My theme tonight is, "The Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the BLESSED HOPE of the Church."
My text is Saint Paul's epistle to Titus, second chapter and thirteenth verse:
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."
The text may be rendered:
"Expecting that blessed hope, and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."
The text is preceded by a context of several verses. I shall quote them inclusive of the text.
"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all
"Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:11‐13)
In presenting this theme I shall consider,
First, the doctrine of grace.
Second, the grace of God has been manifested.
Third, the grace of God brings salvation to all men.
Fourth, the grace of God teaches those who accept salvation what to deny.
Fifth, the grace of God teaches those who are saved how to live in this present age or world.
Sixth, the grace of God sets before those of us who are saved the hope which the Spirit calls, "blessed."
Seventh, grace teaches us the attitude we should hold in relation to this blessed hope.
The grace of God!
This is an immense phrase.
Immense because it links the word "grace" to the name and title—God.
God is the God of grace.
Grace in its simplest definition is "free favor," "unmerited, undeserved favor."
The grace of God is the free, full, unmerited, undeserved favor of God; that favor which includes all there is of love, mercy, blessing, benefit of every sort, and bestowed on man without money and without price; blessing, mercy, and measureless love which no man in any wise, under any circumstances could merit, deserve, buy or earn in any way or fashion whatsoever.
This is grace, and grace of God.
This grace of God was manifested in and through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace was poured into His lips. He spoke words of loving compassion and tender sympathy. His deeds co-ordinated His words. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb. He made the lame man to leap as a hart, cleansed the leper with a word, raised the dead and to those who were weary and heavy laden He said, "Come unto me and rest." (Matthew 11:28)
All that He said and did, He said and did in the name of the Father and as sent by Him; so that His words and deeds were the revelation of the Father's heart and the manifestation of His grace.
Every time His feet touched the earth they gave it a benediction, every time He breathed the air He sweetened it and every word He spoke filled it with music; yet, overflowing with love and mercy, perfect as His life was in the demonstration of the Father's grace and proof that Heaven looked with yearning and compassion upon a world of sin, it is not the grace to which the Spirit draws our attention here. The grace we are invited to contemplate is not His life on earth among men but His death, forsaken of God upon the cross.
On the cross our Lord Jesus Christ died as a sacrifice for sin.
By that sacrificial death He satisfied the law, the government and the being of God.
He satisfied and honored the law of God by meeting and paying the penalty of the law which said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:20)
He honored God's government by recognizing the law as coming from the hand of God as the lawgiver of the universe, and therefore as its ruler, administrator, and governor.
He honored the being of God by acting as the representative of man in sin, sin of nature and sin of transgression, thus appealing to and drawing forth from God all His legal and essential antagonism to sin till the heat and wrath and hate of it poured down as onrushing sweeps of divine and eternal judgment.
The death of Christ was not academic, nor merely dramatic. It was not accidental nor incidental, but integral, constitutional, the very fiber and make‐up of the purpose and predetermination of God. The cross was the center of the eternal counsels before the foundation of the earth was laid. The death of Christ was motived and ordained before His birth.
By the cross the righteousness of God was displayed.
By the cross God's hatred of sin, His unchangeable wrath and pitiless, unending determination of ceaseless judgment against it and punishment of it were so proclaimed and made manifest that with law, government and being honored, He could hold back judgment from a guilty, sin‐loving world and deal with it in undeserved favor, mercy, and grace.
Thus was the grace of God proclaimed by the wrath of God.
Out of the wrath and hatred of God against sin; by the inexorableness of that law which sheathed its sword of justice deep into the quivering soul of the divine victim; by the holiness, perfectness and absolute integrity of the Father's essential being which made Him turn His back upon His Son, turning away from Him until the blackness and darkness of the infinite forsaking fell upon Him and drowned Him under its overflowing billows, the grace of God was made manifest.
This grace of God brings salvation to all men.
The salvation is threefold.
It is salvation from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and identification with and participation in the multiplied, resplendent glories of a Coming Christ.
Salvation from the penalty of sin is to be had by claiming our Lord Jesus Christ as a personal substitute.
Under the Levitical law the Jew who wished to be ceremonially clean from the judgment of sin selected a lamb, put a rope about its neck, led it to the priest, put his hand upon its head and confessed his sins, the knife of the priest leaped forth, the throat of the victim was cut, the blood was shed and the offerer pronounced clean, went forth free of judgment.
Just so you are to look back by faith to the cross of Christ (and faith can link you to that cross quicker than wireless telegraphy can fling its message across the intervening seas); you are to claim the death of Christ upon the cross as your sacrifice for sin; then you are to turn, face God and say to Him:
"O God, no matter though I may deem myself the whitest and finest of men; no matter though those who know me may testify that not a spot or charge is against me, I accept the estimate which Thou hast formed of me, that I am a sinner both by nature and transgression. I own and accept Thy judgment that I ought to die; but, I offer to Thee now the sacrifice which Thou Thyself hast provided. I claim Thy Son crucified and dead on yonder cross as my substitute."
Immediately God the Father will accept the death of His Son as though you had died. He will accept the judgment and the billowy down-rush of wrath that fell on Him as though it had fallen on you and lo! you are legally clean, not guilty, forgiven, justified and accepted as righteous and so presented before that court where holiness is the fashion.
And this is undeserved mercy and free favor.
This is grace, pure and unqualified grace.
You have no righteousness of your own. You could not even dare to offer it to God. Your best righteousness in His sight was no better than unclean, filthy rags. He did not ask goodness of you. God does not want goodness. He wants Godness, His own quality and character.
Just as you, if you have respect for yourself cannot afford to associate with one whose character is not equal to your own, neither can God accept in fellowship with Himself those who are not holy, spotless, and pure. "Without which no man shall see the Lord:" (Heb. 12:14). In default of that holiness you must pay the penalty in death. You never can get beyond paying of it; and since you can neither live according to the standard of God's righteousness, nor pass beyond the liquidation of your penalty, He has provided the sacrifice for sin and will accept the death of Christ as the full payment of the penalty which is your due and will credit you with the "obedience" of Christ unto that death when you believe, that through faith you may be linked up to Him, not only as the one made sin for you, but as your righteousness, so that in Him you shall be the very righteousness of God.
Undeserved mercy and freest favor this—who can doubt it?
Grace, pure and unqualified grace this—who may dispute it?
Grace it is that saves from the penalty of sin.
But you need to be saved, not only from the penalty, but from the power of sin.
You can be saved from the power of sin only by a life that is superior to, and will reign above, sin.
This life is not in you by nature.
It is to be found alone in a risen Lord on the throne at the right hand of God
You cannot buy it. You cannot earn it. There is nothing you can do will make you deserve it. It is to be had only as a gift. It is as much a gift as the sunshine which pours its flood of light upon you, as the air you breathe. And it is to be had as all other gifts of God are to be had. All the money in the world will not buy the gold of sunshine, the silver of moonlight, starlight, nor the circumambient air. You must receive them.
