With each of these characters there is a well-suited exhortation. As a son, Timothy is exhorted to be strong in grace. Grace goes with sonship, just as law goes with servitude-as we learn from Galatians. Then, as a soldier, Timothy is exhorted to endure hardness and to avoid worldly entanglements; these are right elements of good soldiership. As a vessel, he is to be cleansed, separated; as a servant, gentle, patient, meek; and so of each of these seven aspects of his life as a Christian.
In 2 Timothy 15 he is told what is required of him as a workman: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
The Word of truth, then, has right divisions, and it must be evident that, as one cannot be "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed" without observing them, so any study of that Word which ignores those divisions must be in large measure profitless and confusing. Many Christians freely confess that they find the study of the Bible weary work. More find it so, who are ashamed to make the confession.
The purpose of this pamphlet is to indicate the more important divisions of the Word of truth. That this could not be fully done short of a complete analysis of the Bible is, of course, evident. But it is believed that enough is given to enable the diligent student to perceive the greater outlines of truth and something of the ordered beauty and symmetry of that Word of God which, to the natural mind, seems a mere confusion of inharmonious and conflicting ideas.
The student is earnestly exhorted not to receive a single doctrine upon the authority of this book, but, like the noble Bereans (Acts 17: 11), to search the Scriptures daily whether these things are so. No appeal is made to human authority. "The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you" (I John 2:27).
THE JEW, THE GENTILE, AND THE CHURCH OF GOD
Continuing his research, the student finds mention in Scripture of another distinct body, which is called the church. This body also has a peculiar relation to God and, like Israel, has received from Him specific promises. But similarity ends there, and the most striking contrast begins. Instead of being formed of the natural descendants of Abraham alone, it is a body in which the distinction of Jew and Gentile is lost. Instead of the relation being one of mere covenant, it is one of birth. Instead of obedience bringing the reward of earthly greatness and wealth, the church is taught to be content with food and raiment, and to expect persecution and hatred; it is perceived that just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things.
Further, Scripture shows the student that neither Israel nor the church always existed; each had a recorded beginning. The beginning of Israel he finds in the call of Abram. Looking then for the birth of the church he finds (contrary, perhaps, to his expectations, for he has probably been taught that Adam and the patriarchs are in the church) that it certainly did not exist before, nor during, the earth life of Christ, for he finds Him speaking of His church as yet future when He says (Matt. 16:18), "Upon this rock I will build my church." Not, have built, nor am building, but will build.
He finds, too, from Ephesians 3:5-10, that the church is not once mentioned in Old Testament prophecy, but was, in those ages, a mystery "hid in God." Scripturally, he finds the birth of the church in Acts 2, and the termination of its career on the earth in I Thessalonians 4.
The student also finds, in the scriptural division of the race, another class, rarely mentioned, and distinguished in every respect from either Israel or the church: the Gentiles. The comparative position of the Jew, the Gentile, and the church may be briefly seen in the following Scriptures: the Jew (Rom. 9:4-5; John 4:22; Rom. 3:1-2); the Gentile (Eph. 2:11-12; Eph. 4:17-18; Mark 7:27-28); the Church (Eph. 1:22-23; Eph. 5:29-33; 1 Pet. 2:9).
For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness (Deut. 8:7-9).
And he said, I am Abraham's servant. And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly, and he is become great; and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and men-servants, and maid- servants, and camels, and asses (Gen. 24:34-35).
The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways (Deut. 28:7). And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath (Deut. 28:13).
For our conversation is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head (Matt. 8:20).
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you (I Pet. 1:4).
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place (I Cor. 4: 11).
And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:23).
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (James 2:5).
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service (John 16:2).
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:4).
Of course it is not meant that a godly Jew did not, at death, go to heaven. The distinction is that the incentive to godliness in his case was earthly blessings, not heavenly. It should be needless to say that, in this dispensation, neither Jew nor Gentile can be saved otherwise than by the exercise of that faith on the Lord Jesus Christ whereby both are born again (John 3:3, 16) and are baptized into that "one body" (I Con 12:13) which is "the church" (Eph. 1:22-23). In the church the distinction of Jew and Gentile disappears. (I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14. So in writing to the Ephesians the apostle speaks of them as "in time past Gentiles," Eph. 2:11; 1 Cor. 12:2, also says, "ye were Gentiles.")
