The Day of Consummation.
THE subject of our Lord's Second Advent is one that has been too much overlooked, but now, in these latter days, those who have closely studied the Word of Christ, and are looking forward to His glorious appearing, cannot but rejoice to give the more earnest heed to it, because it is evidently fast approaching.
Just as on the occasion of the First Coming of our Lord, there were some, of whom mention is made in Holy Scripture, who were looking for and expecting that First Coming, so, in like manner, how much more essential and important is it for us who are living in the Last Days to be anxiously looking for and expecting a speedy return of our blessed Lord when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe on Him. We read in the second chapter of Luke about Simeon, who, it is said, was "just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was upon him." We find still further in that chapter that "Anna, coming in that instant, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." Now I believe that the Lord's people ought to be in a similar expectant and waiting attitude, looking for the speedy pre-millennial Advent of our blessed Lord. And I hold it to be clearly shown in Scripture, that the personal return of Christ, as foretold in Acts 1: 11, will take place before the millennium of a thousand years, and that He will reign during that period with the saints of the First Resurrection over the nations of the earth.
Our Lord Himself opened up the subject of the prophetic events which will accompany His Second Advent. In the thirteenth chapter of Mark, when His disciples asked Him, "What shall be the Sign when all these things shall be fulfilled," or, as St. Matthew expresses it, "What shall be the Sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age." That prophetic discourse concludes with most admonitory words, "Take ye heed: watch and pray; for the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work; and commanded the porter to watch; watch ye, therefore, for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh; at even or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; lest, coming suddenly, He find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch." Here are mentioned three duties Incumbent upon every Christian—to be watching, to be praying and to be working; each individual has his appointed work. Our Master has given to each of us one or more talents, and He has said, "Occupy till I come." We are to be diligently occupying until He returns. We cannot but fear that, at the present day, there is a tendency to spiritual torpor. Even the very activity and bustle of the world around us tend to lead us away from a close walk with God, and from steady, prayerful working in His service. It is needful for us to keep in mind the apostle's exhortation in Ephesians, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." While our Lord has gone away to receive for Himself a kingdom and to return, let us, who are children of the light and children of the day, be stirred up to greater diligence in His service, and "not sleep as do others, but watch and be sober."
The Apostle Peter, as well St. Paul, refers fully to this subject. In his Second Epistle, he speaks of the scene of the transfiguration, which he had witnessed, as a typical representation of the future coming of Christ in His kingdom of glory; and he adds, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye may take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place until the day dawn, and the Day-Star arise in your hearts."
Most animating is this prospect which lies before us, "of the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ "to raise from their graves, the bodies of the deceased saints, and to transfigure and translate His waiting people, who shall then be living on the earth, to meet Him in the heavens and to gather them all together into His presence in one united and glorified company.
Let us endeavor to keep prominently in our mind, three leading events, which are to characterize the last days of this dispensation: first, the restoration of the Jews; secondly, the manifestation of a personal Antichrist; and thirdly, the Lord's personal advent in glory.
I. First, as regards the national restoration of the Jews, we have this fully predicted in the last chapter of Zechariah, as well as in the four previous chapters, and also in the 38th and 39th chapters of Ezekiel, and in the 11th of Romans. It appears that a restoration of some of the Jews to Palestine in an unconverted state will take place about seven years before the end of this dispensation, as foretold in the concluding verse of the 9th chapter of Daniel. "He shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, or hebdomad [a week of seven years], and in the midst of the week, he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate, even until that determined shall be poured upon the desolator. " (Daniel 9: 27)
It thus seems that a "Prince that shall come," spoken of in the previous verse, will promote their return to Palestine by making a seven years' covenant with many of them, but in the midst of the seven years, he will put a stop to their renewed sacrifices, and temple-worship, and will cause his image, the abomination of desolation, to be set up in their rebuilt temple during the remaining three and a half years. This is referred to by our Lord in Matthew 24: 15.