The life that overcomes sin, the life that is the power of righteousness and truth in the soul is to be received, and received by faith, simple, childlike faith; for, the wages of sin is death, but eternal life is the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ; and since by faith you are delivered from death and bound up in the bundle of life with the risen Christ, and are one with Him, you shall take part in the glories that are His. You shall be heir of God and joint heir with Christ.
This is undeserved mercy, the free, full, and unmeasured favor of God.
This is grace and grace beyond degree.
This grace and salvation by grace is offered to all men through the gospel of the grace of God and is commissioned to be preached to every creature.
This is the age of grace.
Herein is the explanation why iniquity runs riot, lawlessnesses are multiplied and sin rolls its unchecked, mad waves of sensualism and shame over all the foundation of righteousness and truth. Here is the reason why men may blaspheme the name of the Holy God, raise their hands in proud disdain of His every claim and no thunderous judgment break forth to smite them where they stand. Here is the reason why the heavens are silent, why no miracle, no intervention takes place, why no wing of angel is thrust through the blue of yonder sky: it is because God is dealing in grace; and He and the Heaven host are waiting, silently watching to see what man will do; whether he will despise this hour of grace or turn and accept its offer ere the wheels of judgment turn.
Grace, that explains the silent God, the continued down flow of mercy, rain falling upon the just as well as upon the unjust, the wicked flourishing like the green bay tree, the continuance of the gospel and the Spirit's insistent pleading.
But, grace not only brings salvation, it teaches those who accept that salvation.
It teaches them what to deny.
That word "deny" is in itself a revelation.
It is a revelation either of power or weakness.
He who cannot deny, who cannot say, "No," is a pitiable slave. Passions, appetites, desires like hungry beasts with lolling tongues and bloodshot eyes will rush in and leap upon him.
Here is the appetite for drink.
Days and even months may pass and the poor fool thinks himself immune, the very master and boasts his freedom, when, suddenly, it leaps upon him, clutches him by the throat and bids him yield.
If he cannot deny, if he cannot say "No," and say it with a round and ringing circle of enclosed determination, authority and power, then will he follow like an ox to slaughter led: or like swine Circe fed will wallow in his swinery a sickening slave and brute till the appetite is gorged to fulness and then is he flung down a limp, lost, helpless thing, full of self‐contempt and all the agony and bitterness of biting remorse, filling himself with a thousand fresh‐made pledges to resist, till again the beast leaps on him, claims him for its own and drags him still deeper in the filthy mire.
Or, it is lust, lust coming with lean and lecherous lip, clammy hands and hateful breath to poison every vein of chastity and snakelike coil about the soul.
Not always in such beastly ways as that, but in ways and fashions that take you unawares and smother you and leave you stricken, struggling, panting in the treacherous embrace; leap upon you so quickly, and for a moment seem to be so beautiful, so winsome, so appealing to all that is in you, so deceiving you and disarming you, so hypnotizing and charming you that you surrender with responding pulses and are gone before an angel of God can descend and lift you out of the mire that awakens you with its foul and pitchy smear.
But the grace of God can teach you to deny.
I saw a company of men and women terrorized by a brute beast of a dog. He saw they were afraid of him. That encouraged him to terrorize them more. He showed his white fangs, his quivering, nervous, slobbering lips till not one of the startled, fear‐smitten party dared to move.
Then I saw the master come.
He looked the brute full in the eye and there was an almost cruel smile upon his lips. He walked forward indifferent to the low and warning growl, seized the beast by the scruff of the neck, heaved him up and flung him to the earth, put his feet upon the snapping jaws and with a voice that had in it the sound of a whiplash said, "lie there." Then he released him and with a howl of fear and conscious defeat the cowed beast slunk away to its kennel.
Like that I have known men to lay hold of the beast of passion, fling it down and put their feet upon its neck, bid it lie there and be still.
The grace of God taught them that. Sometimes it has been a fight, terrible, awful, straining at everything of life and hope in the soul, but grace has won.
I know men who are Mount Vesuviuses, Etnas, and Chimborazzos in themselves. They are, indeed, like burning volcanoes. Their veins are hot with inward fire, an easily provoked and maddened temper ready to blaze, to kindle into flame at a word or look, burst forth and wantonly destroy. They are always on the threshold of riotous words and impulsive acts. Anger, resentment, quick burning hate and a bitterness that for the moment would rejoice to ruin everything that opposed or antagonized them are in them like bloodhounds straining at a leash.
You would never know it, never dream it.
They are calm, self‐poised and self‐controlled, never for a moment under keenest provocation losing the grip upon themselves.
The grace of God has not only given them life, but taught them. With Paul they are able to say:
"But by the grace of God I am what I am:" (I Corinthians 15:10).
The grace of God teaches those who are saved, not only to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, it teaches them how to live.
Of all the blunders a human being can make, none are so supreme as the blunder of thinking you can profess the name of Christ, be baptized, join the Church and then live and do as you please, fill your lips with evil speech and walk in by and forbidden paths.
If you be a true child of God, if regeneration be a fact in you, if you have passed into the realm of a new and spiritual genesis, if Christ be really in you, then every evil deed and treasonable speech, betraying thought or impulse will find itself opposed, rebuked by that new and inward force, a force that will proclaim you and make you in spite of your own revolt, proclaim yourself a hypocrite, a worthless thing; so that, to continue in your careless and willfully inconsistent life you must deliberately strangle the ever‐protesting voice of God in you.
Before you are saved, before you believe on our Lord Jesus Christ, the best character in the world will not avail you, it will not avail you because God is not asking for the best you can do, but for that which is absolutely perfect, for a character like His own, sinless, holy, far-flashing in hate against sin; and because you do not have it; because by nature you never can evolve it; because in default of it you were under doom of death; and because you can neither meet the demand for life, nor satisfy the demand for death, out of pure grace He provided this righteousness in Christ whereby you might be clothed and stand before Him in all the perfectness of character which He Himself requires.
No character of your own before you are saved, however good it may be, will save you. That truth needs to be repeated over and over again and sunken deep into your consciousness and the consciousness of every human being on earth; but, after you are saved, then you are to give to God the most beautiful and perfect character the eternal life committed to you can unfold.
The grace of God will teach you to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. To live the life that is discreet, equipoised and balanced. It will teach you to keep your feet in the path of righteousness and truth, to live the life of godliness, to let God and Christ and all spiritual things exude from the very pores of your being; to be a contagion, not for sickness, not for impulses of the flesh, but for spiritual health, for divine vigor and all the in-breathing and out breathing of the Holy Ghost.
You are to live in this present world (this age) an age which is against the sons of God, and to find yourself fought against and hindered; so that, time and again you will find yourself involuntarily saying, "the Christian life cannot be lived, everything is against it, it is wholly impracticable, it makes a man try to live in the air while the law of gravitation forces him to stay upon the ground." You will find yourself saying, "I am perplexed. I am puzzled and do not know which way to turn. How can I meet my social obligations, my business responsibilities and be true to the spiritual profession I make?"