The contrast between Israel and the church further appears in the rules given for the conduct of each.
Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Exod. 21:24-25).
Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat (I Cor. 4:12-13).
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matt. 5:39).
See also: Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and Luke 15:20-23.
In the appointments for worship we still find contrast. Israel could worship in but one place and at a distance from God-only approaching Him through a priest. The church worships wherever two or three are gathered, has boldness to enter into the holiest, and is composed of priests. Compare Leviticus 17:8- 9 with Matthew 18:20, Luke 1:10 with Hebrews 10:19-20, Numbers 3:10 with I Peter 2:5.
In the predictions concerning the future of Israel and the church, the distinction is still more startling. The church will be taken away from the earth entirely, but restored Israel is yet to have her greatest earthly splendor and power. See what Scripture says as to
"Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets, as it is written: After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up" (Acts 15; 14-16).
"I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:1,11, 24-26).
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people.... And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isa. It: It - 12).
"For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob" (Isa. 14:1).
"Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into the land that Igave unto their fathers" (Jer. 16:14-15). "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer. 23:5-6).
"Behold, I will gather them out of all countries whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (Jer. 32:37,38).
"Sing, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, 0 daughter of Jerusalem. The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more" (Zeph. 3:14-15).
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. 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 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 (I Thess. 4:15-17).
"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).
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev. 19:7-9).
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (Rev. 20:6).
It may safely be said that the Judaizing of the church has done more to hinder her progress, pervert her mission, and destroy her spiritually than all other causes combined. Instead of pursuing her appointed path of separation from the world and following the Lord in her heavenly calling, she has used Jewish Scriptures to justify herself in lowering her purpose to the civilization of the world, the acquisition of wealth, the use of an imposing ritual, the erection of magnificent churches, the invocation of God's blessing upon the conflicts of armies, and the division of an equal brotherhood into "clergy" and "laity."
THE SEVEN DISPENSATIONSThe Scriptures divide time (by which is meant the entire period from the creation of Adam to the "new heaven and a new earth" of Rev. 21: 1) into seven unequal periods, usually called dispensations (Eph. 3:2), although these periods are also called ages (Eph. 2:7) and days, as in "day of the Lord."
These periods are marked off in Scripture by some change in God's method of dealing with mankind, or a portion of mankind, in respect of the two questions: of sin, and of man's responsibility. Each of the dispensations may be regarded as a new test of the natural man, and each ends in judgment, marking his utter failure in every dispensation. Five of these dispensations, or periods of time, have been fulfilled; we are living in the sixth, probably toward its close, and have before us the seventh, and last: the millennium.
1. Man innocent. This dispensation extends from the creation of Adam in Genesis 2:7 to the expulsion from Eden. Adam, created innocent and ignorant of good and evil, was placed in the garden of Eden with his wife, Eve, and put under responsibility to abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The dispensation of innocence resulted in the first failure of man, and in its far-reaching effects, the most disastrous. It closed in judgment: "So he drove out the man." See Gen. 1:26; Gen. 2:16,17; Gen. 3:6; Gen. 3:22-24.)
2. Man under conscience. By the fall, Adam and Eve acquired and transmitted to the race the knowledge of good and evil. This gave conscience a basis for right moral judgment, and hence the race came under this measure of responsibility-to do good and eschew evil. The result of the dispensation of conscience, from Eden to the flood (while there was no institution of government and of law), was that "all flesh had corrupted his way on the earth," that "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," and God closed the second testing of the natural man with judgment: the flood. See Gen. 3:7, 22; Gen. 6:5,11-12; Gen. 7:11-12, 23.)
