The Lord's Coming
The question up for discussion is one of utmost importance. If it is true that the Lord's Coming is near, and that at any moment we may hear His shout, and the sound of the trumpet; it is certainly also true that the Lord would not leave us ignorant of the fact of that soon Coming, The Holy Spirit has borne witness, that that day should not overtake us as a thief, for the reason that we are not of the night, neither of the darkness.
To some it may not be given to know the times and the seasons, but to us it is given.
In the Book of Hebrews we read of how we should not neglect the assembling of ourselves together, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.
We remember a preacher who, at a funeral, read this Scripture: "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," etc. He closed the Bible and his first words were, "We have all got to die."
We greatly prefer the words of an old lady in Georgia, who said to us, from what seemed to be her deathbed, "I may die, but I am not expecting to." We said, "Grandma, what are you expecting?" She replied, "Well, honey, I am expecting the Lord to come in the air, and take me home to be for ever with the Lord."
"O joy! O delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying;
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord, into glory,
When Jesus receives His own."
The Lord left us His promise, "If I go * * I will come again, and receive you unto Myself." We believe that His promise is sure.
We know that scoffers have arisen, saying, "Where is the promise of His Coming?" however, we still believe that, "This same Jesus * * shall so come in like manner," as those gathered at the Mount of Olives saw Him go.
We know that some delay His Coming, saying that the Lord will not come in our day and time, and perhaps not for millenniums of years; but we feel like saying to such, "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."
If these things were not so, He would have told us.
This much is true, "We shall not all sleep." There will be a generation of saints still living, and thank God, also looking, when the Lord comes. The question which is now before us, is this Are there any saints now living who may be here when Christ comes? Are there sane and Scriptural grounds on which we may base the hope that the Lord will come any day, and particularly in our own day?
We follow with seven of many Scriptural reasons, why we have the right to expect the immediate Return of the long-looked for day. We grant that during this age there have been many who have lived and died looking for the Lord to come, and that yet He tarried; still we believe that now we have an accumulation of evidence, that Christ soon must come, and our expectations will not be much longer delayed.
I. THE PRESENT-DAY APOSTASY (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
The words, "A falling away first" may be read, "An apostasy." An apostasy must first come. We remember how the Lord said, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?"
Here is a most striking sign of the Lord's soon Coming. Of course, there have been many apostates who have arisen; and every age has had its apostates.
There is, however, something new and unheard of in the line of apostasy at this hour.
In the past, apostates have been, for the most part, outside the fold of the faithful; or else they have had to hide their face in the midst of the orthodox. Now, however, great denominations are swayed by the leadership of men who openly and blatantly deny every vital of the faith.
That which stands forth as different from former apostasies, is the fact that the leaven of false doctrines has now leavened the whole loaf. The denials of Christ and His Word, are going out, from what one of the modernists of today himself called, "Every respectable pulpit."
Even young people who attend public schools are in danger of being led away from the eternal verities of the Word of God, into the vagaries of evolution and of science falsely so called.
We may as well face the issue the prophesied apostasy has come, and with that apostasy there has come the certainty that the Lord's Coming is at hand.
The Christ who is being set aside as mere man, begotten of natural generation, and son of Joseph; the Christ who is being acclaimed as no more than Joseph's son, and not Son of God; the Christ whose Cross is being maligned as in no sense a substitutionary sacrifice for sin, will soon be coming in the clouds of Heaven. He will come to vindicate the faith of those who have trusted Him; He will come to vindicate the integrity of His own Living Word; and He will come to demonstrate that His promises are yea and amen, wholly trustworthy.
"Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Let no harp remain unstrung,
Let the mighty advent chorus
Onward roll from tongue to tongue;
Christ is coming!
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!"
II. THE MIDNIGHT CRY (Matthew 25:6)
At first this sign of the Lord's imminent Coming may not seem so striking. However, we consider it one of the great and sure marks that the hour is at hand.
When Daniel was given his wonderful prophecies of the end times, and the last days, the angel said unto him: "Shut up the words, and seal the Book even to the time of the end." The very fact therefore that the words of Daniel are now being opened, and that holy men are everywhere proclaiming messages through the revealing of the Spirit that have hitherto remained unopened, is most significant.
A few decades ago there was one here, and one there who was proclaiming the Lord's Coming; today that Coming is being heralded in many places. There is in a recent book, something like this, "There is a wave of premillennial preaching sweeping over the land that is spreading much like a prairie fire, and no one knows where the end may be."
