The most momentous event in the world's history, next to the death and resurrection of the Son of God, is about to take place; and the world is as utterly unprepared for it as were the people in Noah's day when the flood came and destroyed them all (Matt. 24:38,39). It is the event which will consummate the joy of the true Christian, and seal the doom of every gospel-hearer who is a gospel-rejecter, and therefore calls for the serious attention of everyone. It is this:
The Lord Jesus Christ Is Coming Back!
He May Be Here at any Moment!
He May Come Today!
Now this is not a foolish assertion that He will come today. Nor is it the setting of a specified time for Him to come, which would be equally foolish and wrong; yet many do it. It is the sober statement of a fact, to arouse souls from their carelessness and indifference, and point them to the clear testimony of God's holy Word that the Lord Jesus is coming again, and may be here today. My reader, are you ready to meet Him? Do not shirk the question. Face it and settle it. The issues that hang upon it are eternal. There is no room or time for trifling.
"I don't believe it!" says one, quite hotly. "I never heard of such a thing!" says another, quite indignantly. "It cannot possibly be true," says a third, "or it would be preached by all true Christian ministers!" While others say, "Oh! that string has been harped on for years, and He has not come yet." And thus in various ways do they verify the above statement, "the world is utterly unprepared for it," yea, even the religious world. Well, it is true, all the same, and as certain as sunrise! Neither unbelief nor ignorance can make it other than what it is—
A Fact! An Absolute Certainty!
And no excuse will exonerate you, my reader, from the responsibility of searching the New Testament in order to verify it for yourself and be found ready to meet the Lord when He does come.
Make no mistake as to this! And think not it is a mere sectarian theory propounded by certain individuals who are termed "Second Adventists." It is not that, I assure you; neither is it a mere personal opinion which may be taken for what it is worth. Nor is it a thing to be spiritualized or explained away, as many try to do. No, no! It is the sober teaching of Scripture. And when once it is received by faith into the heart in the power of the Holy Spirit, and held there as a living hope—nor a mere doctrine in the head—it will be found to be the most blessed and glorious truth revealed in God's Word for the believer's comfort and joy, next to knowing Christ Himself, and will become a powerful controller of the daily life of him who thus receives it.
We shall view it in two ways. (1) What it means for the saints (and remember all the true children of God are saints, and called such in Scripture (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). And (2) how it will affect the unsaved ones who will be left behind. But first, just let me say a brief word as to the work of Christ, which He accomplished for God and man at His first coming, to assure our hearts before we look at His second coming.
We read, "But now, once in the end of the world (or 'consummation of the ages'—New Translation) hath He appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). At the Cross the sin question was raised and settled forever by the death of the Lord Jesus. If not, it never can be, for Christ will never die again. The next time He comes it is "apart from sin unto salvation" (Verse 28). That is, He will come, not to take up the sin question again, but to give to His people—whether His earthly people, the Jews, or His heavenly people, the Church—the full result of His atoning sacrifice, as purposed by God for each.
When the Lord Jesus was on the Cross, all the holy nature and character of God was displayed in His dealing in judgment with sin in the Person of His Son, as well as His infinite love in giving His Son. Besides that, all His claims were met, and the Divine judgment borne by the Saviour when He drank that awful cup in order that God might be glorified about the whole question of sin which had so dishonored Him; and a way made whereby poor sinners could be righteously saved. Nothing more remains to be done. God is satisfied, yea, infinitely glorified. The resurrection, ascension, session, and supremacy of the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God (1 Peter 3:21,22) is God's attestation of His satisfaction with the Person and sacrifice of Jesus; and the Holy Ghost come down is "the witness to us" (Heb. 10:15), as well as "dwelling in us" (1 Cor. 6:9), with all which that entails. Bye-andbye there will be brought in, as the final and full result of it, "a new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 11:1), and God will find His eternal rest and pleasure therein. Glorious prospect!