3. Man in authority over the earth. Out of the fearful judgment of the flood God saved eight persons, to whom, after the waters were assuaged, He gave the purified earth with ample power to govern it. This, Noah and his descendants were responsible to do. The dispensation of human government resulted, upon the plain of Shinar, in the impious attempt to become independent of God and closed in judgment: the confusion of tongues. (See Gen. 9: 1, 2; Gen. 11: 1-4; Gen. 11:5-8.)
4. Man under promise. Out of the dispersed descendants of the builders of Babel, God called one man, Abram, with whom He enters into covenant. Some of the promises to Abram and his descendants were purely gracious and unconditional. These either have been or will yet be literally fulfilled. Other promises were conditional upon the faithfulness and obedience of the Israelites. Every one of these conditions was violated, and the dispensation of promise resulted in the failure of Israel and closed in thejudgment of bondage in Egypt.
The book of Genesis, which opens with the sublime words, "In the beginning God created," closes with, "In a coffin in Egypt." (See Gen. 12:1-3; Gen. 13:14-17; Gen. 15:5; Gen. 26:3; Gen. 28:12-13; Exod. 1: 13-14.)
5. Man under law. Again the grace of God came to the help of helpless man and redeemed the chosen people out of the hand of the oppressor. In the wilderness of Sinai He proposed to them the covenant of law. Instead of humbly pleading for a continued relation of grace, they presumptuously answered: "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." The history of Israel in the wilderness and in the land is one long record of flagrant, persistent violation of the law, and at last, after multiplied warnings, God closed the testing of man by law in judgment: first Israel, and then Judah, were driven out of the land into a dispersion which still continues. A feeble remnant returned under Ezra and Nehemiah, of which, in due time, Christ came: "Born of a woman-made under the law." Both Jews and Gentiles conspired to crucify Him. (See Exod. 19:1-8; 2 Kings 17:1-18; 2 Kings 25: 1 -11; Acts 2:22-23; Acts 7:5152; Rom. 3:19-20; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3: 10.)
6. Man under grace. The sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ introduced the dispensation of pure grace, which means undeserved favor, or God giving righteousness, instead of God requiring righteousness, as under law. Salvation, perfect and eternal, is now freely offered to Jew and Gentile upon the acknowledgment of sin, or repentance, with faith in Christ.
"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24). "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish" (John 10:27-28). "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
The predicted result of this testing of man under grace is judgment upon an unbelieving world and an apostate church. (See Luke 17:26-30; Luke 18:8; 2 Thess. 2:7-12; Rev. 3:15-16.)
The first event in the closing of this dispensation will be the descent of the Lord from heaven, when sleeping saints will be raised and, together with believers then living, caught up "to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:16-17). Then follows the brief period called "the great tribulation." (See Jer. 30:5-7; Dan. 12:1; Zeph. 1:15-18; Matt. 24:21-22.)
After this the personal return of the Lord to the earth in power and great glory occurs, and the judgments which introduce the seventh, and last dispensation. (See Matt. 25:31-46 and Matt. 24:29- 30.)
7. Man under the personal reign of Christ. After the purifying judgments which attend the personal return of Christ to the earth, He will reign over restored Israel and over the earth for one thousand years. This is the period commonly called the millennium. The seat of His power will be Jerusalem, and the saints, including the saved of the dispensation of grace, namely the church, will be associated with Him in His glory. (See Isa. 2:1-4; Isa. 11; Acts 15:14-17; Rev. 19:11-21; Rev. 20:1-6.
But when Satan is "loosed a little season," he finds the natural heart as prone to evil as ever, and easily gathers the nations to battle against the Lord and His saints, and this last dispensation closes, like all the others, in judgment. The great white throne is set, the wicked dead are raised and finally judged, and then come the "new heaven and a new earth." Eternity is begun. (See Rev. 20:3,7-15; Rev. 21 and 22.)
