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and it is that which, in our Christian history, may next
The Lord may come at any moment, and, however the world may disbelieve it, the saints long absent from their Lord will see Him in the heavens, and will be caught up to meet Him.
If I am now speaking to any who has been buffeted by trials—and where is there a believer of any standing or experience who has not gone through many depths and vicissitudes, perhaps of temporal, but surely of spiritual trial ?—if I am speaking to such, I would say, Let not your minds be inordinately occupied with what is gone, left for ever behind you, nor yet with what is now present with you, but with what the Apostle refers to, when he says, “ Ye show what manner of entering in we had unto you, how ye turned from dumb idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven.” Paul could have said, I did not compromise any truth; I did not keep back any hope concerning the saints. Ye know my manner of entering in unto you, and how, as the result of the word preached,
ye turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.
In the fourth chapter he had been telling these disciples that the Lord would descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, or of a chief messenger, and the trump of God, and that on the arrival of the message from His lips, the dead in Christ should rise first, and that those who were alive and remained till the coming of the Lord should not prevent or precede those that were asleep, but were to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so they would be for ever with the Lord. Then, as if in his statement of things he had turned a mighty corner where other truths would break on his view, he adds, “ But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord”-a day subsequent to that of which
he had been speaking—“s0 cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say peace and safety, sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.'
It is thus we see what were these times and seasons ? I have often said that properly we have no dispensation, that we come in between the dispensations. We stand between the prophets and patriarchs, who looked for a reigning Messiah, on the one hand, and the time when the earth will see that Messiah in millennial glory, on the other. It is during this interlude that we have our place. We are not of the Jewish dispensation-nor are we of the millennium. We have not been looking for a temporal Messiah, nor are we to be of that earthly kingdom over which He will reign. When He comes in that kingdom, we are to come with Him. When He appears in glory to take it, we shall appear with Him in glory.
Says Paul, there is no need to write of times and seasons to you. Saints had heard of times of glory and of joy, times of millennial splendour on the earth; also, as preceding such times, times of great tribulation.
In the twenty-fourth of Matthew our Lord shows what would be the character of that time on earth which would lie between the present and His public coming to the world. This He does in answer to the questionWhat shall be the sign of Thy presence and of the full end of the age ?
The disciples had found, him sitting on the Mount of Olives, and being anxious, as we ourselves would have been, to know the character of the future, they asked Him. In his reply He tells them—and it is here from the lips of Him who knew, not in the mere conjectures of men that we get to know what is to come in the future—that there would be wars and rumours of wars, that nation would rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, that there would be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places; that such would be the beginning—not of a better age -not of a millennium_but “ of sorrows." For then, instead of His disciples making the best of this world, or being at rest in it, He says of them :-" They shalí
“ deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.”
After this, at eleventh verse, He says there shall be false prophets, and the love of many shall wax cold, but that the good news shall be proclaimed in all the world for a testimony (its longed-for conversion not being yet), and that then shall the end of the age, or dispensation, arrive; at that end, as given in detail in last chapters of Zechariah, Jerusalem (the Jews having been gathered to their own land) will be besieged, the abomination of desolation, Antichrist, the man of sin, will take possession, and a great tribulation ensue, such as never has been since the beginning of the world. And then, immediately after the tribulation, we have what? Millennium ? No. Peace ? No. But that of which my chapter treats—the coming to the earth, as we believe, of the Son of Man.
But these latter, He speaks of as a day—the day of the Lord, which day comes in as all other days come, by first dealing with night, and displacing its darkness, and then itself to reign. The coming of that day will be solemn, dreadful, sudden : “Ye, yourselves, know perfectly, that the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night.” A thief comes suddenly, a thief gives no notice of his coming ; so the Lord gives no notice other than this testimony of His love, that is, to the world, a sinful world, lying in darkness, and loving to have it so. But 66 ye,” says Paul, are not in dark ness that that day should overtake you as a thief.” As the Lord, on the plains of Mamre, told Abraham beforehand the doom coming on Sodom, so, in His word, hath He told us of the doom coming on this present evil age. He has also told us of His coming for us. He says to His disciples in the fourteenth of John, “I go to prepare a place for you, and, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there ye may be also."
Accordingly those who have owned Him during His rejection, and who form the Church, which is His body," would be first taken, and were not to look for judgment with this world, were not to look for the tribulation coming on the world, but are delivered out of it: “ Who hath delivered us," says Paul, “ from the wrath to come.” The apostle John saw some in holy vision—a great multitude who came up out of the great tribulation. They, therefore, had been in it, but we of the present are to wait for His Son from heaven, who hath delivered us from the wrath to
Do you now understand? At least we ought, if we are as enlightened as were these converted idolaters. They were in all the gloom, not only of nature, but of a dark pagan mythology, when Paul first preached to them. But when the apostle opened up to them these wondrous truths he could, indeed, commend them, as if he had said, “ Ye know that when I taught you, and ye received, the truth, ye turned from idols to serve the living God, and to wait for His Son from heaven." But, going on to speak of the coming of the Son of Man in judgment on the world, the apostle says, (third verse,) " For when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” Now, we know that the world is unthinking of this, the world does not believe it at all; it is going on with its various interests,-parliamentary interest, government interest, the interest of commerce, the interest of science, city interests, money
interests, and domestic interests-arranging for marriages, arranging for the settlement of property, planning and arranging for the future. The world does not believe that sudden destruction is to come upon it. The world is going on as it always did, as it did in the days of Sodom, and as it did in the ante-deluvian age, when they were eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, until the flood came and took them all
away." Said the Lord, “ As the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” Ah ! then He will reveal Himself in all His great power from heaven, having His messengers of power with Him. Not as of old, will those messengers hymn of peace and good-will, but, with their Lord, will be clothed with flaming fire, taking vengeance-oh, that word VENGEANCE!-on all them that know not God, and believe not the Gospel, who will suffer destruction, to endure for ever, from the face of the Lord and the glory of His power. Could a time be more awful, or more to be dreaded ? And, let me say, this truth of Christ's coming to the world thus does not rest on any judgment or opinion of ours. We do not submit it as a question for your opinion; we tell it to you as a fact—we tell it to you as a truth, that the Lord will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God. Speak we of the times and seasons! This will be one of those mighty dreaded seasons, when the rejected Christ will take vengeance on this present evil age for having rejected Himwhen He will deal with darkness, bringing swift destruction on the world of the ungodly when the lamp of this accepted time will be put out, and the dark and terrible day of the Lord come. To you who would know what, in the order of things, is to follow this judgment, I need only name such passages as Zec. xiv., Ps. lxxii., Is. xxv., 1x., lxi.; also, Is. iv., in all which it is clearly shown that, after the earth's long