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CHAPTER 18

TOUCH-DOWN



WE must be in flight (see Ch. 17). However a time is coming when Jesus Christ will come back, when there will be that touch-down,
 


 
 
 

epochal, transforming, triumphant,
but just another phase in the magnificent plan of salvation of God our Saviour.It is here that Christ comes to take His "Bride" or "Body" or the co-operative collection of those in whom He already lives, in the beauty of holiness, to His presence in the "Marriage Feast of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9).
 


 
 

THEN, we shall find that indeed patience has her reward, and the words of the angel to the disciples as recorded in Acts 1 have their fruition:

  • "Why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."


His return will correspond to His departure, some two millenia or more before. It will be visible, victorious and supernatural; it will relate to the Person definite, defining and defined, whom they knew and who, God as man, had walked and talked with them.

Then the great saga of spirituality, in which the physical Jesus Christ, incarnate, dressed in flesh, crucified by the world which He came not to condemn, would come back to appoint to an errant world its terminal judgments, in fact occurs, just as His first arrival to secure and complete the work of salvation did occur (II Timothy 1:9-10, Hebrews 10:10-14), in its time and on time (Galatians 4:4, cf. SMR pp. 886ff.). The time for His return is just as pregnant (SMR Ch.8) as it was for His first coming; but whereas that was predicted to the precise time of His death, this is predicted in terms of the dynamic of history, the fabric of events, the tartan of composite developments, the cross-wires of divine aim, when all is fulfilled. It is near by these criteria (Luke 21:24-28). Let us consider its avenue.

First He  comes  for His own (I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24), and
then
with them, to demonstrate His ways to the world (Revelation 20, III Thessalonians 1, Isaiah 65, 2, Micah 4, Habakkuk 2:14), with sin subdued in its arrogant and disruptive ways,

finally giving those judgments which, despite His willingness and love, were residual for a recalcitrant world which neither coveted His mercy nor took His free Gospel. Come? but when!

It used to be said that in the first century, people who believed in Christ were expecting Him to come any minute, as it were. Schweitzer, who rightly showed that the final expectations of judgment were inextricably interwoven in the whole fabric of scripture, in particular in the New Testament, made an understandable error for those days. This is not to say his was an excusable or venial error.

It was just that in those days many people in exalted positions in the church, very often, seemed to imagine a strange thing: that to speak and to listen were closely akin, that the thoughts which came pressing into their minds could be all but guaranteed an audience. People were very itchy about the ears, wanting some new thing. The corresponding failure can be considerable glibness about the mouth.

Nowadays, it is far worse. Ear-eczema is so common that it is scarcely any more diagnosed as a disease; rather an all but universal condition for which only slight palliatives should be prescribed. Wrong teaching is de rigueur, expected, scarcely surprising, not at all arresting in the general sense, since it is merely more of the same. (Cf. II Peter 2:1,18). Then, however, a new utterance like that would tend to upset the see-saw of continual motion in which unbelief would tug at faith, in the forbidden arena of the church, which of course (see Separation, Ch. 7 in The Kingdom of Heaven...) should have been purged at once.
 
 

I. MATTHEW 24

As shown in Ch. 6 of SMR, Schweitzer was amazingly wrong in his estimate. Far from their being an expectation of an IMMEDIATE return of Jesus Christ, there was from His own lips a DISAVOWAL of any such thing, dramatically and extensively.

Thus in Matthew 24, when He was asked by Christian disciples about the time for the end of the Age (24:3), replied: "Take heed that no one deceives you!" This at once indicates that this deception is all too probable. It needs care to avoid it. WHAT deception? It applied categorically to His people, those who by the Spirit of God had their eyes open to His status and sovereignty (Matthew 16:15-17, 18:15-20). It would be perilous to all.

The danger of deception was this, that MANY would come in His name, claiming to be Christ, that there were to be wars, rumours of them, kingdoms in oscillation and arrogation, at war. Nation would rise up against nation, and multiple events would tumble into their rambunctious place as evil had its final fling, in its due time (Matthew 24:7). Even this political surge would  be merely the beginning of the crushing combination of rampaging realities on the earth -  Matthew 24:8.

This implies that ONE reason why such false christs should be recognised, and rendered, like bombs, harmless, was this: that there was a series of events of marvellous complexity and compass which had to intervene before there could be ANY QUESTION of HIS coming! Therefore do not be deceived! This was a crucial part of the message.

Furthermore, having said this, Christ indicated that:

  • "All these are the beginning of sorrows" - 24:8 (cf. Luke 21:8ff.)..

Events were to confront the Christians which would be more testing even than these, before release could come in HIS COMING! Multiple deaths in blatant persecutions, betrayals, false prophets, lawlessness coming to crescendo, all this would continue so that a moral exhortation became fitting. "He," said Christ, after these words, "He who endures to the end shall be saved."

A third era component was not stretched before the eagerly waiting eyes and ears of the disciples.

  • "AND THIS GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM WILL BE PREACHED IN ALL THE WORLD AS A WITNESS TO ALL NATIONS" - a vast task. "THEN shall the end come...", said the Lord Jesus Christ.



After all of this proud flesh and proud nation, war and interchange, dominion and betrayal, reigning and belligerent braying of many, national and personal, all these false prophets in their time and place and false christs in their niches, the time would eventually come when the Lord would manifest His splendour in an indubitable fashion, distinct and contradistinct from all this.

