The Bright and Morning Star
From Notes of Addresses
In the minds of many there is a growing conviction that we are on the eve of great happenings, and the cry is in the heart, and sometimes on the lips, “What is coming next?” A spirit of distrust is everywhere evident, and they look in vain for the man that they feel is needed to grapple with the confusion in the world, and bring order out of social, political and religious chaos. It was this feeling that led a leading atheist to express his conviction somewhat in the form of an advertisement, “Wanted, a super-man!” They really think that the world can produce the man they look for, but their folly will be more and more completely exposed.
History can record what has happened. Speculation can suggest what may happen. Only God can tell us what will happen. Someone is coming, that is certain; and the Scripture of truth furnishes a conclusive answer as to whom the Someone is. There is no need to speculate. His name is JESUS.
It is true that He has been here once, but that is no argument against His coming again. Give it a thought! If He came once, why should He not twice? Seeing He rose from the dead, what is there to hinder Him? If His first coming ended abruptly; if violent hands were laid upon Him, and He died upon a Roman cross, many Scriptures being thus fulfilled; if, nevertheless, all this happened before many other prophecies concerning Him had had a fulfilment, do you think that His first coming is to be the last word? By no means. His enemies despised Him in His humiliation, but they will lick the dust when He returns in glory.
At the close of His life He made mention of His return. To His enemies He said, “Ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). To His disciples He spoke of it in very different terms, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself” (John 14:3). He left the world amid the insults of the heartless mob, yet their hoarse shouts had not long died away before angels, who heralded His first advent, announced that, “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). This message has almost the sound of a legal document. There is a fullness of expression, hedging about the words as if to save them from misinterpretation, and foil any attempt to mystify them.
Yet there are many to whom the second coming of Christ appears mystical, visionary and unreal. And this in spite of the fact that in the 260 chapters of the New Testament there are not less than 300 references to it; so that instead of being put into obscurity it was given great prominence. It was one of the main pillars of the faith. It was an important part of the apostolic testimony. The converts “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). It is all very real. It is not a merely spiritual coming. It is not death. It is not the end of the world. It is not merely an event. It is the arrival of a great Person.
I would like to lift your hearts above thinking of it as prophecy, above the mere fulfilment of predicted events, to think of it as the return of Christ Himself personally. The return of a troopship after the war with the remnant of a regiment on board was a heart-stirring event for the man in the street, who witnessed it, but it was something more to the wife, who stood amongst the crowds waiting to greet her long absent and mercifully preserved husband. She had neither eyes nor ears for the fluttering flags and martial music; she did not notice the officers and men sent to meet them. It was her beloved she was meeting, whereas many amongst the thousands around had lost nine tenths of their interest because the one they loved could not return.
The coming of the Lord comprises two events, or two stages of one act. When He comes again it will be for the fulfilment of the two promises still waiting accomplishment: first, to the church, His bride; second, to Israel.
In the Old Testament we read a good deal about the coming and day of the Lord. But in every case the Old Testament refers to His coming in relation to Israel and the nations, and not to the church. But ever since Pentecost the world has been divided into three classes; the Jews, the Gentiles (or, nations), and the church of God. The truth of the church is entirely unrevealed in the Old Testament, and the church itself did not exist until Pentecost. There could not have been “the church, which is His body,” until there was the Head, and until that Head by resurrection and ascension had taken His seat in glory. Then it was that God “gave Him to be the Head” (Eph. 1:20-23).
Before that time the Lord Jesus spoke of the church, but He spoke of it as something in the future. He said, “I will build My church,” not, “I am building,” or, “I will continue to build My church.” The secret concerning the church was not revealed until after Paul’s conversion, He speaks of it as a mystery “kept secret since the world began,” in Romans 16:25; and in Ephesians 3:3-5, he gives us the same fact in a fuller way.
Now this being so, it is useless to look in the Old Testament for either the church or the hope of the church. At the end of the Old Testament we have what is really Israel’s hope, the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings. It is at the end of the New Testament that we have the church’s hope, the bright Morning Star. And just as in nature the morning star is the harbinger of the day, so Christ’s coming as the Morning Star is the harbinger of the day of the Lord and the rising of the Sun of Righteousness.
To make these two things distinct and clear, the Spirit of God has used two different words in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, where we read of “the brightness of His coming.” One is Parousia, which means His presence, translated here, and elsewhere, coming. The other is, Epiphaneia translated, brightness, which means the outshining of His glory, or His manifestation. The term, the coming of the Lord, covers both these, and practically they are one event though in two stages. The church’s hope is our “gathering together unto him,” at His Parousia, as is stated in 2 Thessalonians 2:1. Israel’s hope is His Epiphany, when every foe will be overthrown.
By way of illustration suppose that the whole of London had risen in rebellion against the King and his government, and that they signalized it by murdering the Prince of Wales, whom he had sent to them. Suppose further that there remained in London a minority of loyal subjects, who are suffering a good deal at the hands of the insurgents by reason of their fealty to the King. Presently the news comes that the King with a mighty army is drawing near, but instead of marching right into London he calls the loyalists out to meet himself at Hatfield on the outskirts. He reviews them, rewards them, and afterwards puts them into places of trust about his person; and then all together they start forth to subjugate London and thus finish up the story of his coming.
We get frequent mention in the Scriptures of the day of the Lord. But before that day sets in the Morning Star has arisen. Before Israel gets all its hopes fulfilled the church will have been safely housed with Christ; hidden with Him for a little time, but to reappear with Him in the day of His manifestation. When He comes forth in His glory it will be as the King. When He comes for His church it will be as the Bridegroom coming for His bride.
It was to this He referred when He spoke the words recorded in John 14:3. He was ministering something to their sorrow-stricken hearts, which was intended to buoy them up during the time of His absence: just as a fond mother says to the weeping child she is to leave behind her, “Don’t cry, dear, mother will soon be back.” And accordingly the child listens for the click of the gate, or the footstep on the path, or the opening of the door, as indicating the fulfilment of the mother’s promise. It is her presence that the child desires. Even so we desire the Parousia, the presence of our Lord.
He is coming! Coming just as He went, just as His disciples saw Him go! How did He go? An important question, for that shall be the style of His coming.
He went away visibly. Not visibly to the world, for not one unconverted person ever set eyes upon Him after He was taken down from the cross, but perfectly visible to His disciples. Thus He will come.
He went away a real, living, risen Man, with whom they had just been personally conversing. He will come again just as real, just as living, and the happy intercourse will be resumed in heavenly glory.
He went away with hands uplifted in blessing upon His people. He will come again to usher in the crowning hour of their blessing, and for ever.
He went away privately, from the midst of His disciples suddenly carried into heaven, and only seen by them. So when He comes His first action will be to assemble all His saints to meet Him and to greet Him in the air.
What a hope is this! Has the Morning Star already arisen in our hearts?