THE TWO ADVENTS
The other line of prophecy foretells a splendid and resistless Sovereign, purging the earth with awful judgments, regathering dispersed Israel, restoring the throne of David in more than Solomon's splendor, and introducing a reign of profound peace and perfect righteousness. (See Deut. 30:1-7; Isa. 11:1-2, 10-12; Isa. 9:6-7; Isa. 24:21-23; Isa. 40:9-11; Jer. 23:5-8; Dan. 7:13-14; Mic. 5:2; Matt. 1: 1; Matt. 2:2; Luke 1:31-33.)
In due time the fulfillment of messianic prophecy began with the birth of the virgin's Son according to Isaiah, in Bethlehem according to Micah, and proceeded with perfect literalness unto the full accomplishment of every prediction of Messiah's humiliation; for sin must first be put away, before the kingdom could be established. But the Jews would not receive their King in the form in which He was presented, "meek and sitting upon an ass and a colt the foal of an ass," and they crucified Him. (See Zech. 9:9 with Matt. 21:1-5; John 19:15-16.)
But we must not conclude that the wickedness of man has baffled the deliberate purpose of God, for His counsels include a second advent of His Son, when the predictions concerning Messiah's earthly glory will receive the same precise and literal fulfillment as did those which concerned His earthly sufferings. (See Hos. 3:4-5; Matt. 24:27-30; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 1:6-7; Acts 15:14-17.)
The Jews were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken concerning the sufferings of their Messiah; we are slow of heart to believe all that they have spoken concerning His glory. Surely the greater reproach is ours, for it ought to be easier to believe that the Son of God would come "in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory" than that He would come as the babe of Bethlehem and the carpenter of Nazareth. Indeed, we believe the latter because it has happened, not because the prophets foretold it, and it is time we ceased to reproach the Jews for their unbelief. If it be asked how they could possibly be blinded to the evident meaning of so many and such unequivocal predictions, the answer is that they were blinded in exactly the same way that many Christians are blinded to the equally evident meaning of a far greater number of predictions of His earthly glory, namely, by the process of "spiritualizing" Scripture. In other words, the ancient scribes told the people that the prophecies of Messiah's sufferings were not to be interpreted literally, just as some modern scribes are telling the people that the prophecies of Messiah's earthly glory are not to be literally interpreted.
The second advent is a promise to the church as well as to the Jew. Among the last words of comfort and exhortation addressed by our Lord to His perplexed and sorrowing disciples before He accomplished the sacrifice of the cross were these: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. 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" (John 14:1-3).
Here the Lord speaks of His coming again in precisely the same terms as of His departure. The latter was, we know, personal and bodily. If we say that the former is impersonal and "spiritual," surely to such a forced interpretation of simple language we ought to be constrained only by the most imperative and unqualified Scripture elsewhere. But no such passages exist. But we are not left to doubt upon this vital point, nor to draw conclusions of reason, however irresistible.
In the very moment of our Lord's disappearance from the sight of His disciples, "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" (Acts 1:10-11).
To the same purport is I Thess. 4:16-17: "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 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." "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
"For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be cFor 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).
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2). "And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12).
For this "blessed hope" we are taught to "watch" (Mark 13:33, 35, 37; Matt. 24:42; 25:13), "wait" (I Thess. 1: 10), and be "ready" (Matt. 24:44). The last prayer in the Bible is one for Christ's speedy return (Rev. 22:20).
By these Scriptures it abundantly appears that the second advent will be personal and bodily. Therefore it does not mean the death of the believer, nor the destruction of Jerusalem, nor the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, nor the gradual diffusion of Christianity, but that it is the "blessed hope" of the church, the time when sleeping saints will be raised, and, together with saints then living, who will be "changed" (I Cor. 15:51-52), caught up to meet the Lord-the time when we who are now the sons of God will be like Him and when faithful saints will be rewarded for works of faith, for His name's sake, after they have been saved.
The following Scriptures will further bring into view the contrast between the two advents of our Lord. Compare the first advent with the second.
FIRST ADVENTAnd she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).
But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26).
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).
And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world (John 12:47).
SECOND ADVENTAnd 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. 24:30).
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 (Heb. 9:28).
And to you who are troubled, rest with us: 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 not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:7-8).
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 unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:31).