No more the era of deception and subterfuge, closet christs, made and manufactured by man in religious cults. In intense contrast, now the true coming of the same Jesus Christ ... it would resemble in its fulminating glory, lightning dazzling from East to West, preceded by a shaking of the very powers of the heavens.

Very well: Christ first developed principles of waiting, congratulated waiting, specified the events which MUST first occur in the waiting period, showed how they would aggregate, accumulate, be cumulative in strength and ferocity, be international and global, and even at that, it was MERELY THE BEGINNING. More awaited, more false prophets, while the terminus of the world given man threatened manifestly. Meanwhile, the GOSPEL had first to be preached throughout the entire world before His return - a topic which formed part of the initial question of the disciples - could occur (24:3,14). This was a necessary preliminary to His personal return, with all the powers and prerogatives appropriate to His true status as Deity: to deliver first, and then to judge (John 5:19-23, Matthew 7:22-23, I Thessalonians 4:14-18, II Thessalonians 1).

Vast indeed would be the trials of the saints, and great their reward (cf. Revelation 7:9,13-17, Matthew 5:10-11), and the greatest reward is the Lord Himself, incomparable, all-sufficient, radiant in purity and skilful in all. Cotton-wool Christians are not made in heaven and the Lord gives strength on earth (Ephesians 3:16, 1:19-20).

It is indeed interesting to follow how expositors can be so blinded to such simplicity of utterance, clarity of diction and directness of declaration as came here from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, and make an ENTIRELY OPPOSITE "interpretation". What however is written is written, and this is in fact what it says.

Small wonder Revelation has this: (13:10, 14:12):

  • "He who goes into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints ....Here is the patience of the saints, here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."

  • Patience indeed has its perfected work, and


"many shall be purified and made white, and refined"(Daniel 12:10) ...

  • When ? in the initial phases


(Matthew 24:21-29, 22 with 40 - where Christians are NOT TO BELIEVE "... if anyone says to you,
Look, here is the Christ!
Or there!")

  • of that tribulation (Daniel 12:2)
  • that will proceed on to its zenith


when the Lord's people are gone;

  • and which precedes judgment in its various categories, classes and majesties of divine government.
  • Great is the patience needed,


the purification wrought,
 

  • while God's elect are snatched in their hidden hour,
  • taken openly from the teeth of terrestrial fury (Matthew 24:31, I Thessalonians 4:14-17),
  • to the glory of the Lord, there in their place in His presence, the testimony of His good pleasure, to remain in the spiritual occupations and felicity which are always apt for the wonder of the Lord (Daniel 12:9,13, Revelation 21:3-4).

  

2. II THESSALONIANS 2

This time it is the apostle PAUL who provokes clarity in the midst of the disciples. He speaks with a deliberation of emphasis which has the mark of authority and need. He tells them "concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him" - exactly the case in Matthew 24, this! That they should not be

  • "soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come."*1 THAT DAY "will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God ...",
  • sitting in the temple declaring that HE IS GOD!

He exhorts them further,

  • "DO YOU NOT REMEMBER THAT WHEN I WAS STILL WITH YOU I TOLD YOU THESE THINGS?" (2:5).


For the time, then, there is a brake, a restraint, an inhibitor. This day CANNOT yet come, for it is being actively withheld (2:6). Truly the
"mystery of lawlessness" was already at work, but the One who restrains will CONTINUE to do so, until removed from this brake function - "taken out of the way". It is only when the brake is off that the car runs fully downhill.

Paul proceeds to detail the sort of thing to come WHEN this phenomenon arrives. Peter gives no dissimilar exhortation in II Peter 3:9, where the REACTION of wondering JUST HOW LONG it would be before the end, is even placed in principle in its spiritual setting, which relates to the Gospel reaching the whole world, and the longsuffering of God. The actual end will come soon enough!

In the meantime, it is forbidden to act precipitately, the era is not yet, the forces at work for the case to come are not yet allowed their necessary activity. THAT CHAPTER is exclusively for the future, the peak for another day in the mountaineering of the pilgrimages of the saints. It is not yet. The ERA is not yet. The CONDITIONS are not yet, and of course, the CONDUCT correlative is not yet. THEREFORE get on with the WORK of the kingdom and do not be "shaken" in mind as if the time were already here. IT IS NOT YET TIME.

What, again, could be clearer? It would be difficult to know. It is explicit, concise, with various outcomes in the ensuing words of II Thessalonians.
 
 

3. REVELATION

This book details a vast array of events before there is anything which could be construed as the call of the saints, en masse, to glory in Revelation 11. Without the witnesses being symbolic for the church (as in Zechariah 3-4 to which it precisely relates), for the "holy nation" of the saints (I Peter 2:9), as then through the two leaders, civil and ecclesiastical, for the theocratic nation of Israel itself, there would be no reference to the great and mighty things to come, the things which were to come to pass. In the interim, there are events in heaven and in earth of the greatest magnitude, which cumulatively by no means happen in a moment. Indeed, there is a growth in disgrace on the earth, and there is a series of punishments and results which grow like a thunder cloud over time.

While it is true that Revelation has a series of series, some interlocking, movements from this and that perspective to the end, even so the vast complexity of this sensational series of settings, and aggravations made explicit have a distinct resemblance to the entire history of the Jewish race to Christ: it is the Gentile age, for which Paul was an apostle, it is the second innings in the pilgrimage cricket match, it is the olive tree graft (Romans 11) of the Gentiles having its day.