The grace of God will teach you. No matter how great the problem it will teach you how to solve it. No matter how narrow the path that leads to the Kingdom of God it will teach you how to walk in it. It will deliver you from the truth half told, an evil thing worse a thousand fold in its reaction and outward effect than a whole and barefaced lie. It will deliver you from the insincerity and purposelessness which can ruin the noblest lives. Yes, the grace of God, if you are willing, if you wish it, even if you do not deliberately hinder it will teach you how to live.
And now, this grace having brought salvation, having taught us what to deny and how to live, sets before us the hope which is to animate us, encourage us, make us more and more willing every day to listen to the admonitions of grace and hold us fast and unswervingly in the faith as the anchor holds when clouds and darkness gather and wild storms break upon the vessel's side, the hope which the Spirit specifically calls—"that blessed hope."
It is well the grace of God should set this hope before us
Without hope it is impossible to live.
No matter what may be your equipment, you cannot live, you cannot achieve without hope.
There are some six millions of peoples in this great city tonight. Tomorrow men and women will go forth to meet duties, obligations, responsibilities, calls of every sort. There will be problems to solve and questions to answer that well may take the heart out of the bravest and the best. There will be burdens to be borne whose staggering weight will threaten to crush the burden‐bearer to the ground.
And what is it, think you, will make this vast army arise and go forward and press on in the mighty struggle even with a smile upon the lips?
What is it, what else could it be—but hope?
Take hope away from man, the strongest, the bravest, and the best of men and despair like an octopus will thrust forth its foul and greedy tentacles and suck out the very soul of him.
Look at that man lying down utterly crushed, unnerved, full of mental darkness and soul horror. You can do nothing with him. No rebuke of yours will affect him. He is indifferent to all you say. Even if you warned him, shouted aloud his danger, he would not pick himself up out of the way of a swift advancing car. Tell him it will kill him—what does he care; indeed, he would rather die than live, and the peril is should he arise and make any effort it might be to put an end to life he can no longer endure—that man has no hope.
But let some one bend down and whisper in his ear the gladsome word of hope and lo! a new dawn will shine in his eyes, a new light will break across his face, he will arise, he will leap to his feet, his hands will outstretch and take on their grip, he will face the world and win.
The Christian cannot be without hope.
Without hope his feet are weak, his steps are laggard and his hands drop nerveless by his side. If he has no better outlook than the things of time and sense; if the horizon does not lift and expand into promised and better tomorrows, he is defeated ere the fight of faith begins.
Grace teaches there is a hope for the Church and inclusively a hope for the Christian, an individual and corporate hope.
In no direction have there been greater blunders and more excuseless mistakes than in respect to the corporate hope, the hope of the Church.
For generations the Church has been taught the conversion of the world as its supreme, its all-inspiring and definite hope.
By the preaching of the Gospel the whole world was to be brought into subjection to the way and will of Christ. This was the hope held out to the Church.
Tonight, after twenty centuries of Gospel preaching, the world is farther away from conversion than when Christianity began.
So far from the world being overcome by the Church, the Church is rapidly being overcome by the world.
This promise of a Gospel‐converted world has been the hope deferred that makes the heart sick.
It has been a disappointment that has turned to bitterness and unbelief
And there never has been any warrant for such hope.
The Church is commanded to preach the Gospel in the whole world to every creature, and to every creature in each and every generation. It was never intended some should hear it in this generation, some more in the next, more in each succeeding generation till the whole world at last should have heard it. Never at all! There is no such thought in the commission. It was intended that every creature in each generation should hear this Gospel before he died. The whole world should hear it completely from generation to generation. None should appear at the final bar of God and plead he had never heard the tidings. The Apostle Paul affirms it had been universally heard in his day. Writing to the Colossians in one generation after the Gospel commission had been given he says, "The gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature (literally, in all creation) which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;" (Col. 1:23). This was the divine ideal and purpose.
But while this is the age for universal preaching, it is not the age for universal salvation, in that all will not be saved...
By the Gospel of His grace God is calling out here one and there another into faith and union with His Son.
He is not seeking to save the world, but to call men out of it.
If you knew a ship was out there in the bay, hard and fast upon hidden reefs would you go forth, buy a lot of paint, gold leaf, and gilding, get into a lifeboat with a company of house painters and decorators and when you had reached the ship, even though you saw the water coming in over the gunwales would you begin to paint the ship in true Louis Fourteenth or Fifteenth style? Would you make the white panels still whiter? Would you put on the gilding and the gold leaf? Would you say, "On with the song and the dance?" Would you tell anybody your great hope was to save the ship, then continue to put on paint and gold leaf?
Surely you would not.
No! you would leap into that lifeboat. You would gather your sturdy men about you. You would take life lines and life preservers. When you reached the deck of the ship you would go into the saloon where a lot of women might be found dawdling over a game of bridge, and you would cry out to them warningly, the ship was sinking and they must fly for their lives to the boats in waiting. You would go into the barroom where you might find a lot of men drinking, mixing high balls and profanity, settling their bets on the ship's run, and you would cry to them, "up and flee for your lives."
God looks upon the world as a sinking ship.
By the "world" is not meant the earth, but this human system, society, government and all the organized relations of man to man. The judgment of God is against it, already it is running on the rocks, the sound of the breakers may be heard, and there is a strain and quiver everywhere throughout the length and breadth of it. The tide is rising higher and just as in the days of Noah, God will suddenly loose the whole flood of long withheld judgment and sweep away the present order of things, sweeping it away forever.
He is not calling the Church to go and better the world, to paint it, decorate it, make it more beautiful and attractive, leading men more than ever to boast of it, glory in it.
The Church is not here to deceive herself with the idea that the world can be saved as it now is.
God is commanding the Church to save men out of it, to get them out of the old creation in Adam and get them into the new creation in Christ, get them out of the old system of the flesh into the new and eternal system of the Spirit.
No! the hope held out to the Church is not the conversion of the world by the preaching of the Gospel.
To hold out that hope is to play the Church into the hands of the Devil.
It shuts men's eyes to the terrific fact that God has already passed sentence upon the world; that He has said this present system shall come to a cataclysmic end, "the world passeth away, and the lust thereof" (I John 2:17). It shuts the eyes of men to the fact that the death of Christ is not only a sacrifice for sin, but a crime, a murder of murders and must be answered for by the world as such.
Holding out the hope of a world converted by the Gospel blinds men's eyes to the analysis God has given of it.
Listen to the analysis:
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (I John 2:16)
And these three things, lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life God says, really, fundamentally constitute the world.
Take them away and the world as we see it fades from view, its activities and its "progress" come to an end.
The hope that the Church is to win the world for Christ through the Gospel blinds men to the unbroken testimony of the Holy Spirit that as the age draws to its consummation there shall be "perilous times," (II Tim. 3:1) "a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof," (II Tim. 3:5) and increasingly marked departure from spiritual things and the ways of God.