This midnight cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh," is in line with that promise and prophecy which says, "Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" (1 Thessalonians 5:4).
What think you, meaneth this turning of the faces upward toward the skies? Are the faithful, praying, Spirit-filled and Spirit-taught saints, who are as the sands in number, looking in vain for the Lord's soon Coming?
Today saints are exhorting one another and talking to one another about Christ's Return; they are doing this more and more as they see the day approaching.
"Christ is coming! let creation
Bid her groans and travail cease:
Let the glorious proclamation
Hope restore and faith increase;
Christ is coming!
Come, Thou blessed Prince of Peace!"
III. THE RENAISSANCE OF ISRAEL (Matthew 24:32-33)
When General Allenby marched into the city of Jerusalem, the World War was practically over. We have no doubt in our own mind that it was toward this consummation that God was moving during the whole of the terrific strife. This entrance of General Allenby marked a new day for Jewry. It gave to the Ancient People a new liberty. It restored unto them a large step toward their old time suzerainty and power. From that day, until this, Zionism has had new life.
The Jewish people are once more possessing their land. Much money is being spent in the re-habilitation of Palestine, The early and the latter rain, with the old-time fruitility of the land, is fast returning to Palestine, the home of the Jews.
Recent scientific investigations have discovered that the Dead Sea has, for centuries, been receiving untold quantities of wealth by the incoming floods of the Jordan, These riches have been kept stored away in its bosom, and now we are informed that the wealth hidden in the Dead Sea, contains a valuation greater than the combined wealth of the British Empire, or, of the United States.
In addition to the above, the Jewish people are turning their faces once more toward the Messiah. We understand on reliable information that a new Sanhedrin is to be formed within a year in Jerusalem and that Christ is to be tried once more by an august body, in order to establish either the truth or the error of His claims.
With these and many other Jewish signs before our eyes, no one can doubt that the fig tree, which is the type of the Jewish nation, is beginning to put forth its leaves. Therefore, we know, that Christ is near, even at the door.
"Long Thy exiles have been pining,
Far from rest, and home, and Thee:
But, in Heavenly vesture shining,
Soon they shall Thy glory see;
Christ is coming!
Haste the joyous jubilee."
IV. THE REVIVAL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (Daniel 2:40-45)
God gave unto Nebuchadnezzar the revelation of what should come to pass hereafter. The king saw a great image. The toes of the image were part of iron and part of clay. He saw until a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands, fell upon the feet of the image and destroyed the whole image.
The toes of this image which Nebuchadnezzar saw, are a prophecy of the Roman Empire which will be re-established upon the earth in the day of the Lord's Return to the Mount of Olives.
Other visions which Daniel saw, corroborate this interpretation; for Daniel saw a beast with ten horns, and these ten horns are said to be ten kingdoms, and ten kings that shall arise.
Prophetic students the world over are watching with keenest interest the efforts of Mussolini to re-establish the Roman Empire. These things are too striking and soul-stirring to be neglected by the young people of our country.
The iron represents royalty; the clay represents democracy. The cry in the political world has of recent years been for a democracy a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. However, the rule of democracy which is prophesied, was not to be supreme, for the iron was mixed with the clay. Mussolini is throwing aside the rule of the people, and proclaiming himself as the autocrat of a new Roman Empire.
We cannot go into the details of this remarkable foreshadowing of Christ's Return. We do say that it is worthy of the study of us all. Before our very eyes history is fast filling up the mold of the prophecy which was "made sure" by God.
"Christ is coming! let creation
From her groans and travail cease;
Let the glorious proclamation
Hope restore and faith increase.
Christ is coming! Christ is coming!
Come, Thou blessed Prince of Peace!"
V. THE MENACE OF RUSSIA (Ezekiel 39:1)
Bible students the world over have not failed to watch events in red Russia. The new life of the Russian Bear is most significant. The revived Roman Empire, with its antichrist as ruler, will not have peace all the way. The king of the North will come down against the antichrist with great hordes of people.
These two great powers will face each other, and the battle of that day will drench the fields with blood.
In Paul's Second Letter to Timothy, he speaks of the last days as an hour when "perilous times shall come." In Luke we read that "men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." Christ said, as recorded in Matthew, that there should be wars, and famines, and pestilences.
The Jews will be the butt of the whole conflict, and Jerusalem shall reel to and fro as a drunken man. To Israel it will be the time of "great tribulation," or, of "Jacob's trouble."