II. And this brings before us, in the second place, the manifestation and career of this personal Antichrist who, after appearing as the friend of the Jews, and promoting their restoration, will, during the latter half of the week of years, mentioned by Daniel, become the great persecutor both of them and of Christians. This final period of three and a half years, during which the great tribulation and persecution by the Antichrist is to prevail with such unequalled violence and severity, is clearly predicted in Daniel and Revelation as 1260 days, or 42 months, or a time, times, and half-time. I understand these expressions beyond all doubt to signify literally three years and a half. And although the Pope and Popery have been a dreadful Antichrist, yet there will still arise this last personal Antichrist, an individual man, as distinctly foretold in St. John's first epistle, "He is an Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son." (2: 22) Instead of being a professing Christian . . . he will be an avowed infidel. He is further described, in the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, as the Man of Sin, who shall sit, as God, in the Temple of God at Jerusalem, showing himself that he is God, and whom the Lord shall at last destroy with the brightness of His personal Coming. His career is particularly set forth in the 13th and 17th chapters of Revelation, where it is stated that he is to be Head over the ten kingdoms of the Roman Empire, which are to give their power and strength to him, and is to have "authority given him, over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations;" and is to make war with the saints for forty-two months, or three and a half years, and is to overcome them, and all that dwell upon the earth, except the elect, are to worship Him; and all the world is to wonder after him, and exclaim, "Who is like him? who is able to make war with him?"
THE SPEAKING IMAGE.
I fully believe that nothing has ever yet happened at all approaching to the fulfilment of this description; the power of the Pope and Popery has by no means ever yet approximated to the degree of power here depicted. In fact, the Pope has never claimed or received divine worship as God from any one at all, and far less from all that dwell upon the earth except the elect. (Rev. 13:8) Moreover, the nature of this persecution for three and a half years is further particularized. The Man of Sin is to have an image of himself fabricated by human hands; and by Satanic power; this naturally lifeless image is to have life given to it so that it shall speak; and as many as refuse to worship it, or to receive the mark of this Man of Sin in their foreheads or right hands, are to be killed. (Rev. 13: 15-18)
Let us carefully bear in mind that it is by the energy and power of that great and mysterious being, Satan, that the Antichrist will be enabled to accomplish his miraculous and unparalleled career of evil. The tremendous power of Satan, which is incessantly at work, has been too much overlooked by Christian people, but events are approaching which will demand for it much deeper attention. The apostle warns us that we wrestle not merely against foes of flesh and blood, but against wicked spirits in the regions of the air. (See Ephesians 6:12) Satan is the Prince of the power of the air as well as the god of this world.
We find, however, in the 12th chapter of Revelation, that he is to be dislodged and cast down, with all his evil angels, from the air and upon this earth previously to the great tribulation of three and a half years; and is then to enter into and energize, the personal Antichrist, and is to give to him "his power and his throne, and great authority," and thus to raise him up as the prime agent by whom to conduct the final struggle against Christ and His people (Rev. 13:2). Most solemn is the voice from Heaven uttered in reference to that period, "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea, for the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12: 12).
TWO STAGES OF THE ADVENT.
III. In reference to the third leading event which we should keep in view, namely, the personal Second Advent of Christ in glory, it is generally agreed that it will take place in two stages or acts. The earlier stage is when He descends into the air, and when the bodies of the dead in Christ shall be raised to life and be caught up, together with those living Christians who love His appearing, and look for His coming, and are ready for it, to meet Him in the air; this occurrence precedes the final three and a half years which is the term of Antichrist's career (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17; Matt. 25: 10).
The later and concluding stage of our Lord's Advent will consist in His descent from the air upon the very surface of the Mount of Olives, as predicted in Zechariah 14: 1, 2, when Antichrist and his hosts will be totally overthrown at the final conflict. This is also set forth in the 19th chapter of Revelation, where we have three vivid contrasts: the two women, the Bride, the Lamb's wife glorified, and the Scarlet Woman, harlot Babylon, at the same time consumed with fire; the two suppers, the joyous Marriage Supper of the Lamb (which may God grant every one of us to be admitted to sit down at), and the dismal Supper of vengeance, to which the birds of prey are invited to feast upon the flesh of Antichrist's hosts; and the two armies, the army of the Lamb, composed of His Saints, clothed in fine linen and mounted upon white horses, and the army of Antichrist, consisting of the kings of the earth and their armies under his leadership, gathered together to Armageddon to war against the Lamb and against His army; but the imperial Antichrist and his ecclesiastical minister, the false prophet, will be cast alive into the lake of fire, and their vast military hosts slain with the sword of the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Then Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit for a thousand years, and the surviving inhabitants of the earth that are spared, will become converted to true Christianity, and, together with their posterity, will constitute the subjects of the Millennium Kingdom of Christ and His glorified Saints of the First Resurrection, who will reign over them from Heaven during the thousand years. At the close of this period, Satan, being loosed from the bottomless pit, will produce a general apostasy of mankind but is once more captured and consigned to the lake of fire. Then is to follow the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, and the entire disappearance of the sea, in conjunction with the general judgment of the wicked at the Tribunal of the great White Throne. (See Revelation 20 and 21: 1)
Well may we exclaim, in looking forward to these impressive and solemn scenes, "Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"