The hope of a world converted by the Gospel leads men to ignore such unmistakable and dynamic warning and to paint for themselves the vision of a world to be made growingly better. It leads men to talk about the triumph of democracy, the elevation and brotherhood of man, the establishment of free and righteous government, the abolition of war. It leads the preacher unconsciously and involuntarily to fellowship every effort of this nature. It leads him to turn his pulpit into a platform for prohibition, for purer politics. More and more he identifies himself and his Church with the life that now is. Every day he seeks to congratulate himself and all who hear him that the world is marching on to the purple and the gold of millennial days; and yet, all the while the shadow of Anti‐Christ is growing, unbelief is hiding itself under attractive and deceptive forms, the thunder of the surf grows louder and the judicial forces in the hand of God are being assembled for the awful blow that shall awake a Devil‐fooled world to its final doom.
If there has been a false hope held out to the Church corporately, an equally false hope has been held out to the Christian individually.
The Christian has been taught that Heaven was his hope, and that he could get there only by way of death, the undertaker, the shroud, and the grave.
When I came to New York many years ago I went round the city looking at the different church buildings. I looked, naturally, to find the names of pastors. I could not find them. No matter what church building there was but one name upon all the structures, some of them massive and splendid, and that name always in largest letters and with wealth of gilding was the name of the undertaker. It appeared to be so settled the way to Heaven was alone by the graveyard that the undertaker seemed to be the most important personage next to death in the service and value of the Church. The churches seemed like monuments dedicated to death, they were monumental advertisements of the graveyard and the funeral end of the Christian life. The first thing I did was to have the name of that ubiquitous, respectable, but dismal personage taken off the walls of my church.
Can you conceive of anything more amazingly inconsistent, contradictory, and discordant than to have a church erected to Him whose very name is life eternal, and then to have the building written all over with the symbol of death?
But neither death nor Heaven are held out as the hope of the Christian.
The hope held out to the Christian and the hope held out to the Church is the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ into the air to take the Church up there to meet Him.
This is proved by Saint Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. He had taught them the Lord was coming from Heaven. He had bidden them wait for and expect Him. Some among them had died. The living were troubled lest the dead in Christ should miss the Coming.
Paul writes and tells them they are not to sorrow over their dead as others who have no hope (as those, indeed, must sorrow whose dead do not die in Christ). The Lord is coming down into the air; so far from the dead in Christ missing that great event they will be the first to realize it. The Lord will raise them first, then the living who are alive at His Coming will be changed and caught up together with them to meet the Lord. (see I Thessalonians 4:13‐18)
The apostle exhorts them to comfort one another with these words.
They were to comfort one another with the words Paul, under special inspiration and particular revelation had written them, that the Lord was coming to raise their dead and bring them all together into His presence.
This is the hope set before them.
This is the hope set before us.
This is the hope of which he wrote to Titus, "that blessed hope." (Titus 2:13)
It is blessed because it touches this matter of the Christian dead.
Last summer I drove about a great deal in the mountains. Sometimes the road wound round and up and over lifted heights, sometimes under arching trees, by broad expanse of turquoise‐tinted lake, through cloven ridges and narrow impasses where rivulets rippled in drowsy murmurs or noisy babble over rocky beds and deeper rivers slipped in silence to the waiting valleys far beyond; but wherever I drove, by lane or beaten highway I saw the memorial of the dead, in lonely churchyard, in family burial plot, in more extended cemetery near town and village. The larger the town, the larger and whiter the city of the dead and the old sorrowful refrain came to my mind:
"They that dwell upon the earth are but a handful
To those who sleep within its breast."
But I said softly, "Thank God, the day is coming when the dead shall hear a voice and rise, the day when death shall be defeated, and a grave never more be dug nor filled with human kind."
That hour of resurrection triumph will be at the Coming of the Lord.
There are three records in the New Testament wherein the story is told how Jesus raised the dead: the young maid who had just died, the young man on his way to burial, and Lazarus four days dead and corrupting.
In each of these cases the dead was raised at the Coming of the Lord.
The daughter of Jairus was dead and the father's heart was broken.
Jesus came. He entered the house where all were mourning. He said, "She is not dead, but sleepeth." They laughed Him to scorn. He put them all out (as He will put out of His house and shut out of His kingdom all who mock or make light of Him). He took the young girl by the hand and bade her rise, and straightway she rose and walked. (see Matt. 9; Mark 5; Luke 8)
A funeral procession was just turning out of the street of the City of Nain on its way to the cemetery.
The mother walked behind the open bier. She wept as with bowed head she walked; for, this was her only son and she was a widow. Much people also followed, wept, and sorrowed in sympathy with her.
At that moment Jesus and His disciples came up over the brow of the hill. He stopped the procession of the dead. He bade the young man arise. He who was dead, in obedience to the master word, sat up and began to speak. Then Jesus delivered him to his mother. (See Luke 7)
Lazarus was dead. Lazarus whom Jesus loved.
The sisters had sent for Him while even yet their brother was sick. They had warned Him that he whom He loved was grievously ill. But Jesus waited till death came, and now He approached the house of mourning. Martha met Him. She reproached Him because He had delayed, because He had not come at once in answer to their earnest pleading. She said:
". . . Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." (John 11:21)
Then it was Jesus answered in those words in which every syllable is a symphony of love, of grace, of tender compassion and infinite and Almighty assurance:
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:" (John 11:25).
He goes to the grave.
He tells them to roll away the stone.
He bids them do this because it is in their power to do it, and because the eternal and all‐powerful God will never do what we can and what we are responsible to do.
Then with a loud voice He bids Lazarus come forth; and he that was dead, heard, lived, and came forth, but bound hand and foot with grave clothes.
And again Jesus bids them do what they could do and what because of it He had no need to do, to loose Lazarus, unbind the grave clothes and let him go (and in this the Lord illustrates the work into which the Church is called after the sinner has been spiritually raised through hearing the voice of the Lord in the Gospel—loosening the converted soul from the bonds of spiritual death, teaching him the truth; as it is written: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32) Unless rightly taught the quickened and saved soul, like Lazarus, remains bound, can neither see, use the hands, nor walk aright. Teaching must come after the Gospel—it is loosing and letting go).
In each of these cases the dead was raised by the Personal Coming of the Lord.
It is by the Coming of the Lord, and by the Coming of the Lord alone that the dead in Christ will be raised.
If the Lord does not come Himself, the dead in Christ will never be raised, resurrection will never take place.
There is not the slightest warrant in the Word of God to hope for the resurrection of the Christian dead apart from the Second, personal Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Take the Second Coming out of the Book and you pack the grave clods down hard and fast upon the head of your hopelessly dead.
Take the Second Coming of Christ out of the New Testament and there is not one word of hope you can hold out that the Christian dead will ever be anything more than disembodied ghosts.
