The Second Coming: The Consummation Of The Incarnation
The Scripture which suggests this theme you will find in Matthew 24:14: “This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come,” and then shall the consummation come, for the word there means “the climaxing of things,” heading up of things. The Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, and then shall the consummation come, just as we read in the prophecies of the Old Testament.
We need in these days to add more emphasis to the supremacy of God and what sin means, and get as far away as possible from the awful heresy that sin has no reality, that it is simply an hallucination of the mortal mind. The consummation comes at the second coming of Christ; and as you read the New Testament or the Old Testament either, it is difficult to get the meaning clear. We read one prophecy with reference to the suffering Christ, another with reference to the reigning Christ, and then we see all through the Scriptures a reference to the coming of Christ in the glory linked always with the suffering.
It seems to me the Old Testament prophets looked on the coming of Christ as a complete whole. He came to suffer, He is coming to reign, and they did not consider Him having come at all in fullness until He comes the second time in glory. The vision of the Old Testament prophet was the suffering Christ linked with the reigning Christ, so that we have two schools, one maintaining that only the suffering Christ was revealed and the others only the triumphant Christ, whereas to the prophetic vision the reconsummated Christ was the Christ of the cross, rising from the dead, dwelling spiritually in the hearts of His people, and then dwelling with them in Glory.
You will find the program of the Lord suggested at least in the Acts of the Apostles first chapter and eighth verse, “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” We usually stop there and do not read the ninth verse, “And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, ‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into the heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.’” “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” “Ye shall be witnesses unto me.” The second part of the program is the coming of the Lord. Just as you see Him go up you will see Him come back. The Church is to bear her witness, and in the future the reserves of heaven will be called out, Christ will come back in person and there will be a consummation. Everything connected with this dispensation will head up in the coming kingdom.
There are three certainties about the second coming of Christ. The first is that He will return in person. “The Lord Himself shall descend,” as if the Spirit thought, “Well, now, somebody will say that does not refer to the Lord, it refers to the coming of the Spirit,” so He emphasizes the Lord Himself shall descend. “This same Jesus which was taken up shall come,” as if the Spirit thought again, “Now somebody will say that it means somebody else or something else.” This same Jesus with the glorified body He now has, shall return.
In death we go to Christ, “Depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” “The time of my departure is at hand.” In the second coming He comes to us. The two things are distinct. At death to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The second coming is the Lord present with us in His glory. If you will just read the verses of Scripture that refer to the coming of the Lord, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come again,” and put “death” in the place of it, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, and death will come and take you to myself.” There is no hope in that at all. If you supply “death” for the coming of the Lord you give gloom rather than hope and joy. It is taught that the Lord Jesus will come again in person.
The second certainty is that nobody knows when He will come. Neither the day, nor the hour, nor the year, nor the century, nor the millennium; nobody on this Earth knows. Jesus in His humanity did not know when He would come back again. The angels in heaven do not know. “In such a time as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” When a man says, “I think He will come back in the next five or six years,” that is good proof that He will not, for, “In such a time as ye think not,” He is coming. The Scripture says, “The time ye think not.” It is a certainty that He is coming back in person, and it is just as certain that nobody knows when He will come. Setting a time is wise beyond what is written, and an immense amount of harm has been done by setting a time.
I heard a man at one time an editor of the Christian Herald, in London, deliver an address on “The Ages,” as he marked them out. He had a lot of pictures hanging around the wall that would give you the nightmare, of the scenes depicted in Revelation—those awful pictures—and he told us Christ was coming back in 1901 and had it all calculated to the finest point. He had figured it up to his own satisfaction that a certain politician and statesman was to be the anti-Christ. Many people in England thought Napoleon was anti-Christ because he gave them so much trouble. I met the teacher four or five years after and said, “I heard you lecture in 1898 on the second coming of our Lord, and you informed us that Christ was coming back to Earth in 1901 and that that man was anti-Christ.” He dropped his head and said, “We grow wiser as we grow older.”
He May Come Any Time
He was not wise enough not to deliver that lecture, for many people were greatly confused and no little harm was done when he set the date, and he was proven to be mistaken. You will find a lot of folks now in one way or another setting a date for the coming of the Lord. Nobody knows. He is coming back in person, and nobody knows when, and He may come any time. I am sure of that; but there shall be a departure from the faith, a great apostasy. There may be things to intervene, but the Lord can bring the things to pass so quickly that still we may look upon Him as coming any time. I am willing for Him to smash all my plans up for that evangelistic movement next October. I would rather He would come, than to preach to London to 100,000 people. His coming will do more to settle all the problems of life, and to bring in the glory, than any amount of preaching can do. Let us remember these three certainties: He is coming in person; nobody knows when; and He may come any day.