As with the Jews, so with the Gentiles, it has many phases, many inter-relationships of complex events, many appeals, many hardenings of the heart. If one thing is obvious it is this: it does not all happen in a moment, but over a period in which time for distinctive developments occur and divinely ordered on the one hand, and responded to, on the other.
 
 

4. RESULT

Therefore it is by no means true that the return of the Lord Jesus Christ USED TO BE the immediate expectation as it were for a moment, imminent without delay, interruption, so that patience was at a discount and fulfilment at a premium. Utterly the contrary. In fact, there seems to have been a simple confusion here, apart from the grander errors. It was a state of UTTER IGNORANCE OF THE EXACT TIME, which was focussed, not an ACUTE RUSH OF EVENTS NOW which was in view.

GRANTED, there were to be events and developments, and GRANTED that the time and indeed the season was NOT TO BE KNOWN by the disciples, by EXPRESS divine decree (Acts 1:7)*2; and indeed, GRANTED that this fact was once again in reply to an explicit question on the part of the disciples about HIS RETURN: yet they were AT ALL TIMES to act as in ward, under survey, without presumption, without fooling about as if the time could be guaranteed safe.

The reason? THEY SIMPLY DID NOT KNOW! The time was not given for a PURPOSE (as in Matthew 24:45-51). God can be "shrewd" and far-seeing to those who are cunning - that is, He can outwit their foolish deceptions and discover or expose publicly their private evils. The ATTITUDE which was acceptable was one of doing everything as to the Lord, who would indeed come when broadly HE WAS NOT EXPECTED, and indeed just when the cry was 'PEACE!' (I Thessalonians 5:1-3). ONLY that attitude was safe. Of course, ONLY that attitude was HONEST! and above all, only that was acceptable to faith, and endurable in love.

Otherwise in any generation, a combination of presumption in interpreting scripture and ease (II Peter 3:4) ON THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THERE HAD BEEN SO MUCH DELAY THAT IT MIGHT BE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE INDEFINITELY, could readily lead to self-absorbed impetuosity, spiritual hedonism, uncleanness, in-fighting and the like, complacency and frank unbelief. AVOID THIS! is the message of Christ in Matthew 24.

In fact, when one surveys the utter comedy of so much that is called "theology" as people desperate for some relationship to God for some reason or other (or for the appearance of the same), but even more desperate to avoid what HE SAYS, since it is the word of the LORD who must be obeyed: then one finds this possibility is abundantly confirmed.

Thus Matthew 24:45-51 is NOT telling us that Christ would return in several days or months; but that WHENEVER He should return, the essential point was this, that it was NOT TO BE KNOWN. Honesty, integrity and reliability would be CALLED FOR; and therefore the servants should simply proceed on that basis, not calculating what He had expressly denied them power to determine.
 
 

5. WAITING ?

Thus we who remain in this critical hour should not imagine that the time has come for any degree or measure of laxity, complacency, as if we KNEW IT ALL. It IS TRUE that the special series of inter-related signs and signals and developments, the whole texture of the end of the age is here, almost without exception. It is true that therefore we who are Christ's should heed this:

  • "LIFT UP YOUR HEADS,


FOR YOUR REDEMPTION DRAWS NEAR!"

(Luke 21:28).
 

That is the redemption of the body (Romans 8:23), part of what those waiting "groan" in awaiting, amid the travail of the time. That is, there is a travail and a labour and a peril and a patience needed, so that the time of the bodies to come may arrive for those of pure heart and splendid spirit, purified, made white, and being redeemed (Ephesians 2:1-8, 1:7) by His blood, may be "clothed upon" by the overcoat of the new body (II Corinthians 5).

This however is a sensation that the hour is drawing near. It had many PHASES to precede it, and it would have been fatally easy for those who did not believe, but merely affected it, to be deceived, always imagining that it had to be NOW! and so acting irresponsibly. The saints of God, motivated by love and filled with faith, kept by the power of God, do not decline in this way.

They are however to LOOK UP when this final phase comes, and to draw in breath with expectant joy, while they do not slacken their pace of obedience and testimony OUT OF THAT LOVE and on BEHALF OF THAT LORD

       who is in eminence, beauty of truth and wonder,

       better to know,

       than any travail

       real or imagined - so long as He be there, Saviour and Friend -

       could possibly be ranked in the negative.


He is INFINITELY in the positive, so that NO NEGATIVE can count. It is dispelled like darkness by light to its own place. He is truth and life and love and provides a peace and a power as Father which is natural and right and good and abundant.

Let us then wait with patience, though we be in the last lap, of undetermined length, though it be immensely probably that this generation is the last, in terms of 40 years. Yet even there, let us be careful, for our God is determined that we do not know more than this, that the time is near.

Therefore now as always, be valiant, be stalwart, be careful, be productive, rejoice in His power, to use it on His great Commission, and in His people for their edification, and in the world if so be, any more may be saved to join the innumerable throng of the patient, so that as with the Thessalonians the testimony may be like this:

  • We give thanks.... remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing beloved brethren, your election by God... to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers from the wrath to come."