The student may multiply these contrasts almost indefinitely. Enough, however, has been put forth that both the promises to Israel and to the church imperatively require a return of our Lord to the earth.
It may be helpful to beginning Bible students to consider, briefly, the various theories which are put forward to oppose the scriptural doctrine of the personal and corporeal return, or second advent, of Christ.
It will, of course, be clearly understood that the Scriptures which speak of His visible and bodily appearing at the close of this dispensation must be distinguished from those which refer to His divine attributes of omniscience and omnipresence, by virtue of which He knows all things and is always present everywhere and of which such passages as Matthew 18:20 and Matthew 28:20 are examples. It is blessedly true that, in this sense, He is with us always, even unto the end of the age.
But the man Christ Jesus is now personally and corporeally at the right hand of God, as Acts 1:9-11 plainly declares: "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight. 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."
Stephen saw Him there: "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55-56). "When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb. 1:3). "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. 3: 1).
During the Franco-Prussian war Von MoItke, by his genius and skill and by a network of telegraph wires, was really present on every battlefield, though visibly and personally present in his office in Berlin. Later in the war he joined the army before Paris, after which his actual and visible presence was there. So our Lord, by virtue of His divine attributes, is really present with His church now, but He will be visibly and personally upon the earth at His second coming.
1. The prophecies concerning the return of the Lord were not fulfilled by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, nor by His manifestation in powerful revivals and happy prayer meetings.
a. This interpretation practically nullifies the doctrine of the Trinity, making the Holy Spirit only a manifestation of Christ.
b. In Christ's promise of the descent of the Spirit He distinctly speaks of Him as "another Comforter" (John 14:16), and in John 16:7 Christ says: "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you."
c. The inspired writers of Acts, the Epistles, and of Revelation, mention the return of the Lord more than one hundred and fifty times after Pentecost, and always as yet future.
d. None of the events predicted to accompany the second advent of Christ occurred at Pentecost. These are: the resurrection of sleeping saints (I Cor. 15:22-23; 1 Thess. 4:13-16), the "change" of living believers, by which they "put on incorruption", their vile bodies" being "fashioned like unto His glorious body," and their being caught up to meet the Lord in the air (I Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thess. 4:17; Phil. 3:20-21), and the mourning of all the tribes of the earth because of the visible coming of the Son of man in power and great glory (Matt. 24:29-30; Rev. 1:7).
These are the phenomena associated with the event of our Lord's return. When He comes, these phenomena will be present. Not one of these things occurred at Pentecost, nor in any other manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
2. The conversion of a sinner is not the coming of the Lord.
One would think this theory too puerile to be seriously put forth as a sufficient explanation of prophecies so numerous and circumstantial.
a. According to Scripture this is exactly reversed. Conversion is the coming of a sinner to Christ, not the coming of Christ to a sinner (Matt. 11:28; John 5:40; John 7:37; John 6:37).
b. None of the events enumerated above, predicted to occur when the Lord returns, accompany the conversion of a sinner.
3. The death of a Christian is not the coming of Christ.
a. When the disciples understood the Lord to say that one of their number should tarry till He came, the saying went abroad among them that "that disciple should not die" (John 21:22-24).
b. The inspired writers always refer to a believer's death as his departure. In not one instance is the coming of the Lord connected with a Christian's death. (See Phil. 1:23; 2 Tim. 4:6; 2 Cor. 5:8.) Dying Stephen saw the heavens opened, and the Son of man, not coming but "standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55-56).
c. None of the events predicted to occur when the Lord returns accompany the death of a Christian.
4. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans was not the second coming of Christ.
a. In Matthew 24 and Luke 21 three events are foretold: the destruction of the temple, the coming of the Lord, and the end of the world (age). (See Matt. 24:3.) It was the needless confusion of these perfectly distinct things which gave rise to the notion that the fulfillment of one was the fulfillment of all.
b. The apostle John wrote the book of Revelation after the destruction of Jerusalem, but still speaks of the coming of the Lord as a future event (Rev. 1:4,7; 2:25; 3:11; 22:7,12,20). The last promise of the Bible is, "Surely, I come quickly"; the last prayer, "Even so, come Lord Jesus."
c. None of the events predicted to occur when the Lord returns occurred when Jerusalem was destroyed. (See I Thess. 4:14-17 Matt. 24:29-31; Matt. 25:31-32.)
