The Word of God fixes the eyes of hope of the children of God upon the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ as the consummation of all things, and the final realization of all God’s promises to them. For salvation does not consist in this that God saves out of this world a number of people and takes them to heaven, but in the establishment of the kingdom of heaven, the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness shall dwell, and in which the tabernacle of God shall be with men. This was the real contents of the promise given to the saints of old, and to the realization of this promise they looked forward. For they “all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had an opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” Heb. 11:13-16. The prophet Isaiah speaks of the kingdom of perfect peace, that shall be established by the Branch growing out of Jesse’s roots, a new world-order in which “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopards shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Isa. 11:6-9. And even through that Old Testament prophet the promise was announced: “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”
In the New Testament, as we might expect, this promise assumes a much clearer form. Frequently the Lord speaks of the kingdom of heaven,. And although it is true that this kingdom is often spoken of as already present in the spiritual sense of the word, yet its consummation and perfection is a future hope. For in the end the Son of man shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and “then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of their Father.” Matt. 13:43. And He speaks of “the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory”, and when also the apostles “shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Matt. 19:28. And in the figurative presentation of the final judgment we hear the King say to those that are at His right hand: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” !It is a kingdom in which all things Shall be subdued under Christ as the Head of all things, “and when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may beall in all.” I Cor. 15:28. For it is the eternal purpose of God, “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.” Eph. 1:10. And “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” II Pet. 3:13. And on Patmos the seer beholds “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” Rev. 21:1. And he “heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all their tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” Rev. 21:3-5.
But how shall these things be? In what way shall this final and eternal kingdom of God be ushered in? It certainly will not come in the way of gradual development of the present world. There is, indeed, also a kingdom of this world. It had its beginning in the fall of the first Adam, who was king over the earthly creation, in order that at the pinnacle of creation he might be the servant and representative of God; but who rebelled against his sovereign, and subjected himself to the devil, the* prince of this world. And this kingdom develops throughout the ages. With all the means at its commardlt strives for its consummation. It is a kingdom without God, and without Christ, the kingdom of fallen man, subjecting the things of this, present world: ntnder his feet, in science and; art, in culture and civilization, and pressing them all into the service of sin. But it is not in this line that the kingdom of God must be expected to come. On the contrary, it is in this line that the first sin, committed in paradise, will bring forth its final fruit, so that the measure of iniquity shall be full in the kingdom of Antichrist, whose number is six hundred and sixty six. In fact, none of the grand and imposing products of modern invention and civilization shall ever enter into that kingdom of glory. For, even apart from the fact that the kingdom of this world is governed by the law of sin and .death, while the kingdom of God is. under the law of the Spirit of life, the former is earthy, while the latter is heavenly. And the fashion of this world shall, pass away, even so that “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” II Pet. 3:10. Through that final world conflagration nothing of the proud works of man shall pass into the kingdom of heaven. Babylon shall bring nothing into the New Jerusalem. The kingdom of God has nothing to do with a new world-order man may establish in the earth. . . .
On the contrary, the expectant gaze of the believers is directed upward to heaven, and out of the heavens they expect that kingdom to come. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Phil. 3:20, 21. It was the attitude of the people of God under the old dispensation. Always they cried: “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow at thy presence.” Isa. 64:1. And the heavens did rend, and He did come down, when the Christ-child was born in Bethlehem, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us. In Him the kingdom of heaven was seen in its beginning. And He battled His way into His kingdom, and established it on the foundations of the everlasting righteousness of God, through the blood of the cross. He went away again into the heavens, leaving the disciples behind Him, still gazing upward into the heavens. Once more the heavens rent and again He came down, on the day of Pentecost, this time in the Spirit, But still all things remained the same as before, and still the promise is not fulfilled. And all the more because they now have the firstfruits of the Spirit! The children of the kingdom groan within themselves, together with the whole creation, as they wait for the adoption, to wit the redmption of their body. And, therefore, we are still looking upward into the heavens, expecting that the heavens will rend once again, and that our Lord may appear in all the power and glory wherewith He is clothed at the right hand of God, in order to establish His kingdom for ever! Not in the way of gradual development, but through the final wonder of the coming of the Lord will the kingdom of heaven be ushered in.