But as to that waiting? Let no man deceive you, it has its fulfilment in the hour of God's appointment (II Thessalonians 2, Matthew 25:1-13 - *3), so that our EXPECTATION should be in attitude, and our ANTICIPATION*4 amid knowledge, though made crisper than ever amidst the undoubted ringing of the bell for the last lap!

Let us then run our race with joy, having regard to every intimation of the word of God, knowing the time is ripe (see SMR Ch.8), and becoming ripe in Christ with the Age as it ripens to judgment, snatching whom we may, having compassion, from the burning.
 
 

End-Notes

 

*1

An Eschatological Excursion

There are different translations here, and two major dictionaries present different read-outs. One would have it, like the NKJV, the day "had come", while the other with supporting material, would have it that the day is referred to as 'impending', 'threatening' for the particular tense of this verb here used - the sense of the rendering made by the AV.

According to this famous dictionary, the sense for this tense is said to be "prop. as it were, to stand in sight, stand near'. That is the 'proper' or literal meaning in view. Perhaps it is simply a question of something right up with you, caught up with you, come upon you, and in that sense, present; and Thayer's New Testament Greek dictionary is stressing the sense in which the concept of present is in view - pressing itself upon you, hence impending or even threatening, a meaning found in Liddell and Scott as one major case also, for enisthmi. As has been noted, it scarcely likely Paul would be thinking some would take it the day was fully realised, but rather looming in intensity.

In either case, the message is that they must not be preoccupied with the day of the Lord as if it were thrusting itself upon them; standing in or over them; upon them: there is MUCH TO COME FIRST!

That the main relevant part; nevertheless, let us simply summarily note the aspects of the case for "at hand", the AV translation.

1) The word in the preceding context is "quickly" not "soon" as the AV renders. It is "be not quickly shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ were at hand." That is the precise shade of the adverb. Keep this in mind.

2)  What they are to avoid happening to them quickly, then, is that they should be troubled in mind. A state of anxiety and suspension, uncertainty is to be avoided, one that could take them quickly.

Let us place these two points together.

Are they really to be conceived of as genuinely thinking that the day of the Lord has come, the DAY  OF THE LORD? Are they anxiously to ponder whether that fateful hour is NOW HERE, the one so clearly set out in the Gospel, in the teaching of the apostles, as one in which CHRIST returns for His own, and then COMES IN JUDGMENTAL MODE, killing the beast and arresting his armies with destruction (Matthew 24, Revelation 19).

Is this to be conceived of, in anxious mode, in sudden spurts of thought, as being PRESENT! Is there some doubt about its presence or absence ? Did an atomic bomb land and we did not notice; are we to have anxious thoughts whether we are ransacked... The setting is fearful apprehension, and analysis of what after all, needed little analysis, leads not to their having  a current sense of all being overpowering in condign, actualised and personal arrest in the arraigning advent of the Word of God, fatal in judgment on the reeling earth! (cf. Matthew 24:26-31, Revelation 19). It is anxiety of uncertainty, not experience of certainty.

3) If it were a question of the day of the Lord actually being PRESENT, then the Christians would be ABSENT, in the first instance, as taught by the Lord in Matthew (noted above). Are the apostles then gone, taken with Christ, who would take one from two in a bed, leaving the non-elect ? Is that a question of some difficulty to the church to which Paul was speaking, in Thessalonica ? Was it too hard to find out if they had been evacuated from earth ? Has Paul gone ? Is he not writing to
them ?

Is this, then,  Alice in Wonderland or fact that is being considered ? If not a dream, then "at hand" is the concept, not "present". What is troubling them in perplexity and with sudden bouts of imaginative dread is this: IS IT ABOUT TO HAPPEN! Only this can stand with security in such a setting.

4) Further, if they had such considerable confusion on the nature of the day of the Lord as such an hypothesis on their part would imply, then the teaching of the apostle might be expected to MAKE THEM SOUND ON SO BASIC A POINT, not to be talking, relevantly but without essential correction of their misconception as such, of the PRECEDING STEPS.

On the other hand, if the  topic is the considerable danger of an impending and threatening (meanings found in the dictionaries) DAY of the Lord coming (that is the word following the point in the context), then the listing of all that has to happen first is most relevant, is a direct removal of the misconception, is good teaching, relevant and apt teaching, leaving nothing out of place. Such sound teaching is to be expected from a master-builder of the church (I Cor. 3) , when meeting widespread confusion and misconception on such a topic as the Day of the Lord being imminent, or being present. It in fact covers the former beautifully, and the latter very little in its fundamentals.

5) Thus Paul goes on to say that this day will not "COME", unless... this and that happen. The immediate term used in the negation of the confusion, is NOT COME. Now if it were necessary to distance the day from COMING, then WILL NOT COME UNTIL would be the expected wording, just as it is found. To be sure, if they thought it actually present, then it would also be relevant to distance it, but the more obvious and immediate rebuttal wording expected would rather be: The day of the Lord will not be PRESENT until... or WHEN it is present, you will know!

The point is that all things, contextual, logical, scriptural in teaching point in only one direction, whether because of absurdity, normalcy or mode of handling teaching be the considerations.