Even though they be in Heaven and with the Lord, so long as their bodies lie mouldering in the earth and part of its wind-blown dust, their victory over death is only partial. The victory of Christ over death is only partial. The Devil who is the "strong man armed" (see Luke 11:21) (armed with the law which says it is appointed unto men once to die) holds them as his "goods" in his "house" of the grave. Not only that, but in so far as the Christian dead are concerned the Lord does not become for them the "resurrection and the life" He claimed; on the contrary, He becomes an amazing concrete of contradiction; for, while Himself a risen, immortal man, His resurrection and immortality seals of His own complete triumph over death, He is surrounded by ghostly beings whose bodies purchased by His blood He has not raised and whose bodiless estate bears witness that His redemption for them has not been complete; an incompleteness all the more emphasized by His own risen, immortal body. Nay! every moment that this risen body flashes forth its splendor, it proves the incompleteness of those for whom He died and testifies. The Devil has cut His victory in two and divided even honors with Him. O, no, Christians as eternal ghosts in Heaven with Christ do not become His glory but dishonor.
Because Christ is surely Coming a Second time and that Coming means the deliverance of the body of the dead Christian; because it means the Christian's complete redemption from the power of death; because it means the revelation of the Christian in an immortal glorified body like His own, the Coming of the Lord is righteously and logically held out as the blessed hope, both to the Church and individual Christian.
Not only are the Christian dead to be raised, but Christians living in that hour are to be changed, transfigured, made deathless, incorruptible, immortal.
In a moment, at the Coming of the Lord the wrinkles will disappear from the brow of age, the sick will be cured, health will leap through every vein and youth immortal shall clothe each changed, transfigured and translated saint.
This is the hope held out to us.
Blessed, indeed, or, as it means, "happy" is this hope held out to us.
It means our gathering together on the plains of light, our reunion, and our knowing one another in His presence.
If He were to come tonight the first one I should seek would be my father. I believed in him when I did not believe in God. He stood between me and the world for years. For long years he stood there; and when I went forth from his roof to make my way he laid his hand upon my shoulder and with depth of love in his tender, but never lowered eyes he said (and do you think eternity will ever make me forget it) he said, "My son, if it does not go right with you; if things are not as you hope them to be, remember so long as I live you have a home." And I banked on that. It gave me strength to stand and courage and hope in many an hour of loneliness and sad perplexity.
If the Lord were to come tonight and take me into the upper city I would go straight up to that father and tell him all over again the love he knows I bear him. Do you think I would make my mother merely a second? Impossible! She would be there and I would put my arms about them both, and how much I would thank her; for, I am here tonight and preach because she greatly prayed me into this ministry. I never sought it. I shut the door upon it. I turned away from it and would none of it, but her prayer helped to swing the door wide open and I entered into that ministry wherein the Lord Himself had called me and with strong compelling hand had bid me enter.
But tonight if I were lifted up into that glory place within the vail and looked about upon all the shining host of the blood-redeemed and looked, and looked in vain and could not recognize either my father or my mother, what meaning think you would there be in the apostle's words exhorting me to be comforted with the thought the Lord is Coming and that I shall be caught up with the risen and transfigured dead? What comfort would there be in his words for me? Surely none. Nay! Those words would be but meaningless mockery and bitterness of disappointment he himself had wrought and made. But, since he was honest and his words are the inspiration of the Holy Ghost this promise of our Lord's return and our reunion in His presence carries in the heart of it the assurance that we shall meet and know each other then.
But we are left to no induction, no conjectural or presumptive conclusion, for the apostle writes:
"Then [that is, when the Lord comes] shall I know even as also I am known." (I Corinthians 13:12)
There will be cognition as well as recognition. We shall know the generations old. I shall know Abel who first from afar through his bleeding lamb saw the bleeding and Heaven ordained victim on the cross. I shall know Abraham, who had faith to go whither he knew not because he trusted that the God who had called him would also lead him. I shall see and know Moses, he who stood amid the flaming glories of Sinai's cloud-capped height and saw the finger of God write the law on tables of stone. I shall see David whose harp strings have evoked the songs that have filled a world with hope and consolation. I shall see and know Simon Peter, who drew his sword to defend his Lord, and John, who leaned upon the Master's breast. I shall see Paul, glorious, much suffering, Paul. I shall see and know the martyrs of succeeding years; such as Zwingli and Huss, a Savonarola who walked to the cruel stake with quiet dignity amid the falling tears and quivering hearts of a silent, grief‐stricken city; Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, who amid the piled up, burning fagots and from their tortured bodies kindled a flame of faith and undying devotion for God. I shall know the Wesley brothers and Whitfield and see again, but glorified, the Moody, who filled the eyes of men with tears and led them with no burlesque speech nor clownish platform tricks, but a sweet, old‐time Gospel and a pleading, Christ‐filled spirit to the Master's feet.
It is a blessed hope because it means the Church, all genuine Christians, shall be delivered from the hour and horror of the Great Tribulation, which with swift and steady stride is coming on the earth.
Everywhere we are told from pulpit and from press the world is growing better and that days of peace and prosperity are about to fill the earth. Everywhere men have been crying peace and safety.
But the sons of God and all His apostles lift up their voices and warn against the fallacy and folly of those who talk peace when there can be no peace.
The Son of God Himself talks in terms of war and rumors of war, of famine, pestilence, and earthquake, of lawlessness multiplied, Satanic powers and miracles. He speaks of an hour when the heavens shall seem to fall, the earth to shiver and tremble as a cottage shaken by the storm, the sea and the waves roaring, the doors of the unseen world wide flung, distress of nations with perplexity and men's hearts failing them for fear for looking after the things that are coming on the earth; everywhere confusion, conflict and all the loosened might of wrong and cataclysmic climaxes in the closing hours of a cataclysmic and catastrophic age; a time so terrible none has ever been like it nor ever shall be again; a time so terrible that unless those days were actually shortened no flesh should live. (see Matt. 24:22; Mark 13:20)
The Coming of the Lord means the deliverance of the Church from all that.
You will find the scenic proof and demonstration of this in the book of the Revelation. In the fourth chapter John is caught up to Heaven at the sound of a trumpet voice as the representative and figure of the translation of the Church at the Coming of the Lord. In the fourth and fifth chapters the Church is seen under the symbol of twenty-four kingly and priestly elders enthroned in Heaven. From the sixth chapter to the nineteenth chapter you have a picture of the tribulation, the woe on earth and the mad course of the Devil incarnate Anti-Christ. Not once in all these chapters, not in a single line nor by the most faint and shadowy suggestion of the smallest fraction of an inferential hint can you see even the first outline of the Church on earth; on the contrary, in the thirteenth chapter and sixth verse you have a dynamic and corroborative declaration that during all this time the translated Church is in Heaven.
In the sixth verse it is written:
"And he [the beast, the Anti-Christ] opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."
The tabernacle of God is the dwelling place or habitation of God.