Of this coming of the Lord all Scripture testifies. Already Enoch in predeluvian times prophesied: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 14, 15. And all the prophets speak of the day of the Lord. “For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” Isa. 66:15. Joel cries out in amazement: “Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.” Joel 1:15. And again: “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.” Joel 3:13-16. And the last chapter of the Old Testament speaks of that day as follows: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” Mal. 4:1, 2. The Psalms, too, sing of this coming of the Lord: “For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. Ps. 96:13; 98:9.
And the New Testament holds this coming of the Lord before the eyes of believers as the object of their hope. Frequently, the Lord Himself speaks of His coming again. “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so also shall the coming of the son of man be.” Matt. 24:27. And again: “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,” Matt. 24:87, Or, more fully: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matt. 24:29-30. The angels bring the message to the amazed disciples on Mt. Olivet, as they stand 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.” Acts 1:11. And so the apostles preach and teach. To the vain philosophers on Mars’ hill Paul proclaims that God commands all men to repent, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:31. And he speaks of the day “when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel”. Rom. 2:16. And again: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” I Thess. 4:16. He speaks of retribution upon the enemies of the church, but of rest to the believers “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey lot the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished, with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,” II Thess. 1:7-9. The entire book of Revelation is really an elaboration on the theme: “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.” Rev. 1:7. He testifies: “Surely, I come quickly, Amen.” Rev. 22:20. And in the hope of His coming the Church of all ages responds in faith: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” Rev. 22:20.
Upon this final coming of the Lord, then, the hope of the Church is fixed. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God come in the flesh, born of a virgin, who was crucified, dead and buried, raised from the dead on the third day, was received into heaven, and who sitteth at the right hand of God, the same shall come again, to judge the quick and the dead, and to finish the work the Father gave Him to do. In this literal sense of the word we believe that He shall come again. This does not mean that we entertain a carnal or earthly conception of His coming, or, in fact, that we make bold to form a conception of His return at all. His advent will be the final wonder. This must never be forgotten. It is this that is overlooked by those coarse mockers, who propose to demonstrate the impossibility of Jesus’ being seen by every eye at His coming, by pointing out that the earth is round. But this is also forgotten frequently by professing Christians, that have a rather carnal conception of His coming and of the kingdom He is coming to establish. It is the resurrected and glorified Lord, that is coming again. His coming will be an appearance. It will be revelation. He is coming, literally and personally, but not in the sense that He is returning to our earthly existence, but rather in order that He may make us and all things like unto Himself, and to take us unto Himself, that we may forever be where He is.
