« AnteriorContinuar »
whose names are not written in the Book of Life (see Rev. 20: 12-15). He sought to be accounted worthy to be brought up from among the dead, not at that final day when the great harvest of the race shall be gathered before God, but at that day which he regarded as possibly very near, the day when the hrstfruits unto God should be raised in glory, meet the Lord in the heavenly places, and from that exalted position witness the unfolding of God's purposes concerning the rest of mankind,— living, and dead, and to be born, during that last Dispensation which shall be bounded by the general resurrection and final judgment. In Luke 20 : -55, our Lord uses this same expression, saying that " they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection (lit.) out from the company of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage." The words point to a resurrection to which some shall attain at a time when those who do not attain unto it are left behind in Hades, the final apportionment of their rewards or punishments being delayed.
Before passing on to consider more fully the bearings of the great truth that there is to be such a first resurrection, upon the purposes of God concerning the church and the world, let us briefly examine some of those prophecies of the New Testament which need, for their proper interpretation, the light from the passages which we have now studied.
In Luke 14: 13, 14, the Lord says: "When thou makest a feast call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." When once we have come to understand that there is to be a resurrection at Christ's coming, limited to those who at that time are pre-eminently " His," before (probably long before) the end of man's history upon the earth, we see that these words " the resurrection of the just" describe that event: it is the resurrection of the " blessed and holy " spoken of in Rev. 20: 5, C.
In 1 Thess. 4: 16, 17, where the coming of the Lord is spoken of, no mention is made of the judgment of the unsanctified dead. It is only the " dead, in Christ," and those who being members of Christ " are alive and remain," that are mentioned. Why is this '( Were the truth concerning the resurrection other than it is, it might indeed be said that the theme of the apostle here is not the wicked but the righteous. But in view of what we have learned, we see that there is also another answer: the apostle speaks only of the saints, because at the time to which he refers, it is these and these only that are gathered from the abodes of the dead to appear before God. This is a resurrection which is not associated with judgment for those who have part in it. It is the glorious inheritance of those of whom our Lord spoke when he said, "lie that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation (judgment), but is passed from death unto life." Whatever is meant by that judgment which even the blessed shall undergo (Matt. 12 : 3G; lioni. 14 : 10, 11), it shall not make impossible the declaration of Holy Scripture that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, they shall awake in the Savior's likeness. There can be do suspense, no anxious fear, among those who thus awake, or among those who are suddenly caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
In Colossians 3 : 4, it is said, " When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." The appearing here spoken of is Christ's visible manifestation to the inhabitants of Christendom or of the world. Those who thus appear with Him in glory have first been gathered unto Him from the ranks of the dead and the living. Their resurrection and translation, and their presentation unto him, is the coming of the Lord,—to them; but the coining of the Lord to the surviving inhabitants of the earth is'a distinct event, and in it His saints arc seen accompanying Him, having been already glorified. When the Lord is revealed to the world, coming in the clouds of heaven, He shall be accompanied both by armies of angels and also by His glorified saints. By the brightness of this coming all His enemies shall be destroyed from among the living, and the earth prepared for the promised kingdom of righteousness and peace.