Then for the individual believer, he is privileged to look back to the Cross and see the perfect and permanent settlement, and putting away of all his sins, and hear the Divine declaration, "their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). All were borne by Jesus "in His own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24), and believing, he is "justified from all things" (Acts 13:39). "Sin in the flesh"—the old evil nature that produces the sins—was likewise "condemned" in the sacrifice of Christ (Rom. 8:3). So that sin, root and branch, has been effectually dealt with, and the believer is looked at as no longer "in the flesh," but "in the Spirit"; no longer "in Adam," but "in Christ"; and "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12); the indwelling Spirit being "the earnest of our inheritance" (Eph. 1:14); and giving us the present enjoyment of all Christian blessings, too numerous to mention here. Thus being set free in the liberty of the gospel, the thought of the speedy return of Him to whom we owe all for time and eternity, becomes the joy and delight of our hearts. It is Our Hope.
Now Scripture is just as clear and emphatic about the second coming of Christ as it is about His first coming, or any other great truth it sets forth. For example, God announced in the Old Testament that Christ would come, and He came. The very manner, as well as the place of His birth were foretold (Isa. 7:14, and Micah 5:2), and He came exactly as it was said. He was born of a virgin; and born at Bethlehem. God announced that Israel should be scattered among the nations if they refused to obey His Word (Deut. 28:36, 37; 1 Kings 9:6-9), and their history is a standing monument to the truth of that Word.
He has declared they shall be restored to their own land again, and He will do it (Jer. 33). "God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent; hath He said and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken and shall He not make it good?" (Num. 23:19). Did He perform His seven "I will's" in Exodus 6:6-8 and deliver them from Egypt? Surely He did. Then He will just as surely perform His twelve "I will's" in Jeremiah 32:36-44, when He "gathers them out of every land" (Psa. 107:1-3). But the Lord's return to earth is needed to make that good.
Take the three angelic announcements about Him in the New Testament, and observe how striking they are. (1) "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). Was it true? Why, it is an acknowledged historical fact, and brought to remembrance every Christmas Day. (2) "He is not here, He is risen" (Luke 24:6). This, likewise, is a recognized fact, remembered every Easter Sunday, and the very basis of Christianity (1 Cor. 15:14). (3) "He will so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). And this will be accomplished as surely as the other two. The New Testament opens with the announcement of His first coming (Matt. 1), and it closes with the announcement of His second coming (Rev. 22:20).
Then if we take the fact itself without distinguishing between the two stages of His coming, almost every book in the New Testament speaks of it, directly or indirectly. Indeed we might say every book, except the Epistle to Philemon, and the second and third Epistles of John. And this alone ought to open the eyes of all who profess to believe their Bible to the importance it has in the mind and revelation of God, and ought to have for us. In the two Epistles to the Thessalonians every chapter speaks of it. Read them and verify it for yourself. It is a touchstone which tests men's hearts. The evil servant says, "My Lord delays His coming" (Matt. 24:48). The scoffer says, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:4). The true Christian says, "Come Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20), and patiently waits His return (James 5:7,8).
When the Saviour came the first time, He came in humiliation, and was rejected and crucified. When He comes the second time it will be "in power and great glory." The first stage of that coming (for it has two stages) will be into the air only, and His saints will be secretly gathered together unto Him there (2 Thess. 2:1). This is usually spoken of as "The Rapture" (admittedly not a Scriptural word, but none the less a spiritual truth). How it will be effected is explained in 1 Thess. 4:16-18. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
After the Rapture has taken place and the saints are gone, the Lord will begin to deal with and take possession of the earth which is His (Psa. 2:8-9; Psa. 25:1), by the execution of judgment on the Christless and apostate sinners left behind. Reader, will you be among them? Those appalling judgments are set forth in the seals, trumpets, and vials in the Book of Revelation (Chapters 6, 8, 9, and 16), and the subsequent dealing with Satan, the Beast, and Antichrist who are cast into the lake of fire (chapters 19:20, and 20:10). They almost make one tremble to read them. And yet, awful thought! there may be those alive on the earth today, even readers of this pamphlet, rejecting the Saviour, spurning the mercy of God in Christ, who will have to endure those unparalleled horrors!
Then, on the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the Lord will come forth, and the second stage of His journey will commence. He will publicly appear "in power and great glory" (Matt. 24:39), surrounded by His heavenly hosts (Matt. 25:36; 2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 19:14), to deliver His earthly people the Jews (Zech. 12), execute vengeance on their enemies (Joel 3:2), and hush the groans of a groaning creation (Rom. 8:19-23). But let us keep clearly before our minds and hold it fast, that not one of these fearful judgments recorded in the book of Revelation, from chapter 6 to chapter 19, can possibly take place until the Church is taken away. And this surely is comfort for the Christian.