Further, it should be noted, talking of the general scriptural context, moreover, that in Matthew 25:19, the parable told by the Lord envisages a "LONG TIME" passing following His, the Messiah's departure from the earth, BEFORE HIS RETURN. In the same line, the one leaving his servants, goes on a journey to a FAR COUNTRY, certainly implying in those days, what ? a long time. In fact, kingdoms had to fall into a very riot of international war, morals had to decline precipitously and characterisably, fear had to rise to an acute dimension nationally and internationally, famines had  to grow widespread, horrible sights had to abound, a plethora of false prophets and christs had to sweep into the kill, the vultures circling. All this is seen in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

Moreover, Jerusalem (Matthew 24:2, Luke 19) had to be destroyed and rebuilt (Matthew 24:15, Luke 21:24) so that the dominion of the Gentiles over it would cease, and hence the Jews had to return to the Israel from which they would be ousted. It would be indeed a LONG TIME, before Christ would return, and such that anxious imaginings and thoughts that "My Lord delays His coming" might be expected to arise (as in the parable exposing this attitude, in Matthew 24:48).

A mere form of godliness without its power (II Timothy 3) predicted for the "last days" of the era could also then be wholly expected just as surely it had to come into the pseudo-Christian body which would be then left, surging amongst the church (II Peter 2) which would be invaded with false teachers, not to its destruction, but in a morass of evil such that "the love of many will wax cold" as Christ stated (Matthew 24:12) of this enveloping trial that would grow in profundity at its maturity. That enveloping horror was to come, false teachers to proliferate, not true apostles prevail in dynamic and personal presence.

All that ? A long time. That the days might suggest to some that these events were in train is entirely understandable, but somewhat superficial for the time in view of what had to happen. That this great day with such a surround and preliminary, with such historical foothills leading up to its mount, should be thought actually present however, labours not merely in the area of the ridiculous, as noted earlier, but it fits as little in the apostle's context as in the Scriptural setting. It would be talking of Winter in Spring.

For all that, choose as you will, and take no account of the reasoning: it is still true that II Thessalonians is teaching that there is a considerable scope for time as the mystery of lawlessness reaches it height, and that it would be sheer foolishness to act as if there were impending a vast alteration in the order of things such that one might cease one's normal, godly action. That is the entire thrust of the passage. It is NOT YET. Much HAS TO HAPPEN first, so KEEP ON GOING AS NORMAL.

Finally, let us dwell on the fact that Peter in II Peter 3:9 makes it clear that there is a qualitative as well as a quantitative side the matter of when the Lord actually comes. It is a special characteristic of  God that He is compassionate, not willing that any should perish, and that the word should go as a testimony bringing the Gospel to all the earth (Matthew 24:14). It is only then that we hear from Him, these words: "Then shall the end come!" There is arrest until this geographical distribution of the Gospel is accomplished. Peter gives light on why. It is to move pervasively, invasively throughout the farthest reaches of this terrestrial globe before any thought of coming, the coming of the day of the Lord, is to be entertained. So far from dwelling loomingly off the coast, it is not yet in the meteorological picture at all. It is just that IT WILL BE, in its time. Such was the case when Peter, when Paul, wrote. In the last days, therefore, is something future indeed as in II Timothy, and its characteristics have to be spelled out, since it is a novel thing to find, in its time and occasion, when history reveals that side of its face.

First, as stated, then, it is for a testimony; for as the Bible states through the apostle Paul, God has not left Himself without a testimony, He is not mute; as Isaiah 45:18-20 declares from the Lord, He, the Creator of all has not spoken in a secret place ... "I declare things that are right!" Revelation is apt, adequate and public, in abundant provision, and when things happen, has not the Lord spoken clearly in the basic structure, and is He not thus verified in His power of control, wisdom and power! That is the point here.

Secondly, the compassion acts as a constraint, a restraint on terminating things, the longsuffering holds back the finale until it must wait no longer. That is what II Peter 3:9 makes so very clear. In the context of HOW LONG, the apostle Peter makes an indication that for the Lord, 1000 years is as a day. THAT is the immediate context (I Peter 3:8). A delay of 1000 years is not at all to be gasped at, therefore, should it arise. There is, then, MUCH TO BE DONE and for a LONG TIME, before the Lord comes.

That, of course, was THEN. NOW, nearly all is done already. It STILL does not mean that second guessing the exact moment (and it could still be decades), one abandons godly living in some heart-stricken form of arresting excitement; one continues rather  to abound in the work of the Lord in all wisdom as instructed (Matthew 24:45ff., I Corinthians 15:50-58). There is however one beautiful addition which is for the present, and this not by some present revelation, for there is none to the church past Revelation, only clarification and understanding in terms of the principles and precepts given (which in turn means real wisdom and living communion with the living Lord, with provision for guidance just as He sees fit, as  shown in A Question of Gifts, pp. 95ff (*16)., 104ff.).

No it is no new doctrine; it is the old doctrine APPLIED. And this ? WHEN you see these things come to pass, Christ said, that is the plethora and the fabric of coincident events noted, THEN LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS. Why ? Because of this: THEN you know that your redemption (of your bodies, Romans 8:23, cf. Hebrews 9:12-15, 10:10-14, I Peter 1:17-19) is DRAWING NEAR!

Notice, even THEN, it is only DRAWING NEAR, yes, impending, at hand! You lift up your hearts, then, but not your heads. In patience therefore as Christ put it, possess your souls! Vigorous and vital should our work be until the curtain falls, however delightedly we hear the moving of the strings in their folds.
 

1) The word in the preceding context is "quickly" not "soon" as the AV renders. That is the precise shade. Keep this in mind.