5. The diffusion of Christianity is not the second coming of Christ.
a. The diffusion of Christianity is gradual, whereas the Scriptures refer to the return of the Lord as sudden and unexpected (Matt. 24:27, 36-42, 44, 50; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3).
b. The diffusion of Christianity is a process; Scripture invariably speaks of the return of the Lord as an event.
c. The diffusion of Christianity brings salvation to the wicked, whereas the coming of Christ is said to bring not salvation to them but "sudden destruction" (I Thess. 5:2, 3; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; Matt. 25:31- 46).
6. These alleged explanations and theories, though widespread, do not appear in the books of reputable theologians of any school or denomination, nor are they maintained by a single exegete of universally recognized eminence. These all maintain the bodily and visible second coming of Christ.
It is, however, sometimes said that this coming cannot occur until after the world has been converted by the preaching of the gospel and has submitted to the spiritual reign of Christ for one thousand years. It is submitted that this view is wholly erroneous for the following reasons.
a. Scripture clearly describes the condition of the earth at the second coming of Christ to be one of awful wickedness, not of millennial blessedness (Luke 17:26-32, with Gen. 6:5-7 and Gen. 13:13; Luke 18:8; Luke 21:25-27).
b. Scripture describes the whole course of this dispensation from the beginning to the end in such terms as to exclude the possibility of a converted world in any part of it (Matt. 13:36-43, 47-50; Matt. 25: 1 - 10; 1 Tim. 4: 1; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:3-4; Jude 17-19).
c. The purpose of God in this dispensation is declared to be to "gather out of the Gentiles a people for his name," not the conversion of the world. After this He "will return," and then, and not before, will the world be converted. (See Acts 15:14-17; Matt. 24:14 ["for a witness"]; Rom. 1:5 ["among" not "of' all nations]; Rom. 11:14 ["some," not "all"]; I Cor. 9:22; Rev. 5:9 ["out of" not "all" of].)
d. It would be impossible to "watch" and "wait" for an event which we knew could not occur for more than one thousand years.
THE TWO RESURRECTIONS
But it is important to observe that the Scriptures do not teach that all the dead are raised at one time. A partial resurrection of saints has already occurred. "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" (Matt. 27:52-53).
Two resurrections, differing in respect of time and of those who are the subjects of the resurrection, are yet future. These are variously distinguished as "the resurrection of life," and "the resurrection of damnation," "the resurrection of the just and the unjust," etc. The following Scriptures refer to this important subject.
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29.) If it be objected that the word "hour" would indicate a simultaneous resurrection of these two classes, it is answered that the "hour" of verse 25 has already lasted eighteen hundred years. (See also "day," in 2 Pet. 3:8; 2 Cor. 6:2; John 8:56).
"But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:13-14). In this passage our Lord speaks of the first resurrection only. In I Corinthians 15 the distinction still further appears: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (I Cor. 15:22-23).
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent (precede] them which are asleep. 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" (I Thess. 4:13-16).
If the apostle had in mind a resurrection of all the dead, how could he speak of attaining it "by any means," since he could not possibly escape it?
In Revelation 20:4-6 the two resurrections are again mentioned together, with the important addition of the time which intervenes between the resurrection of the saved and of the unsaved. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the Beast neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Verses 12 and 13 describe the second resurrection-that "unto damnation."
The testimony of Scripture, then, is clear that believers' bodies are raised from among the bodies of unbelievers and caught up to meet the Lord in the air a thousand years before the resurrection of the latter. It should be firmly held that the doctrine of the resurrection concerns only the bodies of the dead. Their disembodied spirits are instantly in conscious bliss or woe (Phil. 1:23 2 Con 5.8; Luke 16:22-23).