The drift toward imperial Rome on the one hand, and toward the rule of the reds on the other, startles the student of prophecy. Before our very eyes we see Scriptures being fulfilled; Scriptures which, beyond a doubt, mark the Coming of Christ as at hand.
For our part we are
"Watching quietly every day.
Whene'er the sun shines brightly,
We rise and say,
It may be the shining of His face;
And we look across the sea to His high place;
And we know the Lord is coming soon, apace."
VI. THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH IS RIPE (Revelation 14:15)
When the harvest fields are ripe with grain, we know that the time for reaping has come.
Is the harvest of the earth ripe? During this age God has left man to work out his own path. The world has been lying in the lap of the wicked one, and consequently everything has been done to beautify the present world order, that men may lose sight of the Coming of the Lord.
We are living in the climax of man's genius and power. In the days of Noah there were mighty men of renown. The world of that time leaped to a zenith of God-denying luxury, that brought the flood in judgment. "As it was * * so shall it be."
Today the world has ripened in every place where man's prowess can operate. Within the memory of us all, most of the wonderful inventions that make our day so marked, have arisen.
Daniel prophesied by inspiration, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." This prophecy is evidently now being fulfilled. Ants never hurried hither and thither, with more energy than men are rushing everywhere. Trains, equipped with every modern convenience, palatial steamers; autos, deluxe, and swift-moving airships of all types, are running to and fro.
Knowledge also has increased. The radio, with its marvelous development, has brought the whole world into one's private sitting room. Great presses run off the news, and daily papers are constantly apprizing millions of all great world events. Surely the Lord is coming. Surely He is coming soon.
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train;
Jesus comes, and comes to reign!
VII. THE PRESENT PLEA FOR PEACE (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)
We all remember how the whole world was crying, "Peace, peace," when the war of 1914 suddenly broke forth, bursting the peace "bubble."
However, during the very war that carried its millions to untimely graves, the world was told that we were fighting to establish enduring peace.
Since the Armistice was signed, the great nations have sought in every way to establish peace, apart, of course, from the Coming of the Prince of Peace.
The past years have seen tremendous efforts along this line. The city of London felt the impact of an august body of statesmen from the five great world powers, endeavoring to make peace secure by disarmament, and by the curtailment of the building of ships of war.
The student of prophetic Scriptures instead of being reassured, by these world efforts, that peace has come; knows full well that the effort for peace is no more than God's prophecy of coming war.
If we had our way, from the prophetic viewpoint, we would advise the nations to fortify themselves mightily, to keep their munition, to watch their way, and to make strong their loins. We know, upon the authority of God's Word, that these human efforts for peace proclaim that the Lord's Coming is nigh.
There are so many things that might be said. We could speak of the social unrest as a sign of the times. We could tell of the rich men who have arisen, living in luxury, and comforting their hearts in a day of slaughter. We could speak of the evident preparations of the rule and the reign of the antichrist. In fact, we might be able to suggest many other signs that the Lord's Coming is near. The times of the Gentiles seem to be running out. The missionary activities, which are encompassing the world with the message of salvation, join to say that Christ must come.
As we close this study we urge every young man and young woman to prepare themselves, that they may be clothed and ready to meet the Bridegroom in the air.
For our illustration we are giving you, today, a little poem which we recently penned and put to music.
Is your lamp all trimmed and burning?
Do you long for Christ's Returning?
Are you waiting, robed and ready, when He comes?
Would you gladly go to meet Him?
With a song of joy to greet Him?
Are you ready for the Bridegroom, when He comes?
Soon He'll come, this news I'm telling;
Soon He comes, what joy is swelling;
Yes, I'm ready for the Bridegroom, when He comes:
Now my lamps are burning bright;
Now I'm robed in spotless white,
Yes, I'm ready for the Bridegroom, when He comes.
Hark, the midnight hour is sounding,
And the midnight cry resounding.
For behold the Bridegroom comes, His grace to show;
See, the five wise virgins ready,
See their lamps are burning steady,
To the marriage of the Bridegroom now they go.
Hear the foolish now bewailing,
Lend us oil, our lamps are failing,
And, behold, the Bridegroom standeth at the door;
Then while they, their oil were buying,
And their empty lamps supplying,
They were left behind, without the fast closed door.
Therefore be ye also ready,
Have your lamps all burning steady,
For, behold, the Bridegroom soon will surely come;
Why should you be left in sorrow,
Seeking some one's oil to borrow?
Why not be prepared and watching when He comes?