A mistake is made by many in confounding the Lord's coming for His saints with death. They think that when a Christian dies that is the Lord's coming—for him at least. Now that is quite a mistake. His coming is not death. It is the defeat of death. At death, the believer goes to be "with Christ" and such was the Apostle's desire (Phil. 1:23). The penitent thief went to be "with Christ" (Luke 23:43); so did the martyr Stephen (Acts 7:59); and so do all who "die in the Lord" (Rev. 14:13). But when that event takes place, for which all godly and scripturally taught hearts are waiting and longing, how different! It is the descent of the Lord Himself into the air, as we have seen already. Then the dead saints are raised first; the living saints are then changed (so if you are a Christian, dear reader, and alive when He comes you will not die, but be changed), and all are "caught up together." Not one company before the other—but together "in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air (that is to be the junction—the grand meeting-place), and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:16-18)—a different thing altogether from individuals dying and going to heaven. Turn to that passage and read it carefully;
As noted already, it is the defeat and complete overthrow of death; for "the dead shall be raised incorruptible," death cannot hold them; while the living saints will not die, death cannot claim them; they will be taken away without passing through the article of death, they will be changed (Phil. 3:20,21), "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52). It will be the fulfillment of the Lord's promise made to His disciples ere He left them. He said, "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 unto Myself: that where I am there ye may be also" (John 14:2,3). That promise has never yet been fulfilled. It is the event we are waiting for. The Lord did not say I will send for you; but I will come Myself. He is Himself coming back to receive us—not individually by death—but as a company—His own. Bear this in mind!
It is taught by some that when the Lord comes, only those Christians who are faithful and looking for Him will go; and the others will be punished for their unfaithfulness by being allowed to go through "the great tribulation" that follows the Rapture. One can only heave a great sigh of relief and say, Thank God that is not true. No, no! A thousand times no! Scripture teaches no such thing. It is "the dead in Christ" that rise, not some of them only. Then "we who are alive and remain" are to be changed, not some only. The Church, the body of Christ, is one (Eph. 4:4). You cannot divide the body. And to make part of the body suffer in the tribulation would be to divide the body, and make Christ suffer in His members judgment from God again. For the tribulation, remember, is God's judgment on apostacy, though He uses men as His instruments to execute it. It is simply unthinkable that any member of the body of Christ could thus suffer judgment from God. It is practically making a purgatory for unfaithful saints ere they can be with the Lord.
Besides, how unjust it would be to leave the living unfaithful ones to suffer, and allow the dead unfaithful ones to escape. For those who teach this doctrine allow that all the dead saints rise, irrespective of their previous conduct. But why this difference? No, no! We again say, it is the whole Church of God, and all the heavenly saints; all embraced in that precious sentence, "they that are Christ's (not some) at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:23). All are to be "caught up together" and ushered into the Father's house. It will be the greatest transformation scene in the world's history, and it may take place today.
A mistake has been made by many through incorrectly reading Hebrews 9:27, and inserting the word "all." It does not say "it is appointed unto all men once to die," but "unto men." It is the common lot of men as sinners. But Jesus has died and that alters everything; and as we have seen, those who believe in Him and are alive when He comes get the benefit of His death—will not die, but be changed. There were two men who went to heaven without dying, Enoch and Elijah, which proves all men do not die. And the Apostle in unfolding the mystery to the Corinthian saints says: "We shall not all sleep (or die); but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; [Note: "The last trump" is a Roman figure used in the military camp, and well known in the Apostle's day. It is said there were three calls. First, was to strike tents. Second, was to fall in. Third, called the last trump, was march. This makes the allusion very beautiful, for it supposes the saints all ready and waiting the signal to march. Only we shall not march. We shall be "caught up." The mighty power of God which raised Jesus, and took Him up will catch us up in like manner.] for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Nothing could be plainer than that. It is very remarkable, though a very awful thing, there are also two men mentioned in Scripture who go into the lake of fire without dying—the Beast and the Antichrist (Rev. 19:20). And "whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (verse 15). Is your name there, my reader? It not, you will have awful company. The minds of some of God's people are being governed by events in connection with this subject, and they think it is near on account of the happenings around. But that is wrong. Events, however startling in their seeming fulfillment of Scripture, belong to earth and have to do with the Lord's appearing to His earthly people for their deliverance. We (Christians) belong to heaven, and are simply waiting for the Lord to take us there, and events have no place in connection with our calling and hope. The Lord's last word was "quickly"—"Surely I come quickly" (Rev. 22:20), and it may take place while your eyes run from side to side of this page. Are you ready for
The Christian, then, has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), and a heavenly hope (Col. 1:5). He waits not for death, though he may die, but for God's Son from heaven (1 Thess. 1: 10). He is to be ever on the watch (Mark 13:34-37), because the Lord may come at any moment. The Rapture of the saints will take place suddenly. There will be no premonitory sign to herald its approach. It will simply happen. And the world will wake up in consternation to find the saints gone—vanished!