This naturally brings to our consideration an additional truth not hitherto mentioned, but necessary to a proper understanding of the still unfulfilled prophecies of Scripture. That those judgments with which the living enemies of Christ shall be visited, after the deliverance of the faithful, are to be accompanied by the visible manifestation of the terrible glory of the Lord, is a truth so plainly taught, and described in such startling terms, that multitudes of the ignorant take it for granted that the earth shall then be utterly destroyed and the history of man upon it come to an abrupt end. Nevertheless it is certain that many words of Scripture expressly forbid such an idea, and those which seem at first sight to favor it may easily be interpreted so as to bring them into perfect harmony with the rest. The following are passages of this kind. Matt. 24: 29, 30, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 2 Thessalonians 1: 7, 8; 2: 8,—" When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in naming lire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; . . . and then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His 'coming. 2 Peter 3: 7, 10—12,— "But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of
judgment and perdition of ungodly men But the
Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to he in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
To understand such words aright, we must bear two things in mind. First,—that this earth has the promise of redemption (see Romans 8 : 20, 21), and therefore is not to be blotted out of existence. St. Peter says it was once destroyed by water and shall be again destroyed by fire. He evidently is thinking of mighty changes in the outward aspect of the earth. As the Flood was at once a judgment upon the inhabtants of the old world and the preparation for the present state of things, so the catastrophies with which the present world is to be visited shall not merely bring judgment upon the nations, but shall prepare the material world for the new order ofthings,— the "new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." Secondly,— that while the words quoted, especially those of St. Peter, describe so fearful and general an overthrow of the present order of nature that it would seem that nothing mortal and perishable will be able to survive it, we need not suppose that it shall all come at once in one sudden catastrophy, but rather that at the time of the first resurrection and the judgments upon the living enemies of Christ, there shall be a partial fulfilment of the prophecy, its final and complete fulfilment being reserved for the time of the end,—the time of the last resurrection and final Judgment. It is in strict analogy with what we know of the fulfillment of other prophecies, that words which seem at first sight to refer to one single event should require a series of events for their full accomplishment.
Take for instance the well known fact that many of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament point at once to the Savior's first coming in humiliation and his second coming in glory,—so that the Jews, perceiving that Christ when He appeared among them failed to satisfy all the terms of those prophecies, found in this a justification for themselves in rejecting Him. We, indeed, see plainly which words of the old prophets referred to Christ's first coming and which to His second coming, but the meaning was not so plain to those who lived before the Incarnation. And we should not be surprised to be told that the prophecies concerning the destruction of the present order of nature, as a preparation for the "new heavens and the new earth," must in the same way be interpreted as destined to have a partial fulfillment before the beginning of the Millenial Kingdom of Christ, and a final and complete fulfilment at its close.
Those judgments which shall attend Christ's manifestation to the nations of Christendom are but preliminary judgments,— the "end" shall not be then. The words of St. Peter must have, at that time, only a partial fulfilment, and not such a fulfilment as would prevent the continuance of the race upon the earth ; because during the interval between that manifestation of Christ and the "end when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom," He is to reign over the earth as He has never yet reigned. It is to that interval, that last age of the history of man upon the earth, we must look for the complete fulfilment of multitudes of words such as the following: "Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession"; "All nations shall come and worship before Thee," as well as the yet unfulfilled promises to the Jews of national restoration and preeminence. On this whole subject I quote the following words from Dr. S J. Andrews' "God's Revelations of Himself to Men," Scribner 18i->6. "There are passages which seem indeed to indicate a sudden destruction of the old, and creation of the new, especially in St. Peter. (2 Peter iii.) But in his language he evidently does not make discriminations of time. 'The day of the Lord' we have already seen to he a period of considerable though indefinite duration. The words of the apostle take in the whole period, and look forward to the consumation,— new heavens and a new earth,—-without discriminating the several steps by which it is reached. We know also from what is revealed as to the execution of God's purpose in man, that His redemption is by stages. The first to be exalted into the glory of the resurrection is Christ, the first-fruits; then they that are Christ's at his coming; then the end, when he delivers up the Kingdom to the Father. If the change from the old to the new were instantaneous at the Lord's coining, such progressive resurrection woidd not be possible; nor would the Kingdom period be one in which He is engaged in "putting all enemies under His feet." The words of Isaiah also, referring to the same events, are inconsistent with such an instantaneous change, since he speaks of those dwelling on the new earth as still under the law of death (65:20, etc.). The Scriptures are uniform in their teaching that the Messianic Kingdom is to be a period of redemption; and therefore no such physical change can take place at its establishment as would destroy the race, or make the earth unfit for a place of probation."
.We ask, now, what bearing has all that has here been treated of upon the calling of Christians,— those who in this Day of Salvation are baptised into Christ? Does it not show the ex. ceeding dignity of our position among all the ranks and orderg of mankind .'' To be a Christian, and to hold fast that which we