Brethren Archive
Matthew xxv. 6

The Midnight Cry.

by Henry Varley

The Rapture a Sign to the World—It will Prove that Christ is at Hand—The Complement of the First-fruits—An Impressive Event—Distinction Between the First-fruits and the Harvest—Will the Rapture be Secret—The Gleanings---The Precedent of Elijah's Rapture—The Search for Him—A Rationalistic Committee—The Effect on Idolaters.
May it not be that the rapture of those saints "accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man," is designed by our Lord to be "The Unmistakable Sign" to the world that His second coming is at hand?
These, I understand, make up the complement of the first-fruits before the throne (Rev. 14: 4). They are represented by the wise virgins, who, being ready, arose, trimmed their lamps, and went in with the bridegroom to the marriage. The parable of the virgins gives the truth of rapture, not resurrection. It does not refer to those who have died and are raised from the dead by the Lord, but to the removal and going in with the Bridegroom on the part of prepared ones who are living when the midnight cry is made. Mark the words: "Behold! the Bridegroom cometh! go ye out to meet Him" (Matt. 25 : 6).
May not the rapture of the latest addition from the earth, of those "accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man"—the Lamb on Mount Zion—be the astonishing sign to the world that the Lord is at the door? Will the world read that sign?
Few things could so deeply impress the whole earth, or so fittingly inaugurate the times of breach in natural sequence which will mark the intervention of our Lord in the last days of this age, as the removal of the residue of the first-fruits, raptured from among men. It will be seen, therefore, that the position I maintain is this: I do not believe that any of the dead or living saints will be left behind when our Lord descends to raise the sleeping, and to change the living members of His Body. That time is distinctly the time of the harvest, as distinguished from the first-fruits, and is clearly penned in I Cor. 15: 51, 52; I Thess. 4: 16, 17; and Rev. 14: 14-16. I suggest that the redeemed, cleansed, and consecrated followers of the Lamb have in all ages been taken to the position, association and glories which are identified with the first-fruits, of whom it is written: "These are they which follow the Lamb whither-soever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men; and in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God" (Rev. 14: 4, 5).
This view certainly yields intelligent meaning and constant application to those Scriptures which have pleaded with believers in every age to walk so that they might "be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21: 36; Rev. 3: 10-12).
There has been much discussion as to whether the rapture of the Church will or will not be secret, i. e., unknown to the world. I do not think this is revealed; neither do I regard it as important. The ascension of our Lord, however, does not appear to have been witnessed by any but the disciples themselves. Whether this should guide our thoughts or not, I cannot tell (Acts 1: 3, 9-11). Certainly the world cannot be ignorant long of the rapture. There will doubtless be a great cry throughout the world, even as in Egypt on the night of the avenging angel's visit. It will occur to some that these sudden removals from the earth will surely induce reflection and repentance among men. In many cases, I doubt not, it will be so. The door of mercy will not be altogether closed to the inhabitants of the earth, after the Church is removed. There yet remaineth the gleanings, which will be gathered during the time of the great tribulation. These gleanings will comprehend the martyred saints, and all who, having obtained mercy of the Lord, escape the devastating tyranny of the Antichrist. In those days will be fulfilled the solemn Words of God, given to the prophet Amos: "Behold! the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine on the earth; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the Words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; and shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it" (Amos 8: 11, 12).
From the testimony of Scripture concerning the iniquity and atheistic blasphemy of the last days, I gather that when the first tremendous surprise produced by the removal of the Church is over, there will set in, a coarse, skeptical, reactionary spirit, which probably had its foreshadowing in the days of the rapture by the chariots of fire of the great prophet Elijah. It may be remembered that, immediately after the rapture took place, a Rationalistic Committee was formed in the school of the prophets. This committee sent out a special contingent of fifty strong men, who for three days gave consistent materialistic search for the missing man of God. Their business was to find the prophet, and to this end, they were to be particularly careful to explore every cavern, crevice, and perpendicular rock in the whole district round about. Elijah according to their view, might even then be sitting desolate upon some projecting crag, from whose summit he found it impossible to descend, much less ascend. His remarkable departure was clearly a "breach of natural order." In vain did Elisha tell them of "the chariots of fire, and the horses of fire." In vain did he say: "Ye shall not send" (2 Kings 2: 11-15). The sons of the prophets were not accustomed to give place to the strong will of an enthusiastic ploughman. True, fifty of their number had been to view the whole scene, but they were quite unsettled as to the nature of the phenomenon presented. The intense light and the whirlwind! Well, those items were capable of explanation! Besides this, Elisha was the only man who distinctly affirmed the fact of the rapture, and might it not have been on his part an optical illusion?
In our day, Elisha would have been suspected of a crime. He was the last person seen in company with the missing man. He was in possession of his cloak and he gained promotion by Elijah's disappearance. His explanation of the chariots of fire would have been laughed to scorn. Spiritual facts are so difficult to analyze, and they constantly border on fanaticism. Thus, it came to pass that they said unto Elisha: "Behold, now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master; lest peradventure the Spirit hath taken him up and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley" (verse 16). Despite the prophet's resolute protest, we read: "And when they urged him, until he was ashamed, he said: Send! They sent, therefore, fifty men, (all rationalists); and they sought three days, but found him not" (verses 16, 17).
With skepticism of such a character in the school of the prophets, we can hardly affect surprise at the effect produced amongst the idolaters who dwelt in Bethel. It is evident that the taking up of the prophet by a whirlwind in the chariot of fire, was soon turned into ribald jest. We read that as Elisha was on his way to Bethel, a young and godless crowd came out of the city. They mocked God's prophet, and cried: "Go up, thou bald head! Go up, thou bald head!" (verse 22). These words were in evident allusion to the taking up of Elisha's great master. From this scene, I gather that probably a similar ribald blasphemy may follow the removal of the Church of Christ in the closing day of this corrupt age. It will scarcely be necessary to say to my readers that this act of judgment—the death and wounding of forty-two of their number by two she-bears—does not apply to little children, in the sense in which we use the term. Minors up to twenty years of age, in those days were denominated children. Strong, corrupt, and ungodly youths are here referred to (2 Kings 2: 23, 24).
Poole, in his "Annotations," says: "Forty and two children, the Hebrew word signifies, not little children only, but those also who are grown up" (see Gen. 32: 22, 32; 33: 1; and 37: 30). It is evident that little children, unable to discern between right and wrong, would not be in the least likely to utter this ribald blasphemy. Beside this, Bethel was a stronghold of idolatry. This gross insult offered to Elisha was directed not only against himself, but through him to the majesty of the God of Israel.  September 1887

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