THE FIVE JUDGMENTS
Dr. Pentecost well says: "It is a mischievous habit that has led the Christian world to speak of the judgment as being one great event taking place at the end of the world, when all human beings, saints, sinners, Jews and Gentiles, the living and the dead, shall stand up before the great white throne and there be judged. Nothing can be more wide of the teaching of the Scriptures."
The Scriptures speak of five judgments, and they differ in four general respects: as to who are the subjects of judgment; as to the place of judgment; as to the time of judgment; as to the result of the judgment.
THE JUDGMENT AS TO BELIEVERS
Their sins have been judged.
Time: A. D. 30.
Place: the cross.
Result: death for Christ: justification for the believer.
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" I Pet. 2:24).
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (I Pet. 3: 18).
"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Gal. 3:13).
"For he [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21).
"But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself' (Heb. 9:26).
"When he had by himself purged our sins" (Heb. 1:3).
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:1).
THE JUDGMENT OF SIN IN THE BELIEVER
Time: any time.
Result: chastisement by the Lord, if we judge not ourselves.
"If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Heb. 12:7).
(See also I Pet. 4:17; 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Sam. 7:14-15; 2 Sam. 12:13-14; 1 Tim. 1:20.)
THE CONDUCT, OR WORKS OF BELIEVERS ARE TO BE JUDGED
Time: when Christ comes.
Place: "in the air."
Result to the believer: "reward" or "loss." "But he himself shall be saved."
"Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor. 5:9-10).
"But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set a naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom. 14: 10).
It will be observed that both of these passages are limited by the context to believers. In the first, the apostle speaks of us as in one of two states: either we are at home in the body and absen from the Lord, or absent from the body and present with the Lord-language which could not he used of unbelievers. "Where fore we make it our aim" to be well-pleasing unto the Lord, 'fio we must all be made manifest" (2 Cor. 5:8-9).
In the other passage the words "we" and "brother" again limi it to believers. The Holy Spirit never comingles the saved and the unsaved. Then, lest it should seem incredible that a blood-cleansed saint could come into any judgment whatever, he quotes from Isaiah to prove that "every knee shall bow," and adds, "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."
The following passage gives the basis of the judgment of works: "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (I Cor. 3:11-15).
The following passages fix the time of this judgment: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt. 16:27). "And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:14). (See I Cor. 15:22-23.) "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (I Cor. 4:5).
But how comforting it is, in view of that inevitable scrutiny of our poor works, to learn that in His patient love He is so leading us and working in us now that He can then find something in it all for which to praise us.
"Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12).
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day" (2 Tim. 4:9).
For the place of this judgment, see I Thessalonians 4:17 and Matthew 25:24-30.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS
Time: the glorious appearing of Christ (Matt. 25:31-32; Matt. 13:40-41).
Place: the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:1-2,12-14).
Result: some saved, some lost (Matt. 25:46).
As this judgment of the living nations is sometimes confounded with that of the great white throne in Revelation 20:11, it may be well to note the following contrasts between the two scenes.
The living nations will be characterized by the following: no resurrection; living nations judged; on the earth; no books; three classes-sheep, goats, "brethren"; time, when Christ appears. The great white throne will be characterized by the following: a resurrection; "the dead" judged; heavens and earth fled away; "books were opened"; one class: "the dead"; after He has reigned one thousand years.
The saints will be associated with Christ in this judgment and hence cannot be the subjects of it. (See I Cor. 6:2; Dan. 7:22; Jude verses 14-15.)
In truth, the judgment of the great white throne and the judgment of the living nations have but one thing in common: the Judge.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED DEAD
Time: a determined day, after the millennium (Acts 17:31; Rev.
Place: before the great white throne (Rev. 20: 11
Result: Rev. 20:15.
The Scriptures speak, also, of a judgment of angels (I Cor. 6:3; Jude verse 6; 2 Pet. 2:4). Luke 22:30 probably refers to judges as under the theocracy - an administrative office, rather than judicial. (See Isaiah 1:26.)