The doctrine of sanctification has been abused, but that does not mean that we should steer clear of God's message concerning this great definite work in the believer's heart and life.
There are so many who excuse all kinds of actions among Christians. They seem to think that a Christian, since he is saved by grace, can live any way he may desire, and get away with it.
God never permits us to use "grace" as a leeway for lewdness. He says, "I write unto you, little children, that ye sin not." The Apostle Paul, on one occasion, said that he had no confidence in his flesh; but he did not mean by that that the new man which was begotten of Christ Jesus was left a dupe to the power and sway of the flesh. The Lord Jesus rather taught that, "Sin shall not have dominion over you." How can he who is dead to sin live any longer therein? The Christian may stumble, and fall, but he has the promise of every victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.
1. Sanctification does not mean the improvement of the Adamic nature. The old man, the carnal nature, received by natural birth is corrupt. Its works are described for us in no uncertain terms. Sanctification does not mean that this old man must be cleaned up and beautified.
On the other hand, sanctification is the impartation of a new man which is begotten in righteousness and true holiness.
Sanctification, therefore, is the putting off of the old man, and the putting on of the new. It is the empowerment of this new man by the Holy Ghost.
We heard some one compare sanctification to an egg, which takes twenty-one days to hatch. During the three weeks, this preacher said, there was less of the viscus every day, and more of the chick. We could not accept this statement. Sanctification is not the gradual purification of the old man, but it is the rule and reign of the Spirit in the new man.
2. Sanctification is not regeneration. Regeneration is the creating of a new man, and not the rebirth of the old man. Regeneration, therefore, while distinct from sanctification, certainly paves the way for sanctification. Sanctification recognizes regeneration. It closes its ears to the voice of the old man, and its lusts; it opens its ears to the new man, and its Holy Spirit domination.
It is the purpose of this message to impress the deep Scriptural meanings of the word, sanctification, and also the method by which sanctification may be realized.
I. SANCTIFICATION IS THE WILL OF GOD (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
Where is he who does not desire the will of God more than anything else which is obtainable in this life? Jesus Christ said on one occasion, "Who is My mother? and who are My brethren?" "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father."
Epaphras was a mighty man of prayer, and he prayed for the saints that they might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
It was David Livingstone who said, "I would rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God, than to be anywhere under Heaven out of that will."
The will of God is widely inclusive, but there is one thing that is distinctly stated: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification."
God does not want us to walk in the desires of our flesh. He does not want us to follow after the ways of the world. He wants us to know how to possess our vessels in sanctification and true holiness.
It is the sanctified Christian alone who can give real honor and glory unto his adorable Saviour and Lord.
II. SANCTIFICATION DEFINED (John 17:17)
Perhaps the best way to understand any great Scriptural term is to study its use throughout the Bible. When we come to the word "sanctification," we find that it is used throughout the Bible with one chief purpose. Let me give you a few suggestions.
1. "God * * rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." The word here certainly suggests that He set the seventh day aside from the other days of the week. He hallowed the seventh day because on that day He rested.
2. We read that the Tabernacle was sanctified. The various utensils used in its rites were sanctified. The word here includes their being cleansed; it also suggests that they were set aside for holy and Divine service.
3. Jesus Christ is spoken of as being sanctified. We see this in our text. He was, of course, holy, but the word suggests that, being holy, He set Himself apart in behalf of His people.
4. The Church is spoken of as being sanctified: "That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word." Cleansing is included in the sanctification, but along with the cleansing is the separation of the Church by the Lord unto Himself.
Cramer, in his Greek lexicon, says that the word sanctification comes from "hagios," which means "clean, free from stain." He admits, however, that the use of the word carries with it the thought of dedication. Webster's new International Dictionary says that sanctification means "the state or quality of being sacred or holy." He also says that it is the act or process of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified. Webster gives the truth, but not all of the truth, because sanctification, beyond doubt, goes farther than mere holiness or purification.
III. SANCTIFICATION MEANS SEPARATION (2 Corinthians 6:17)
To our mind one of the most beautiful Bible definitions of the word sanctification is our present text, in which there are three suggestions:
1. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate."
2. "And touch not the unclean thing."
3. "And I will receive you."
The first call is to separation; the second is to cleansing, and the third is to a dedication, received and accepted of God. Our part is to speak of separation. In the context of 2 Corinthians 6:17, the Spirit is asking, "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" He also asks, "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols?"
When God called Abram to become His servant He called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. Later on, God called Israel out of Egypt. The message of the whole Bible is the message of the separation of light from darkness, of the saint from the sinner.