2) What they are to avoid happening to them quickly, then, is that they should be troubled in mind. A state of anxiety and suspension, uncertainty is to be avoided, one that could take them quickly.
Let us place these two points together.

Are they really to be conceived of as genuinely thinking that the day of the Lord has come, the DAY  OF THE LORD, clearly set out in the Gospel, in the teaching of the apostles, as one in which CHRIST returns for His own, and then COMES IN JUDGMENTAL MODE, killing the beast and arresting his armies with destruction Matthew 24, Revelation 19). Is this to be conceived of, in anxious mode, in sudden spurts of thought, as being PRESENT! Is there some doubt about its presence or absence ? Did an atomic bomb land and we did not notice; are we to have anxious thoughts whether we are ransacked... The setting is fearful apprehension, but analysis of what after all, needed little analysis, being overpowering (cf. Matthew 24:26-31, Revelation 19).

3) If it were a question of the day of the Lord actually being PRESENT, then the Christians would be ABSENT, in the first instance, as taught by the Lord in Matthew (noted above). Are the apostles then gone, taken with Christ, who would take one from two in a bed, leaving the non-elect ? Is that a question of some difficulty to the church to which Paul was speaking, in Thessalonica ? Was it too hard to find out if they had been evacuated from earth ? Has Paul gone ? Is he not writing to them ?

Is this, then,  Alice in Wonderland or fact that is being considered ? If not a dream, then "at hand" is the concept, not "present". What is troubling them in perplexity and with sudden bouts of imaginative dread is this: IS IT ABOUT TO HAPPEN! Only this can stand with security in such a setting.

4) Further, if they had such considerable confusion on the nature of the day of the Lord as such an hypothesis on their part would imply, then the teaching of the apostle might be expected to MAKE THEM SOUND ON SO BASIC A POINT, not to be talking, relevantly but without essential correction of their misconception as such, of the PRECEDING STEPS.

On the hand, if the  topic is the considerable danger of an impending and threatening (meanings found in the dictionaries) DAY of the Lord coming (that is the word following the point in the context), then the listing of all that has to happen first is most relevant, is a direct removal of the misconception, is good teaching, relevant and apt teaching, leaving nothing out of place. Such sound teaching is to be expected from a master-builder of the church (I Cor. 3) , when meeting widespread confusion and misconception on such a topic as the Day of the Lord being imminent, or being present. It in fact covers the former beautifully, and the latter very little in its fundamentals.

5) Thus Paul goes on to say that this day will not "COME", unless... this and that happen. The immediate term used in the negation of the confusion, is NOT COME. Now if it were necessary to distance the day from COMING, then WILL NOT COME UNTIL would be the expected wording, just as it is found. To be sure, if they thought it actually present, then it would also be relevant to distance it, but the more obvious and immediate rebuttal wording expected would rather be: The day of the Lord will not be PRESENT until... or WHEN it is present, you will know!

The point is that all things, contextual, logical, scriptural in teaching point in only one direction, whether because of absurdity, normalcy or mode of handling teaching be the considerations.

Further, it should be noted, talking of the general scriptural context, moreover, that in Matthew 25:19, the parable told by the Lord envisages a "LONG TIME" passing following His, the Messiah's departure from the earth, BEFORE HIS RETURN. In the same line, the one leaving his servants, goes on a journey to a FAR COUNTRY, certainly implying in those days, what ? a long time. In fact, kingdoms had to fall into a very riot of international war, morals had to decline precipitously and characterisably, fear had to rise to an acute dimension nationally and internationally, famines had  to grow widespread, horrible sights had to abound, a plethora of false prophets and christs had to sweep into the kill, the vultures circling. All this is seen in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. Moreover, Jerusalem (Matthew 24:2, Luke 19) had to be destroyed and rebuilt (Matthew 24:15, Luke 21:24) so that the dominion of the Gentiles over it would cease, and hence the Jews had to return to the Israel from which they would be ousted.

It would be indeed a LONG TIME, before Christ would return, and such that anxious imaginings and thoughts that "My Lord delays His coming" might be expected to arise (as in the parable in Matthew 25).

A form of godliness without its power (II Timothy 3) predicted for the "last days" of the era could also then be wholly expected just as surely it had to come into the pseudo-Christian body which would be then left, surging amongst the church (II Peter 2) which would be invaded with false teachers, not to its destruction, but in a morass of evil such that "the love of many will wax cold" as Christ stated.

All that ? A long time. That the days might suggest to some that these events were in train is entirely understandable, but somewhat superficial for the time in view of what had to happen. That this great day with such a surround and preliminary, with such historical foothills leading up to its mount, should be thought actually present however, labours not merely in the area of the ridiculous, as noted earlier, but it fits as little in the apostle's context as in the Scriptural setting.

For all that, choose as you will, and take no account of the reasoning: it is still true that II Thessalonians is teaching that there is a considerable scope for time as the mystery of lawlessness reaches it height, and that it would be sheer foolishness to act as if there were impending a vast alteration in the order of things such that one might cease one's normal, godly action. That is the entire thrust of the passage. It is NOT YET. Much HAS TO HAPPEN first, so KEEP ON GOING AS NORMAL.