The Church is the dwelling place or habitation of God; as it is written:
"In whom ye also [Christians at Ephesus] are builded [are being builded] together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:22)
The sixth verse of Revelation thirteenth therefore paints the picture of the fruitless fury of the Beast, the Anti-Christ, against the Church, and the security of the Church at that moment because dwelling in Heaven.
The twelfth chapter shows us the Devil cast out of the heavens and down on the earth, the thirteenth chapter shows us the Church taken out of the earth and enthroned in Heaven.
The Coming of Christ takes us out of the earth and puts us in Heaven; so that as Christians we shall not go through nor even enter the edge of the Great Tribulation.
And because this is so the Coming of Christ for His Church is above all others, the blessed hope.
It is a blessed hope because it means immortality.
In Scripture the words "immortal," "immortality" are not applied to the soul, but to the body. They mean a deathless, incorruptible, pneumatical body.
They mean lifting man into the place God intended he should have.
Look at man as you see him now, sick, fainting, fallen down, and dying. The other day as I passed one of the great cemeteries I said, musingly, "What mighty mental powers have gone down into the ground there, minds that moved forces, wills that controlled vast enterprises, moulded and shaped destinies. Is that the best God could do? Set such powers to work in frail and easily shattered bodies, let them break, turn to dust, the spirit disappear and seem to be no more?"
Nay! the revelation of God's real and infinite purpose shall be seen in the immortal bodies Jesus will give us when He shall come again. Each body shall be a storage battery, all the laws and hidden forces of the universe shall be concentrated in such a body. The nexus shall be the will. The immortal Christian shall speak and it shall be done. He will command and it shall stand fast. In this we shall be like the Son of God Himself. We shall be masters whether on land or sea or in the air.
Blessed is this hope of a coming Lord, coming for those who are His.
Blessed because it will lift the Church into the place of associated power and rulership with Christ over the world.
For two thousand years the Church has tried to rule the world.
The Roman Church tried it, became apostate and failed, became political and unspiritual, attempted to win by stake, by blood, and torture, and not by grace and truth; by blood and torture till scarlet became the fitting color her priesthood wears.
The world rose up, broke the shackles and for a while refused to hear her speak.
Then the Protestant Church dreamed that by the Gospel it could lay hold of the world and bring it in due submission to its will. It failed. Then it entered into partnership with civilization, education, and human culture. It modified its ancient theology, it cut out some pages from the Bible, got rid of miracles, repudiated full inspiration and turning itself into a system of ethical culture and competitive morality has hoped to win the world by coming down to the level of its materialistic naturalism.
And here it has utterly, derisively and deservedly failed.
Neither owned of God nor much respected by the world it is fast traveling to that Laodicean threshold where the Son of God has threatened to spew it out of His mouth.
The Church while down here cannot rule the world.
It is incapable of ruling the world, not only because Christ the living Head is still a rejected King and exile from His covenant throne, but because between us and the line of light which breaks like whitened surf of wide sea splendor against the black and sunless void surrounding this earth, there is a hierarchy of evil spirits; so that the apostle has said, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood," (Ephesians 6:12) as did the Israelites when they sought to gain possession of the Promised Land, but with wicked spirits in the atmospheric heavens. These spirits dwelling in that zone of darkness are called "Kosmokratoras Tous Skotous Toutou." "The world rulers of (or from) this darkness." They are under the leadership of him whom our Lord calls, "the prince of this world," (see John 12:31;14:30; 16:11) and who is none other than "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan," (Rev. 12:9). Under him and governed by his subtle wisdom they stand behind the thrones of kings, of emperors and the chairs of presidents, dictate the policy of cabinets, inspire confusion, complication and war among the nations. The Apostle John in vision sees three of them going forth to gather the nations to that final worldwide war rendezvous at Armageddon. (See Rev. 16:13‐16)
No matter what attitude the Church may take, no matter how spiritually it may live, this is an age when Satanic power will send abroad those forces which will array themselves now in open wickedness and anon as angels of light against divine rule and Heaven's ways of righteousness.
The Church is not here to rule the world but to protest against it. It bears the same relation to the world today as did the ministry of Noah. We are told that he "being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world," (Heb. 11:7).
The ark was a warning of coming judgment from the hand of God, a protest against sin and unbelief; and by so much as it stood for the saving of men out of the world, condemned the world.
Such is the responsibility and should be the attitude and function of the Church.
The Church is here to save men out of the world; by so much it is a protest against it as a system, condemns it and is a witness, God has ordained it shall pass away.
For the Church to assume the place of rulership while the Lord is an exile from His own particular throne would be open treason to Him. It would be as much treason as though a queen should attempt to rule while her husband was "despised and rejected" as king. Such an attempt would be proof that she had not only parted company from himself, but had rejected his principles.
A church in the place of world pomp, power, and glory would be proof irresistible that she had forgotten the faith of Him whose name she wears; had forgotten that He walked this earth a pilgrim and a stranger, a faithful witness of coming judgment; and that it was He who has said:
"As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matt. 24:37)
No! this is not the hour of Church rulership.
With keen and spirit‐inspired arraignment the apostle rebukes the Church at Corinth because they thought the hour of world rulership had come. He says:
"Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you." (I Corinthians 4:8)
Then he goes on to show that so far from reigning and ruling in the world he and the apostles were suffering from the evil and persecution of the world. He says:
"For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were
appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels,
and to men.
"We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
"Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place;
"And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
"Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day." (I Corinthians 4:9‐13)
Surely there is no royal rulership in this; nor can there be till the Lord comes. The rulership of the Church is coincident with the Coming of the Lord.
When He comes to reign, when He appears in glory as King of kings, then as a Queen the Church will appear with Him and reign over the world in glory; wherefore it is written:
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him" (II Tim. 2:12).
Not till after the Church is taken to Heaven does she take up the triumphant song of anticipated rulership.
In the fifth chapter of the Revelation where the Church is seen translated to Heaven and dwelling there under the figure of the twenty‐four elders, and at the moment when the Lord takes the title deeds to the kingdom and is about to break the seals and send down the judgment which precedes His appearing, the Church breaks forth into this exultant announcement, this new, new song of redemption and rule:
"And they sung a new song, saying! Thou [the once slain Lamb, the risen
Lord] art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou
wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every
kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
"And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on [over] the earth." (Rev. 5:9,10)
When He shall appear to take to Himself His great power and reign, the Church shall be enthroned in light. Then shall she rule with Him. Where now the world walks in the spiritual darkness of this hierarchy of evil, then will it walk in the light of the exalted and glorified Church of Christ, the Church of the first born ones. (See Heb. 12:23)
All this is consequent upon the Coming of the Lord into the air to take the Church up to Himself in the Holy City.
Blessed, indeed, is this hope set before us, because the result of it will be the manifestation and complete revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ as our great God and Saviour.
We shall see Him as—Our great God.
