Part 10 - Questions of Interest Relating to the Coming of Christ and His Reign on Earth

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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“However plain some of the passages appear that speak of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of its being our duty to watch, and be ready to meet Him at all times, there are other passages that do not seem to accord with this expectation. Take for instance Luke 21:2828And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28): “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Here it is when certain things begin to happen, your redemption draweth near. The passage then goes on to speak of the fig-tree and all the trees: when they shoot forth it is known that summer is near at hand. “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:29-3129And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. (Luke 21:29‑31)). Here again it is when certain things happen, then they are to know that the kingdom of God is near. Is it not therefore right that we should look for the things of which Christ spoke to His disciples, rather than for the Lord to come for His saints without any preliminary intimation?
These questions show how important it is to make a study of prophecy in all its main branches, and not confine our attention to any one of them. If we simply take the words “the coming of the Lord,” we may go greatly astray unless we see its connection and always distinguish between the coming of the Lord for His saints — the proper hope of the Christian — and the coming of the Lord with His saints, when He comes to execute judgment on the wicked. (See Jude 14-1514And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 14‑15).)
But there is a coming of the Lord that does not fall under either of the above. It is in connection with Israel, who in the future will be placed in peculiar circumstances; and unless these are seen, the nature of Christ’s coming to them cannot be understood.
But before we look at what these circumstances are, we must consider a difficulty that has often arisen in the minds of the students of prophecy. What authority have we to interpret the passage in Luke 12:3636And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. (Luke 12:36), Be ye “like unto men that wait for their lord” as applying to the Christian now; and apply the passages quoted from ch. 21 of the same gospel to Israel in the future?
In Luke 12 our Lord is clearly not addressing His hearers as children of Israel. In verse 32 He says, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”; and then goes on to address them as servants, some of whom are faithful and some are unfaithful.
In Luke 21 it is quite different. Verses 1 to 4 speak of the rich men and the poor widow casting their gifts into the treasury. Then in vs. 5, “Some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts”; then our Lord foretold its destruction and spoke of coming judgments: all refers to Israel. Verse 24 says that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” This time is, as we know, now running on. It is now the “times of the Gentiles”; but there must be a long interval between verse 24 and what follows; for verse 25 speaks of signs in the sun, moon and stars, and great distress upon the earth; followed by “Then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” This we know has not yet taken place.
That this does not refer to the coming of the Lord for His saints is evident by its being added, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” It is clear that “this generation” does not refer simply to the lifetime of those He addressed, for our Lord did not return during that period; but the term “generation” refers, as it does in other places, to the people of Israel generally, as in Deuteronomy 32:5,205They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. (Deuteronomy 32:5)
20And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. (Deuteronomy 32:20)
Here also the coming of the Lord is said to be with power and great glory, whereas when He comes for His church nothing is said of this: He Himself is the all-absorbing object; hence it may be that He will come in private to fetch us, and the world know nothing of it till they find out that we are gone.
It may, however, still be asked, Why we as Christians are to have no sign of the Lord’s coming, if Israel is to have a sign? Is it not because of the different circumstances in which they will be placed? This passage tells us that there will be signs in the heavenly bodies, distress of nations, with perplexity; indeed, we read of their being brought through a great tribulation, such as never was before and will not be again; and they will undergo a prolonged and varied persecution by their enemies. Their cry will be, “How long, O Lord?” and they will look and pray for the destruction of their enemies, as we find in many of the Psalms — language which we cannot use respecting our enemies; but which will be quite right and according to God’s mind then; for He will be about to destroy their enemies, and bring His ancient people into full blessing.
With this before us, we can readily understand how gladly they will look for the signs that God has spoken of, for then they will have — what? The joy of being caught up to meet the Lord in the air? No; but their “redemption draweth near,” that deliverance that will fully establish them on the earth, and greatly bless them in their own land.
We thus see that their hope is quite different from the hope of the Christian. It is plainly revealed in Scripture that before they can be brought into blessing as a nation they must be brought through tribulation and oppression; therefore they cannot now be looking intelligently for their redemption. Our Lord declared to them, “Your house is left unto you desolate, and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me until the time come when ye shall say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:3535Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Luke 13:35)). If any believe in the Lord Jesus in the present dispensation, of course they become a part of the church.
It will be seen from all this that when our Lord spoke of His hearers looking for a sign He was not speaking to them as believers, but as a part of Israel; and it will be right for them when the time arrives to look for those signs. But it is quite different for His saints now. It is their privilege to be longing to see the One who loves them, and who bought them with His blood, and to be looking for Him to come and fetch them, according to His blessed promise, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” May the present enjoyment of His love keep this hope bright before us all.