that we could have a millennium, or any lengthy period of peace and prosperity while he reigns. So the first thing that will take place at the coming of Christ to establish that glorious kingdom, will be the binding of Satan. Then the “whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” “All shall know Him.” Then we will have equality and justice. The present order of things will have finished. False standards will be shattered. The yoke of the oppressor will be lifted. Wars will have ceased. Then there will be “disarmament” indeed, for the nations will “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Even the animal creation will share in the glory of that day. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” The sin-cursed earth will be entirely renovated. Because of man’s sin for thousands of years it has produced “Thorns and Thistles,” but when Jesus comes “instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree.”
Why Paul tells us that not only we pre-millennialists but the whole of creation is waiting for that day.
“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope;
“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of the corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God”—Romans 8:19-21.
Our Glorious Outlook
Our friends on the other side of this subject sometimes call us pessimists. Indeed, a brother preacher recently said: “If you want to feel downhearted, if you want to hear blue ruin, just you listen to one of these pre-millenarians preach.”
Now the trouble with that brother is that he don’t know what we believe and preach. If he did he would have to revise his opinion, for it is the pre-millennialist that has the glorious outlook. We not only sing, “A better day is coming by and by,” but we believe it, and the “by and by” is not thousands of years away. Our hope is imminent, for “the coming of the Lord draweth near.”
From the recent attacks that have been made upon this teaching, you might be led to think that it is a new and strange doctrine that has been introduced into the Church during these last few years. But who can possibly doubt that the apostles believed these things, and church history warrants me in saying that for the first three hundred years after the church was organized, all the Christians believed in the pre-millennial coming of Jesus. This hope was lost through those dark ages, as some other great truths were lost, but God has never been without witnesses “to the blessed hope.”
I want to read you the testimony of a few great men, that you may know that we are not in such bad company after all. I will read the testimony first and then give you the name afterward.
“Some say that before the latter day the whole world will become Christian. This is a falsehood forged by Satan that he might darken a sound doctrine. Beware of this delusion. I believe that God’s word will again wax less and fall off, and a great darkness will come for want of true and faithful ministers. Then the whole world will run wild and become sensual and live in all security without reflecting. THEN shall the voice sound, ‘Behold! the bridegroom cometh.’”
Now, who do you suppose used that strong language? None other than the great MARTIN LUTHER.
Another: “I must confess death appeareth to me as an enemy and my nature doth abhor it, but the coming of our Lord is a very precious thought. It is sweet and joyful, and if I were but sure that I would live to see the Lord appear before the period of my age, it would be the joyfulest tidings to me in all the world.”
Now, when I tell you that is the testimony of the saintly RICHARD BAXTER, it surely will have some weight.
Writing to a Christian brother, whose pamphlet on the “RETURN OF CHRIST” had just been placed in his hands, a celebrated preacher said:
“Your book on the MILLENNIUM was lately put into my hands. I cannot but thank you for your strong and seasonable confirmation of that comfortable doctrine, of which I CANNOT ENTERTAIN THE LEAST DOUBT AS LONG AS I BELIEVE MY BIBLE.”
That testimony comes from the founder of what has been one of the greatest soul-saving movements the world has known—the REV. JOHN WESLEY.
I have quoted him from a letter written to the Rev. Thos. Hartley, M.A., Rector of Winwick, Northamptonshire, Methodist Magazine 1783, p. 499.
One more testimony also from John Wesley. “To say that the fathers of the second and third centuries believed in the Millennial Creed of Justin Martyr, is neither more nor less than to say, they believe the Bible.—Wesley to Dr. C. Middleton, 1749. Wesley’s Works, Vol. 10, pp. 29 and 30.
Now, then in the face of this testimony you dear Methodist people must not be so bitter against this teaching for the very founder of your Church has confirmed the testimony in no unmistakable language. Why, bless you, the hymns of Chas. Wesley simply glow with references to this glorious truth.
“Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train;
God appears on earth again!”
If I wanted to take the time and you would listen to me, I might add to the list of worthy and sane preachers with whom we stand in this teaching, such men as Bishops Andrews, Ryle, Trench and Moule; from the expositors such men as Matthew Henry, Thos. Chalmers, Ellicott, Faussett, Dean Alford, and John Darby; such pastors as Dr. H. Bonar, Chas. Hadden Spurgeon, A.J. Gordon, and A.T. Pierson; such great evangelists as D.L. Moody, J. Wilbur Chapman, and Reuben A. Torrey; such great teachers as F.B. Meyer, Campbell Morgan, James M. Gray, Griffith Thomas, and a host of others.
Some of us can remember when we, too, were very bitter, but it was because we did not know our Bibles. We had not given this truth any consideration. But, Oh, what a glorious day it was for us when we saw the truth concerning His coming back again!
Paul calls it the “blessed hope.” Personally I want to say it is the hope that blesses. It has meant to me a new ministry with a new mission. It has filled my heart with a holy joy that makes light all my hands find to do.