The coming will be a consummation. That is our special study this morning. It will be visible, it will be sudden and unexpected. It seems to me that it will be quiet and not spectacular; that the Lord will come at first for His people, and then when the Church is snatched away in what we call the Rapture, there will come the time of the Great Tribulation, with the Church of Christ out of the world. Just how long that will be it is difficult to determine. Some take the prophecy of David and think it is seven years and then Christ will come back with His saints, coming first for his saints and catching them up, and then coming back with His saints for the inauguration of the Millennium.
The Consummation Of The Mission Of The Church
Let us keep in mind this morning that the coming of Christ is the consummation, “Christ the firstfruits, afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end (or the consummation) when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” First the consummation of the mission of the Church. The Church has its mission. Some Bible students refer to it as “the parenthesis of faith.” Christendom is a failure, but the Church of Jesus, the real spiritual body of our Lord, will perform its mission.
I believe the Church is growing better and better; while the world about us that rejects Jesus is growing worse and worse. The two processes grow together. I have seen signs of human depravity, such as I could not describe to you, and I believe if London or Chicago were destroyed by the eruption of a volcano, and one hundred and fifty years afterward excavators would come and dig out the signs of iniquity, the Pompeiians would be horrified; but there are heaps of spiritual men and women that have received the light from God and are growing stronger and stronger. The real spiritual Body of Christ was never stronger than today, and those who reject Jesus Christ were never worse. No matter what we learn of culture, the rejection of the great light causes hardening.
What is the mission of the Church? Acts 15:14, “Simeon hath declared how to take out of them a people for His name.” The word “ecclesia” means “the gathered out ones.” The mission of the Church is to gather out from the Gentiles or from the nations—to pick out a people for His name. That doesn’t mean the conversion of the world to Christ before the Lord comes. There would be no need of His coming if that were the case. If the world is all to be converted before the coming of the Lord what is the need of His coming? We would be ready then to go to Him in a body. We would just all be lifted up to heaven at once. If by the efforts of the Church everybody, if the world is to be converted to Jesus Christ, then why should He come? Why not just lift us up to heaven and start into glory? But the Lord will come in the midst of the darkness as it was in the days of Noah, things getting worse and worse, the darkness getting denser and denser. In the midst of the darkness He will come for His faithful people, and the mission of the Church is to gather out from all the nations, by its testimony, a spiritual body for Him, that will be ready when He comes for the setting up of the kingdom. “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” That is the mission, and after the Gospel is preached for a testimony, then cometh the consummation.
Our business is to take Christ to the people; and God’s business is to bring people to Christ. No man has the power to bring a soul to Christ; but he can take Christ to the soul, and the Spirit will regenerate and open the heart to receive. “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It seems to me clear what the rock means there. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father in heaven.” “On this rock (the rock of this revelation) I will build my church, and the gates of hell,” not the marching hosts of hell—the gates are stationary things, where the city council met in ancient times. It was the place of authority, the parliament of the people, the gates of the city. Lot seems to have been mayor, sitting over the council in the gates of Sodom. He, by a life of compromise, got into that high position on Earth, a very low position before God. The conflict of the Spirit is going on in the world against these gates of authority—one “gate” in a library, another in a college, seminary, university, and those places and those men that claim to be authoritative. Why, over in England there is such a respect for a foreigner that a good many people just ask, “Does Mr. So-and-so believe this?” He is an authority on science, and if he says this is true because he is an authority on science, or law or the Bible. He is a scientific authority, he occupies the principal place in Cambridge University, or Oxford, or London University—he believes the authority. It is the gate of hell fighting against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, these places of authority; but the promise is that they shall not prevail. “On this rock (the rock of my revelation) I will build my Church.”
It is a Church taken out from the people, and it is going to perform its mission. It will go on growing along the line on which it has been commissioned, until the consummation shall come in the person of the King, and then shall be consummated the redemption of the body and the hopes of God’s people. “We shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Acts 3:20: “and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Turn back and you will find that the prophets have pronounced a doom upon the lost. A favorite text of Millennium Dawnism is that there is to be a restoration of everything, and no hell. Gypsy Smith says, “People are in poor business trying to put a bottom in the bottomless pit; they had just better leave it as it is.” You read back among the prophets and you will find it is only “the restoration of all things” for those in Christ. The 23rd verse says, “Every soul which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people,” but “they that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” The consummation of the hopes of God’s people will come with the appearing of the King, and I am sure you have studied the resurrection body. Those living shall be transfigured, and they shall not anticipate them that sleep, because those in the grave shall be raised first. They are all caught up to meet the Lord in the Glory.
The Consummation Of Hope For The Body
The resurrection body is the consummation of hope for the body. In one place the children of the resurrection are neither marrying nor giving in marriage, like the angels, children of the resurrection. We are now children of the crucifixion, children of the cross. We are saved, not by the second coming of Christ, but by the first. It is not our attitude toward the coming King that atones for sin, it is our attitude toward the Lamb of God that bears away our sins; and people may be ever so confused and mistaken about the second coming and yet be trusting in the Christ who came and died and rose from the dead; and it is a pity if you get wild on the second coming of Christ so that you forget to preach the blood and the atonement. Let the blood be in the front all the time. We are now the children of the crucifixion; then the children of the resurrection.