Finally, note that Peter in II Peter 3:9 makes it clear that there is a qualitative as well as a quantitative side the matter of when the Lord actually comes. It is a special characteristic of  God that He is compassionate, not willing that any should perish, and that the word should go as a testimony bringing the Gospel to all the earth (Matthew 24:14). It is only then that we hear from Him, these words: "Then shall the end come!" There is arrest until this geographical distribution of the Gospel is accomplished. Peter gives light on why.

First, as stated, it is for a testimony; for as the Bible states through the apostle Paul, God has not left Himself without a testimony, He is not mute; as Isaiah 45:18-10 declares from the Lord, He, the Creator of all has not spoken in a secret place ... I declare things that are right!"

Secondly, the compassion acts as a constraint, a restraint on terminating things, the longsuffering holds back the finale until it must wait no longer. That is what II Peter 3:9 makes so very clear. In the context of HOW LONG, the apostle Peter makes an indication that for the Lord, 1000 years is as a day. THAT is the immediate context (I Peter 3:8). A delay of 1000 years is not at all to be gasped at, therefore, should it arise. There is, then, MUCH TO BE DONE and for a LONG TIME, before the Lord comes.

That, of course, was THEN. NOW, nearly all is done already. It STILL does not mean that second guessing the exact moment (and it could still be decades), one abandons godly living in some heart-stricken form of arresting excitement; one continues rather  to abound in the work of the Lord in all wisdom as instructed (Matthew 24:45ff., I Corinthians 15:50-58). There is however one beautiful addition which is for the present, and this not by some present revelation, for there is none to the church past Revelation, only clarification and understanding in terms of the principles and precepts given (which in turn means real wisdom and living communion with the living Lord, with provision for guidance just as He sees fit, as shown in A Question of Gifts  (pp. 95 - *16 esp., and 104ff.).

No it is no new doctrine; it is the old doctrine APPLIED. And this ? WHEN you see these things come to pass, Christ said, that is the plethora and the fabric of coincident events noted, THEN LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS. Why ? Because of this: THEN you know that your redemption (of your bodies, Romans 8:23, cf. Hebrews 9:12-15, 10:10-14, I Peter 1:17-19) is DRAWING NEAR!

Notice, even THEN, it is only DRAWING NEAR, yes, impending, at hand! You lift up your hearts, then, but not your heads. In patience therefore as Christ put it, possess your souls! Vigorous and vital should our work be until the curtain falls, however delightedly we hear the moving of the strings in their folds.
 
 

*2 "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me... to the end of the earth."

Actually, the days of the Inquisition for example, could readily have been (and were by some) taken to mean the return of Christ was near. It would certainly have been possible for the criteria to have been met rather speedily; for God is very "original" in the way He creates fulfilments, often wholly unexpectedly, yet with dire accuracy in terms of prophecy. Currently, there is nothing that a few weeks could not accomplish, that is needed; and at that, HE can move more speedily than our little minds sometimes think. We AWAIT CHRIST, and it can be speedy; the whole heart pants for HIM, not some iridescent side-show.

*3. The parable of the virgins likewise indicates that to the virgins the time may have seemed incredibly long, tiring, wearisome, out of the simple expectations, so that the ceremonial preparedness could readily be replaced with slummocking if not slovenly practices, such as simply ... going to sleep.
 
 

A NUPTIAL EXCURSION

*4 The "marriage feast of the Lamb", mentioned earlier in this chapter, reminds one of the glorious praises and joy of Revelation 4:9-14. History has been a long time to evince the inimitable reality of the Lord, unmatchable in any philosophy, politics, provisions, psychologies, immutable in wisdom, incandescent in light, gracious in lovingkindness, practical in securing redemption, precise like a surgeon in His timing, kindly as a nurse in His care and nurture. It may be apt here to consider those garments which are needed for the wedding, as told so decisively, incisively and indeed dramatically, as is so fitting, by Jesus Christ in His parable on the topic, in Matthew 22:1-4, and reflected so challengingly, in Matthew 25:1-13.

These garments are

1) essential.

2) metaphorical, certainly, but all the more essential, for the symbolic meaning is clear. If you are not COVERED by HIS offering, you are untouchable, undressed and undone. Thus in Isaiah 61:10, we find these words:

  • "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,


My soul shall be joyful in my God:
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels".

As King David put it,

  • "As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness,


I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness" -

Psalm 17:15, and again,

  • "I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only".

It is in Revelation likewise, most emphatic that our robes are white for one reason only, this: it is from Him "who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" - 1:5, and again, when those who come from the great tribulation which is to try the earth, are seen in Revelation 7:14-15, we find two things:

       1) Their identity: "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" -

       or as Paul puts it, of Christ,


"whom God has set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness",
 

       adding,

       "Where is boasting then ? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law."

  • Boasting is not discouraged. It is EXCLUDED. In principle it is impossible. The cause of cleansing is His blood. That belongs to Him and not to us. It is something which He did, and not something which we did, when He made the necessary sacrifice to cover, so providing that startling contrast, the whiteness of the fine linen, to the discolouring blood, which however is the laundering necessity in the divine brightness of whiteness which none else can make, create or bring.

 

       2) Their result from this basic ground of identity in their togetherness and acceptance by Him:

       "THEREFORE they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them... the Lamb who is in the mist of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living foutains of waters..." (Rev. 7:15-16).


 
There is ONE GOSPEL (Ephesians 4:4)

and it is applicable to one and to all (Galatians 1:6-9, 3:26-29 - cf.  Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17), for this righteousness is upon all who believe (Romans 5:1,17-18).