God has said, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Again, God said, "Go not in the way of evil men." Yet again, "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."
There is no affinity between the Church and the world, nor can there be any affinity between the saint and the sinner. Their lords are distinct and opposite. Their ideals of life are distinct and opposite.
We are not of the world, even as He is not of the world.
IV. SANCTIFICATION MEANS CLEANSING (Isaiah 52:11)
Hear the thunderous tones of God's Word: "Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord."
God calls for separation, but He calls for more. He calls for cleanliness. He says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." The Apostle could truthfully say, "I know nothing by myself," yet he added, "Yet am I not hereby justified."
A clean man, as we understand it, is a man who knows nothing against himself, a man who is not walking in any known sin.
We read in Isaiah 6:1-13, "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the Temple." Then it was that the Prophet cried, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, * * for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts."
No sooner did the Prophet utter his prayer and plea than an angel touched his lips with a coal from off the altar, and said, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Do you marvel that immediately the Prophet heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?"
It was thus that David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," and he added, "Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways." God demands cleansing of those who would be serving.
V. SANCTIFICATION IS DEDICATION (Romans 12:1-2)
We well remember the old consecration services that were held in our home church in the days of our boyhood. They were monthly affairs, and every month the saints were supposed to reconsecrate themselves to God.
We have no criticism save this: that saints should make their consecration definite and decisive once for all.
Dedication, or, if you prefer, consecration, is included in sanctification. However, sanctification is a far bigger word than either of the others. The yielded life is a consecrated life. The sanctified life is also a consecrated life, but it is likewise a separated and a cleansed life.
We wonder how many there are who stand ready to bring their all and place it upon the altar. The Bible says that we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. The Bible also says, "Yield yourselves unto God, * * and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
Sometimes we may wonder why our gift is not acceptable unto God. We seek to bring our life, our body, and its members and give them all to Him. Then He seems to say, "Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." In other words, God will not receive us, if our lives are entangled in sin, and not separated from the world.
VI. SANCTIFICATION'S GREAT "HOW" (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
We have already learned that sanctification is the will of God. Now, we wish to emphasize that it is also the will of God, that we should know how to possess our vessels in sanctification and honor. A great many persons place all the work of sanctification upon the believer, as though we, of our own selves, could sanctify ourselves.
Our text says, however, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly." The next verse adds, "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." We may take up the attitude of separation, but God must perfect it in us. We may stand before the Lord desiring to be clean, but God must cleanse us. We may want to yield ourselves unto God, but God must give us the enabling.
If we would know how to possess our vessel in sanctification and honor, we must know the Spirit's power in our life.
God has said, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." He has also said that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.
If we would seek to follow God in the energy of our flesh, we would utterly collapse in the attempt. Our defeat, however, may be turned into glorious victory the very moment that we recognize in Christ the power of the new life, and see in the Holy Spirit the power of that life made effective in us.
Try as we may, and strive as we will, we will still drag with us a body of death, until we have learned that Christ is made unto us sanctification. When we would do good, evil will be present with us. When we would refuse the evil, we will find ourselves bound down to the evil, until we cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Remember, beloved, that sanctification is made possible and practical only in the God-empowered life.
VII. SANCTIFICATION MAKES US VESSELS OF HONOR (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
Our verse tells us that in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work."
He who would become a servant of the Living God must flee youthful lusts: and "follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
When God is looking for a vessel which He may use, He seeks primarily for a vessel that is clean. Whether it be a vessel of gold, or of silver, of wood, or of stone; whether it be a believer with oratorical power, and rhetorical phrases, is not the main thing. These things do not matter so much. However, the vessel must be clean, and the believer must be clean. "For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, * * therefore thy camp shall be holy."
This story is told of J. Sterling Morton, President Cleveland's Secretary of Agriculture: "When Mrs. Morton died her husband had a tombstone erected on her grave, and on that stone he had this inscription: 'Caroline French, wife of J. Sterling Morton, and mother of Joy, Paul, and Mark Morton.' Then he took his three sons to the cemetery and as they stood by the grave of the mother of the boys, J. Sterling Morton pointed out the inscription and read aloud: 'Mother of Joy, Paul, and Mark Morton,' and then he solemnly said, 'If any one of you boys ever does anything that would cause your mother grief or shame if she were alive, I will chisel your name off the stone.' I am glad to say that the newspaper reported that the names were still on the stone." The Moody Institute Monthly.