This "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13), if received into the heart, has a sanctifying effect on the saint, a stimulating effect on the servant, and a sustaining effect on the sufferer. Let it in and prove it. Jesus is coming as "The Bright and Morning Star" for the Christian before the day dawns; and that is what characterizes the New Testament. It opens and closes with the Star (Matt. 2 and Rev. 22). The sun is what characterizes the Old Testament, and Jesus, as "the Sun of Righteousness," ushers in the day of millennial blessing for the poor world, and for the down-trodden Jew, and it opens and closes that book (Gen. 1 and Mal. 3).
What It Will Mean for Those Left Behind
We must now glance at the subject in its connection with the world. When the Rapture takes place it will startle the world! Every country under heaven will be affected by it, for there is no country where there are not some true believers to be found and who will be "caught up," and missed by those who are left. The necessity brake will be applied to the wheels of the world machine everywhere, bringing it to a sudden stop, for a time at least. Manufacture, commerce, travel—all will be held up. It must be so. How will it be possible for them to continue when thousands upon thousands of the operators have suddenly vanished! Not to speak of the probable fearful and fatal accidents that will happen by the sudden removal of some in charge of machines of various kinds on the earth, in the air, and on the sea, leaving them to take care of themselves. It is appalling to think of, and God will allow it. The day of grace will have ended.
It will be a sudden, quiet, unseen vanishing of every child of God. They will be missed from homes, factories, shops, offices, and everywhere, and the separations will be eternal. Solemn thought! No one will see them go. No one saw the Lord Jesus rise, and no one will see the dead saints rise. No one saw the Lord ascend except the few disciples He led out as far as Bethany to see it (Luke 24:50; Acts 1:9), and no one will see the saints taken up. [Note: Even as to "the shout," no unsaved ones will understand it even if they hear it. When the Father spoke to the Lord, the people thought it thundered, but they understood not the voice (John 12:28,29). And so also in Acts 22:9. The saints will hear it, understand it, and respond to it.] Think of the awfulness of being left! May God awaken souls who may read this to the reality of these things, and lead them to "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). Nothing else can save them.
Yes, indeed! The world will awake some day, and it may be soon, to the surprise of their lives! One can imagine their amazement and agitation when they miss their friends! And how the newspapers after much trouble will appear with large headlines:
Sudden and Extraordinary Disappearance of Thousands
Messages From Other Centers All Over the Country,
and Cablegrams From Abroad, State the
Same Occurrence Has Happened There!
What Can It Mean?
It means that God has interfered at last and taken away His saints, and closed the door of mercy forever for those who have heard and refused the Gospel. Their day is past! Their doom is sealed! For them there is no salvation. Need we wonder? Look at the state of the world today! See how it has drifted away from God! Neither the horrors of war nor the noisome pestilence with its thousands of victims, emptying homes and filling the graveyards, seem to have had any sobering effect on the community at large to lead them to repentance; and they continue in their guilty forgetfulness of God. And yet, O wonderful thought! the long-suffering of God lingers over it still; "not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9,15). Marvellous indeed! But it will end!
They have shut God completely out of their lives, and gone in for pleasure and profit as they did of old (Luke 17:26-30). The desecration of the Lord's Day for all manner of sport, and week-end parties and seaside excursions, etc., leaving almost empty churches except where there is much music and singing and little gospel; all testify to the condition of people's souls in relation to God, and leave them in the dark and in their sins to be awakened, when too late, by the cold icy grasp of death, or the Rapture of the saints leaving them behind for judgment both here and hereafter. Awful thought! Yet still they refuse to believe it and escape.