Finally, let us add from The Biblical Workman, these words on the righteousnesses, wrought from the Lord, bought for us by the Lord, which are upon those who are His (cf. Revelation 19:8, AV, and The Kingdom of Heaven..., Ch.9, pp. 148-151).
 
 

EXCERPT
 

The LOVE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS


The excellence of God's righteousness has been considered in various places, including Biblical Blessings Appendix III, Barbs, Arrows and Balms Appendix III, Ch.13, and That Magnificent Rock, Ch. 6.

However, here we wish simply to itemise some of the "righteousnesses" which may be intended in Revelation 19:8. (For this, see The Kingdom of Heaven... Ch. 9, pp. 147-150.) Of course, it may mean simply this: that each saint has a righteousness imputed, so that the mass of them have "righteousnesses".

The case would resemble then, that of each woman with a hat, but in a crowd you see the MANY hats of the women.

It is in any case profitable to consider this - that there are many inter-relationships of the divine righteousness to the human sinner. There are, for example:

1) imputed righteousness (Romans 4:23-5:1). This is the righteousness account, as specified further in II Corinthians 5:19-21, Galatians 3:10-13, which is one aspect of salvation; and without which there is no salvation; and on which, as a jurisdictive and juridical basis, one can be a Christian at all in the presence of Him whose ways are perfection, and who does not deteriorate from them in one single thing.

To US goes His righteousness, on account and on account of CHRIST and His finished work; to CHRIST has gone our sin, on account of our misdeeds, misalliances, mischiefs (I John 4:9-10).

  • IN HIM, that is, in "the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6), there is a place for us, in the Rock which is "higher than I" (Psalm 91:1, 61:2), in the "tabernacle not made with hands", where is refuge for spiritual refugees (Isaiah 32:1-4, Hebrews 6: 18-20 ), who are repatriated to the kingdom of heaven (Ephesians 1:11,13, Colossians 1:13, Philippians 3:20-21) through Christ's daring, dazzling and gracious expedition to earth to accomplish just this (I John 4:14, John 3:15-17)), amongst all the loving enterprises which God has made.

2) wrought righteousness, which is the character moulding (Romans 5:3-4). In this case, although it is still true that the "flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit lusts against the flesh" in the Christian heart (Galatians 5), yet the fight is one of triumph, the battle results in victory, for "greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world" - I John 4:4-6). He has more power, He has re-constituted the heart of the Christian from the one possessed before (Hebrews 8:10, John 3, I john 3), His Spirit dwells overpoweringly in the gladly surrendered heart of the Christian (Romans Chs.6,8), and despite many tribulations and trials, it is His word which wins in the spirit of the man/woman/child, who, now His, in patient perseverance is formed and moulded in the way which is apt for Him who is glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders (Exodus 15:11). The stony heart becomes a "heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19-20) with which goes a divinely accorded enablement. So ...

  • "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hears by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" - from Romans 5:2-6.

3) dynamic righteousness, which implies the presence in functional co-operation, as with Daniel in his specialty, of the Lord in such a way that His righteous loveliness becomes more a background, constantly bringing fresh influence on one's taste, awareness, like the baby brain cells, in their material side, responding constantly in the circuitries being developed, according to the stimulus received and the need found. (Cf. Daniel 10:5-9, and notice how strength is arranged for him, after this overwhelming vision, 10:18. So too see Ephesians 3:16, Galatians 2:19-20, Philippians 2:13, Ephesians 3:20, I Corinthians 15:10.)

4) taught righteousness - the precepts, principles, parables and prophecies, as well as the observations one may make as one considers these in relation to the events transpiring in the world. See Psalm 119. This is no mere instruction of data, though it is not less; for in verses 119:37-40, 92, 103-104, 165 we see the combination of delight, duty, understanding, revival and comfort, perspective and purity which works in the heart of the Christian, strengthening, while the Spirit of God Himself attests, invests and refreshes (Romans 8, Acts 3:19, Isaiah 32:15-17, Philippians 4:13, II Corinthians 3:16-18, John 14:21-23). There is a profound alliance (Acts 5:32) between the Lord and His Spirit, the Father and the Son, His word and the converted heart of man: the former, the Trinity, but a trinity in action; the latter the field, but a field under cultivation.

5) the loveliness of righteousness - this is a phrase to cover its attractive and drawing force, which in itself is a further moulding, but is more than this, for moulding or not, it is there.

It corresponds with elements of what Paul calls the fragrance of Christ (II Corinthians 2:14), death to the dying and life to the living (2:15); but it is also inclusive of the magnificence of the Lord in His wonderful character and grace, so that it is like a fire (cf. Isaiah 6). Whether or not you are near enough to be warmed, it continues to blaze. See Psalm 145:

  • "I will meditate on the glorious splendour of Your majesty,


and on Your wondrous works.
 

  • "Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,


and I will declare Your greatness.
They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness
and sing of Your righteousness...
 

  • "They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom."

 

And His city ? It is "the city of truth" (Zechariah 8:3), "the city of righteousness, the faithful city". (See Isaiah 1:26. Its setting has been shown in Ch.1, Endnote 3, and elsewhere.) And His word ? Truth (John 17:14-17). His beauty ? The beauty of holiness (Psalm 96:9, Isaiah 53). His brightness ? light (John 1:4).