There has been, and there still is, a good deal of speculation as to the time of Christ’s return. And we know that this speculation is vain in as far as it concerns the day and the hour of His coming. This, however does, not mean that we know nothing about that time. The contrary is true. We know, for instance, that we must not expect the coming of the Lord in the way of a gradual improvement of the present world, or of a steady growth of the true Church, and a universal spread and acceptance of the Gospel. If this were the picture held before us in the Bible, the trend of development in the world would be quite disappointing. Rather must we expect times like our own. For there shall be wars and rumors of war, and the end is not yet. And nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles, but these shall only be the beginning of sorrows. Mark 13:7, 8. We know, too, that the time preceding the coming of the Lord, shall be characterized by a great apostacy, for “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” and ‘‘lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” II Tim. 3:1-5. The world in those days shall be characterized by carelessness and indifference, carnality aod joy in the things of the world, for it shall be as in the days of Noah, when men were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the flood came and destroyed them all. Matt. 24:38. Also in this respect the biblical picture of those days offers a striking resemblance to our own age. O, the world can assume a beautiful mask of piety, especially in our own land. We pray and give thanks and speak ever so piously. But be not deceived! More than a form of godliness it is not. For lewdness and corruption abound. There is drimkeness and adultery, and the divorce courts are crowded, and make light of the sacred tie of matrimony. Profanity, cursing and swearing in the camps of our armed forces, by officers and privates, are so proverbial that Christians called to the colors must daily vex their soul with their ungodly speech. But at the same time, on certain occasions, the world cloaks itself in a garb of piety that might almost deceive the very elect! We are very definitely taught that before the coming of the Lord “the man of sin” must be established, during whose reign there shall be great tribulation for the people of God, so that they shall be persecuted to the death, and they shall not be able to buy or sell, unless they adopt the mark of the beast, II Thess. 2:1-12; Rev. 13. We know, moreover, that the devil must be loosed for a season, that he may deceive the nations that live on the four corners of the earth, and I see the beginning of this in the waking up of the heathen orient, with its hundreds of millions, Rev. 20:1-10. And, finally, we know from the Bible, that the day is near, always near, that this is the “last hour”, and that Christ does not tarry; there is no delay or restraint: Lie is coming quickly! I Pet. 4:7; I John 2:18; Rev. 22:12, 20. If, in view of all this, we look about us in the world, we may certainly say, without attempting to predict anything as to the day and the hour, that our own times convey the urgent message: “The end of all things is near; be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer!”
That coming of the Lord is the object of the hope of all the people of God, unless they are so entangled in the things of the world, that they would rather have Him tarry, or, perhaps, have Him stay away altogether. They long for that coming. They live in the expectation of that coming. They pray for it, and, principally, all their prayers are conditioned by the hope of this coming. For they know that peace and righteousness will never be established in the world, until after that great day of the Lord. With a view to that coming they earnestly strive to keep their garments clean, and to purify themselves, in order that they may see Him as He is. In the expectation of that hope they are willing to be strangers and pilgrims in the world, and to dwell in tents. And in the power of that hope they are able to suffer tribulation patiently. It is that hope that sustains and comforts them in times like the present, when the world is full of confusion and there is destruction on every hand, when the place of the true Christian, who would be faithful to his Lord, becomes narrower by the day, and when the Church apostatizes from the truth of the gospel. For they know that these things must needs come, and the end is not yet. And not only do the saints on earth look forward to that day, but also the glorified saints in heaven long for the day when God shall judge in righteousness, and shall avenge the blood of His saints upon them that dwell on the earth.
But why do they hope so earnestly for that coming of the Lord? Chiefly, because it will be the perfect revelation of the glory and righteousness and justice of God. The cause of the Church in the world is the cause of the Son of God, and the cause of the Son of God is the cause of God. That cause is despised, trampled under foot, mocked, defeated, blasphemed in the world throughout the ages, ever since the fall of the first Adam, and the entrance of sin into the world. The Word of God is always contradicted. The Lamb is always slain. Christ is always crucified by wicked hands. The blood of the saints is always shed. The cause of God’s covenant always suffers defeat. But that cause shall have the victory, and all the powers of darkness shall be put to shame forever. Christ, who was once the suffering servant, despised by all, shall then become revealed in all the glory and power the Father gave Him, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord. He shall be publicly justified as God’s righteous Servant. And with Him all the saints of all ages and out of every nation shall be justified. For they shall be publicly, before the eyes of all, adopted as sons of God in glory. Their bodies shall be redeemed from the power of the grave, and made like unto the most glorious body of their Lord. Each one of them shall take his proper place in the grand whole of the body of Christ, and add his own share to the glory and beauty and blessedness of the whole. And there will be a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth, a heavenly creation, of which Christ will be the head, the Lamb will be the light, and the glory of God will be the everlasting beauty. Then God’s tabernacle will be with men, and in His light shall we see the light in heavenly perfection for ever. And with Christ we shall reign over all the new creation, in peace and righteousness, as servants of the living God that He may be all in all! That is the contents of the hope of Christ’s coming. And in that hope the church prays fervently: Come, yea, come, Lord Jesus!