When I was a stranger to Him; when I knew Him not and was filled with questions I could not answer and none could answer for me; when there was no rest and peace; when the universe seemed a huge mistake or a fearful and brutal thing crushing me at every turn wherever I lifted and posed an investigating thought, I said within myself had I the fashioning of a God, He should be human, with a human heart and human understanding, with capacity to enter into my sorrows, my perplexities and cares, and, at the same time a God who should have all power to match and fulfill the promises He should make to me.
I did not know then, I did not understand, this was, indeed, the very God who had entered the earth and died for men, the God who now sits on yonder throne in glorified and infinite humanity.
We shall see Him with His perfect, immortal humanity, the center of the effulgent deity that is His and clothes Him, very God of very God, real man, true and everlasting God and everlasting man.
Everlasting God, our human and divine Saviour!
The Saviour who gave Himself to die for us.
Paul will kneel at His feet and cry:
"Thou lovedst me and gavest thyself for me."
And I shall say that, and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands shall say that and fling their tribute of praise and adoration before Him as when ingots of gold are flung into the treasury of a king.
Not only this, but the Church, as a Church, shall take part in the manifestation of His glory; as it is written:
"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Col. 3:4)
When He appears in glory, He will appear from Heaven.
When the Church appears with Him in glory, she also, must appear from Heaven.
Before the Church can appear from Heaven she must be caught up into Heaven
She is caught up to meet the Lord when He descends into the air; as it is written:
"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the risen, Christian dead] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (I Thessalonians 4:17)
This being caught up to meet the Lord in the air is declared by the Holy Spirit officially, to be:
". . . OUR GATHERING TOGETHER UNTO HIM." (II Thessalonians 2:1)
Our gathering together to meet Him in the air in the very nature of the case takes place before we can appear with Him in glory.
The Coming of Christ into the air to gather the Church to Himself previous to His appearing in glory is, strictly speaking, the actual, preeminent, blessed hope of the Church. The appearing in glory is made a conjunctive part of it and the statement of the text reads: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing" (Titus 2:13), because the glorious appearing (appearing of the glory) is included in and (although a distinct stage of it) is a resultant part of the Blessed Hope.
It is because of this blessed (happy) fact that Christ is coming first for the Church that we shall appear with Him in the glory.
The glory! Who can describe it?
What words, or forms, or symbols can reveal it?
Take suns and systems, take the twelve thousand millions of suns (suns alone) that are spread within the radii of the telescope; take all the suns and their circling and dependent systems, all the universe, and focus them into one colorful fusion of astral splendor; turn all the clouds into shekinal chariots; gather all the unnumbered and innumerable angels of the unnumbered worlds in our Father's house and concentrate the coruscation of their blinding beauty, the illumination of their kingly faces; take all the songs that have been sung by them over every repentant soul on earth; let the earth lift up its voice from all its hills and vales; let the sea bid "the white priesthood" of its waves to kneel on every shore and chant in foam written hallelujahs; let all the wide, measureless spaces, the endless, infinite extensions sound the music of their ever rolling spheres in such inwrought and perfect unison that earth and the inhabitants thereof shall hear the farthest and the faintest accent; then let the Son of God come forth in all His personal and essential glory now for the first time fully revealed, until sun and moon and stars shall pale and all beauty fade and there remain but one vision of visions to fill earth and Heaven: till His face and His alone be seen, and His voice be heard as the sound of many waters, mightier than all the sounding waters of all the seven seas when lifted and flung with crashing, tempestuous thunders on every rock‐bound shore; then let the Church, the saints of all the ages be seen with Him, reflecting Him as the moon reflects the sun, but when the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun is seven‐fold as the light of seven days; and then when all has been done and all words in all the best speech of man have been used to describe it, the very words themselves shall break and be as dust, and every phrase shall be as a beggar pleading for better garmenting and richer form to hide his nakedness; because no word can describe, no tongue can speak the glory of that wondrous hour when Jesus and His blood redeemed, spirit regenerated, and exalted Church shall come forth to reign.
This, and all the glories that are to follow are the consequence of the Blessed Hope.
But, not only does grace set the hope before us, it teaches us the attitude to take as Christians now, in respect to that hope.
It teaches us to be "expecting," to be ready and waiting in our day as though, at any moment, the Lord might come.
Human wisdom does not teach that.
Human wisdom and human conceit will give us calendars and dates and times, bidding us be busy with them and not with Him.
But we are to be "expecting" the Lord. That is the meaning of the word, "looking."
What utter betrayal of language, what sheer and shameful accusation it brings against the apostle, nay, against the Holy Ghost Himself who inspired the apostle, to say "expecting" this hope means we are to be looking for signs, for predicted events, studying the map, figuring out times and seasons, putting up tribulations and wars, even the thickness of a shadow between ourselves and the Coming of the Lord.
If "expecting" the blessed hope does not mean the Lord may come to make good that hope while we are expecting, then has the apostle deceived us willfully, cruelly, brutally, or himself has been helplessly deceived and the whole scheme and concept of the Blessed Hope falls to the ground as a worthless delusion and contemptible snare.
If the word, "looking," "expecting," means anything within the range and ream of human intelligence and decent, undeniable sincerity, it means—IMMINENCY.
It means, expecting the Lord Himself as the Hope which makes hoping for Him—blessed.
It means logically and legitimately living from day to day in the confidence and the hope He might come any day.
Grace teaches us to rise above every hindrance, every object that may be thrust in the way.
I knew a wife who waited for the coming of her husband, and when trains failed to bring him and time passed and wise people shook their heads and said it was no longer worth while to wait, she continued to wait and expect. He had bidden her to watch for his return any day. Love and hope and yearning desire for him taught her to wait and expect. And at last, in spite of all the clear deductions against his any day coming, he came at last and her expectation was fulfilled; not only fulfilled, but all the while she waited, and hoped and yearned and loved, there had deepened in her heart her sense of all he was to her, her need of him; so that, in the hour of fulfillment she was able to pour forth the long‐pent‐up wealth and worth of her waiting and expectant love.
Grace teaches us to hold that attitude toward the Blessed Hope
It teaches us to hold it as—a hope, not merely as a doctrine.
It is doctrine and is true whether you hold it or reject it; but grace will teach you to hold it as a hope; to hold it as a hope deep down in your very soul, hoping every day that in that day it may be realized for you.
He who treats it simply as a doctrine, soon loses it as a hope, and presently will be occupied in finding reasons why it will not come in his day, or must be delayed many days.
Listen to the teachers who deny it as an any day possibility or hope and you will find the thought of the Coming of the Lord does not affect or shape their daily lives.
They are simply doctrinaires, not those who mould and fashion their lives by daily hope.
But mark, I pray you, the benefit of this hope to those who hold it as such.
It is as an helmet; so it is written:
"But let us, who are of the day [Christians, saved people], be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation." (I Thessalonians 5:8)
What is the salvation for which as Christians, as saved people, we are to hope?