What does that mean? We become partakers of the divine nature in the new birth. We will be partakers of the divine nature and the human nature, too, the glorified human nature of Christ, when we come into the resurrection time—children of the resurrection. We will have the same kind of body that Jesus had between His resurrection and His ascension—a spiritual body. It is a body, but a spiritual body. The body of Jesus came up. He ate honey and fish to show them that it was a real body, flesh and bones. Spirit does not have flesh and bones; and you can take it for what it is worth that Christ poured out His blood on the cross. The blood is the life here, the spirit the life there. His resurrection body was a spiritual body, exalted by the spirit, controlled by the spirit—no sensuality, no selfishness—the temple of the Spirit completely. That is the resurrection body, the consummation which will come at the second coming of our Lord, and the body fully controlled by the Spirit is like the body of our Lord—not subject to gravitation, to natural law. When the door was shut He appeared in their midst. As they were eating He disappeared without opening the door. In His ministry before the cross He walked and became weary and sat down to rest; but in this resurrection body we need never be weary. I will be so glad when I get a body like that; and I am looking forward to the time when I can travel and go without an aeroplane, when the real body shall be so controlled by the Spirit as to be beyond the limitations and the confinements that are here. The children of the resurrection! Oh, it is a glorious thought that when we get rid of sin, and this consummation comes, we shall be exactly like our Lord in that respect.
The Consummation Of Christian Character
Then we have the consummation of Christian character. “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” That is the proof text of what I have said just now—going deeper than the body into the spiritual nature. We shall be like Him. “The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, to the end that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we see Him as He is we shall become perfect, like Him. The holiness of Chirst in all its perfection will be ours then.
Then comes the consummated victory—victory over Satan and the world powers. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” Not annihilation—Oh, no, “destruction” is defined as “absence from the Lord.” So far as I know there isn’t a Greek word that means annihilation. It seems to have been a thought absolutely alien to the Greek mind. Destruction means the wreck and ruin of things, to be sure, “with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” Not blotting out of existence; but the destruction caused by the separation from the Lord. That is for the wicked, “From the glory of His power when He shall come to be glorified in His saints and all them that believe. Then shall the man of sin be revealed.”
I wish we had time to study the anti-Christ. He is referred to five times in the Gospel of John. “You have heard that anti-Christ shall come. Even now there are many anti-Christs.” There is a crop of them; for many deceivers are entered into the world who confess not that Christ is come in the flesh. Everyone that does not confess that Jesus Christ came down from heaven and became incarnate, is of anti-Christ. “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God, and this is that spirit of anti-Christ whereof you have heard that it should come and even now is already in the world.” “He is the anti-Christ that denies the Father and the Son.” The one that will not confess Christ is anti-Christ, and the one that denies Christ belongs to anti-Christ. Now this anti-Christ is going to head up in the man of sin.
Just as the Gospel age will find its consummation through the Church in the coming of Christ in the Glory, so the powers of darkness will head up the mission of anti-Christ, the denial of the deity of Christ, the refusing to confess Christ, the exalting of humanity to the place of divinity. These men of darkness will continue until by and by some one individual will appear as the representative of it all, and shall be crowned as the king of all. He is to be destroyed by the Lord when he comes in the Glory. That man of sin is certainly an individual, if I understand the Scripture—the man of sin, the product of forces that destroy; all these forces head up in this great individual of the future. He will deify himself. “He sitteth in the temple of God.” He will exalt himself above all others and claim divine honors. “He exalteth himself above all that is called God and that is worshiped.” If you will follow out the thought from the Scriptures you will find it confirmed that the anti-Christ is a great movement through the ages that will head up in the man of sin, to be destroyed by the coming of our Lord.
As to the practical part of it, let me say this, 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10, “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” I hope you are not a two-thirds Christian. I hope you are a whole Christian; that you have turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God—and the other third—“to wait for His coming.” It is a good thing to be a two-thirds Christian and turn from idols to God, but let us be whole Christians, trusting in the Christ who died, and looking forward to the Christ who is to come; and then let us try to hasten His coming. How? Preach the Gospel to every creature for a witness to all nations. We should be evangelistic if for no other purpose than to fulfill the conditions by which the Lord may come in glory, and then seek to make it more glorious. More glorious for Him and for you. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” What is our hope, our joy, our crown of rejoicing? The glory of the angels, the glory of heaven’s music are only you whom we have won to Jesus.
Oh, if you want to have a glorious time at the coming of the Lord, win a lot of souls, win people to Christ. Let them pass into the glory before you grow older, before He shall call you Home. It will be a glorious time for you if you meet those at the second coming whom you have won to trust Him and love Him as the Lamb of God.