What excitement there will be when it does take place! How easy to imagine what it will be like in the light of present-day procedure. Demands for public inquiry, and the fullest information to allay the timid ones. Probably special commissions will be set up, and scientists appealed to, to solve the riddle of the mysterious disappearances, while the newspaper editors will no doubt do their best to allay the fears and agitation of the public, who will be 'phoning and rushing hither and thither in their excitement to find out what has become of their relatives, friends, neighbors, employees, or employers, as the case may be.
Poor, poor world! What a spectacle it presents when away from God even now, though there are present restraints which hinder the slumbering forces of wickedness giving vent to themselves! What will it be when those are removed, and they are given up to their own lawlessness and Satan's delusions? Some few there will be among them here and there, paralyzed with fear, and stricken with remorse at their own folly in rejecting the Saviour, and not being ready for His coming, who could tell them it means the Lord has come and taken away His people; but they would be laughed to scorn, or worse, and they know it, and will probably remain silent.
Today there is a restraining power on the earth which keeps the brake on lawlessness and wickedness, saying, as it were, "thus far shalt thou go and no farther" (2 Thess. 2:7). That power is the presence of God the Holy Ghost in the Church. His presence makes the saints the "salt of the earth," and preserves the world from complete corruption, yet the world knows it not. When the saints are "caught up," the Holy Ghost will depart with them, and what will it be like then? What a pandemonium it will become! Satan will be cast out of heaven, and will come down to earth, having great wrath because he knoweth his time is short (Rev. 12:19). He will have almost unlimited power over the whole world. Alas for the godless mass then!
There can be no doubt Satan will begin his deceptions immediately after the Rapture, and inspire the scientists, and commissioners, and editors, and enable them to invent and circulate plausible scientific reasons for the sudden disappearance of the vanished saints, in order to allay the agitation of the timid and deceive the whole apostate mass (2 Thess. 2:11) until the excitement dies down on seeing that no further disappearances have taken place. Then they will resume their godless and mad rush to sudden and eternal destruction (1 Thess. 5:3).
Think not that all this is nothing but the purest imagination set forth to frighten people. But even though some of it be, it is founded upon what God has revealed, and is not a mere cobweb spun out of the human brain. Listen again to what Scripture says, and Scripture cannot lie.
"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work (we can see it on every hand), only He who now letteth (or hindereth) will let (or hinder) until He be taken out of the way (that is the Holy Spirit). And then shall that wicked (or lawless One) be revealed (the Antichrist) whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming. Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power, and signs, and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure "(2 Thess. 2:7-12).
Here, then, is God's announcement and warning before your eyes, my reader, if you never saw it before. That is what awaits the Christ rejectors after the Lord has taken away His saints, and the Antichrist comes on the scene. What if you should be in it? Wake up, dear soul! Wake up! The Lord is waiting and willing to save you just now, tomorrow may be too late. Flee to Him at once. Humble yourself at His feet. Confess to God your sins, and trust Jesus as your own personal Saviour. You have no time to lose. He may come today. If you are unsaved, you will be left behind to endure that pandemonium on earth, engineered by that hellish trinity of evil—the Devil, the Beast and the Antichrist (Rev. 13). Read that chapter carefully. It is a frightful outlook for unsaved souls. The horrors of France, Belgium, and other places in the late war; and the worse horrors and abominations (if worse could be) of Bolshevism in Russia and elsewhere, furnish an idea of what it will be then. Yet the unsaved run the risk of all that by their rejection of Christ as their Saviour.
Again I ask, dear reader, are you ready to meet Him? Remember salvation is "not of works" (Eph. 2:9). Reformation is not what is wanted. It is salvation you need—a new birth (John 3)—a new life. And this is only to be had by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Not merely believing about Him, but believing Him, trusting Him to save you. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36). His precious blood, shed for us on the Cross, "cleanseth us from all sin." Nothing else will, nothing else can. And it is the cleansed ones, the saved ones, who will be "caught up" to meet Him when He comes—no others! He may come today. God grant, if He does, you may be among those who will rise to meet Him, and be "ever with the Lord."
From Meat in Due Season: Sermons, Discourses and Expositions of the Word of Prophecy by Arno C. Gaebelein. New York: Arno C. Gaebelein, Inc., [19--?].
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