Surely, after having just written to the Thessalonians that they were "children of light" and therefore saved (as he says corroboratively, including himself with them, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,") (I Thessalonians 5:9) in speaking of the "hope" of salvation the apostle could not have intended to raise any question of uncertainty in respect to their present salvation.
What then does he mean by "hope of salvation?"
The answer is to be found in his epistle to the Romans. He says:
"Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand:" (Romans 13:11,12).
He is speaking or the salvation which will come in the Day of Christ; and as the day of Christ begins with the Coming of Christ for His Church, then the salvation hoped for is that which will take place at the Coming of Christ.
That salvation is not in respect to the soul, but—the body.
Salvation is threefold: for us, in us and upon us.
For us—on the cross.
In us—by regeneration.
Upon us—by the resurrection of the bodies of the Christian dead, and the transfiguration of the bodies of the Christian living.
This salvation of the body unto immortality is accomplished at the Coming of the Lord for His Church; and as the Coming of the Lord is—the blessed hope of the Church, then the Coming of the Lord to deliver, immortalize and save the bodies of those who form the Church is the salvation the apostle bids us to hope for, and which he declares is as an helmet.
You know the Greek and Roman helmet!
With that great high ridge running through the center of the casque the blow of sword or spear fell slanting and glanced away an inefficient, harmless stroke.
Just so I have this blessed hope as though there were an helmet on my head.
All sorts of blows come, questions and problems that cannot be solved and ever return, demanding and insisting on solution: the question of sin, of culture, of education, of life and death, of the being and character of God in the face of human sin, suffering and woe; a thousand askings that find no answer. Questions, which, if persisted in would crush the brain, break the heart and leave you mad with cursing, agony, and despair; but all these questions and their insidious poison strokes fall harmlessly on my head; for, at once, I answer, every question, every problem, every difficulty in life will be settled in the twinkling of an eye by the Coming of the Lord.
What hope have I when I look out upon all the mystery, misery, sorrow, anguish, shame, and wrong, and all the helplessness of man to meet and settle things?
You ask that?
When I see the costly breakdown and failure of government in the hand of man; when I see the rending and tearing to pieces of the banner of civilization and learn that culture is a thin veneer that for a moment hides the brute beast in human kind—what hope have I?
What hope have I when I see a world today soaked in blood and tears, and ghastly horror keeping vigil at the blackened hearthstones of one time happy homes?
What hope have I, you ask, in the midst of all this
THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
That is my hope, that is the one thing that will solve the problems and bring eternal rest for a tumult tossed and troubled world.
That is my hope and this hope the Holy Spirit writes is—blessed.
It is an helmet which saves my head, my brain, my heart from all the questioning, maddening blows, keeps me sound and sane, standing steadfast and with peace, even where conflicts rage.
Mark the benefit of holding this Coming of the Lord as an imminent fact and hope
It is written:
"And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." (I John 3:3)
You know if you found yourself in the presence of some one very courteous, very refined, of finished manners and discovered you were not so well equipped and furnished, when you retired to the privacy of your own home you would take yourself to strict account and determine when next you met you would seek to stand on equal plane. You would make an effort in that direction.
Hold this Coming of the Lord as an actual hope within your soul. Say within your inmost self you wish He would come; fall on your knees and pray; with the Spirit and the Bride say, "Come," lift up the closing prayer, the last recorded prayer of Holy Scripture: ". . . Even so, come, Lord Jesus;" (Rev. 22:20); do this and mean it sincerely, and sooner or later you will find that almost unconsciously and involuntarily you are seeking to purify yourself from evil thought and impulse, making whole-souled and earnest endeavor to be clean, to be true within, to live upon the Christly plane.
You put on your best garments for an expected guest.
Expect Christ and you will clothe yourself with holiness, with purity and truth.
Hold this Coming of the Lord as an actual hope and it will inspire you to redoubled service in His name.
If you wish Him to come, if you believe He might come at any time, you would not be content that He should find you doing nothing in His name. If you were an employee and wasted your employer's paid for time; if he came and found you using that time for yourself alone you would be discharged and put to shame. To be doing nothing when the Lord comes, using the time He paid for with His blood for yourself and not for Him, you would be filled with the sense of shame.
Hold this Coming as a hope, believe it really as the Word of God, as the Son of God Himself declares it to be—imminent, and you will be impelled to do all your hands find to do and with all your might.
This blessed hope is an incentive to work, to serve the Lord and a quickening impulse to seek and save the souls of men; in short to live, to make tremendous effort to live and manifest the life of Christ.
Where were you last night, you who profess to be a follower of Christ? Were you at the theatre, the dance, the card party; were you side by side with those who were not Christians and who, from your conversation did not know or even imagine you were Christians?
What if the Lord should come tomorrow? Who can measure the horror of awakening that would be yours to see these very friends and pleasure companions shut out to the endless woe and you saved in spite of all your treasonable inconsistency because the Lord kept faith with the covenant of the blood you once had claimed?
But—listen—listen well—not all who profess, not all who say Lord, Lord, are saved. There are things which accompany salvation and those who are really saved have more or less of those accompanying things. It might be, after all, in spite of your profession your outbreaking inconsistency would prove that you were a mere professor and not an actual possessor; that if the Lord should come and you had not repented and changed your way you would be left behind with your godless company to judgment and to woe.
O, if you are true, if you are genuine, if you really wish the Lord to come, if you believe the time is short, it will move you to go forth, speak the Word in season and lead the unsaved, the thoughtless and the lost to a seeking Saviour's feet.
And now listen to me!
One of the joys I anticipate in that hour when I shall be caught up to meet the Lord is the joy of meeting those who have heard me preach, who have believed the Word and have been made one with a living Christ.
In the long years of my ministry thousands have thronged before me. What joy if I shall meet them and have them tell me that some simple word I uttered in the Master's name helped to turn their faces to the God I serve.
But—there is sometimes a horror of blackness and great darkness comes over my soul as I look, as I do tonight, at this great throng and ask myself the question—"Will all these meet me at the throne of peace and light inside the upper city's gates? or when I shall sit in associated judgment with the saints of God in that last and awful judgment hour at the Great White Throne, will I see some such as you who have heard me preach? shall I see you stand with downcast eyes and speechless lips, and shall I hear above you sound the awful word—"Depart?"
O, it is that I cannot bear to think upon and I plead with you here and now to arouse before too late.
If Christ the Lord came tonight you would be left out to certain woe; for you there would be, indeed, no gleam of hope, only one long midnight of starless despair.
Turn then to him who bids you come, He who in rare and gracious words has said: ". . . him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37); who no matter what you may have been or done will never say you nay.
Turn and claim the shelter of the blood and with those of us who hold the Blessed Hope, and hold it as a hope, rise to meet Him when He comes and be with Him and the happy company of the gathered saints forever more.
Let grace then save you now, let grace teach you how to live and let grace lead you day by day to be "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
From Ten Sermons on the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ by I. M. Haldeman. New York: Charles C. Cook, 1917.