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Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Coming Again of the Lord


To speak of the Coming again of the Lord would not be introducing something new and fresh into Christian belief, although there is something new and fresh in this truth for the believer. For long years, in the middle and dark ages, as they are called, the light of this testimony was very dim and small, and only glowed in the heart of a faithful remnant of suffering saints. A time came, however, more or less clearly defined as an event or an epoch, when this truth was restored to its place in the forefront of teaching and expectation, and today it is pressing into the life and hearts - more than the heads - of multitudes of Christians in a way without parallel in history. It is true that world-conditions have always been the occasion for the strengthening and renewing of this hope and expectation. It was so in the great persecution days of Apostolic times. It is so today, very largely because, on a scale more immense than ever, the world situation is felt to be utterly without solution apart from a further intervention of God such as the Coming of Christ.

There is one thing that we would remark before coming to the real heart of this present message. It is this. The Lord, when formerly here, definitely said that He would return. The heavenly messengers at His Ascension quite precisely made the same statement. Henceforth, we have very little in the New Testament that is in the nature of a statement of the fact that He will come again; all that is there - or most of that very great all - is on the lines of an assumption that He is coming and of teaching relating to the matter. True, there is the "Behold, I come quickly", and, "Behold, he cometh", but for the rest it is mostly explanation, exhortation, admonition, warning, in relation to the event. The fact - so far as the Church is concerned - is taken for granted. What remained was to deal with related perplexities, relieve tensions, explain experiences, encourage and comfort, and point out the indications related to the Lord's Coming.

This brings us to our immediate consideration. We focus it in a question. In the composite picture of this matter in the Scriptures; that is, in putting together many parts and references related to the Coming again of Christ, is there one word that gathers into itself - more than any other - the portent and pointer to its nearness? Many historical "signs" have been made much of by schools of prophecy, and the whole subject has suffered quite a lot of discrediting by deductions and prophesyings which have proved mistaken or untimely. Again and again, these prophets have had to revise or adjust their conclusions. Be that as it may, there is that which presses upon the consciousness of true believers which is more than inductive or deductive calculations and conclusions. To answer our question from the mass of Scripture we are sure that there is such a word, and to mention it is to act like a key to so much, both in Scripture and in the world.

It is the word INTENSIFICATION.

Was not this the principle laid down by the Lord Himself in His parable of the Wheat and the Tares (or Darnel)?

Only, but surely, by the process of intensification, in which the true nature of apparent similarities and confused identities would be manifest, would the verdict and judgment be applied. There is no mistaking this feature in the relevant teaching of the Lord (such as Matt. 24, etc.), in the Letters to the Thessalonians, in Peter's Letters, and in the Revelation. Intensification to breaking point is the pointer, and it is seen to be the state in every aspect of life.

1. The intensification of spiritual antagonism, pressure, and conflict. Every time that the end comes into view in the Bible, this feature is most evident. The evil forces are felt to be pressing down and meticulously alert and active as though they had no time to lose.

2. Intensification of outward difficulties in Christian life and work.

3. Intensification of Satanic deception. Counterfeits, confusion, mixture (of truth and error), misrepresentation (of Christ, His Church, and His servants). The lie - the great lie or "working of error". All this to bring despair by confusion to the would-be-faithful people of God.

4. Intensification of 'religion' that does not give Christ His true and real place; a 'Christianity' without Christ in truth.

5. Intensification of human sufficiency, importance, and independence.

6. Intensification of war-fever and anxiety and a temporary respite in which men cry "Peace and safety" and are put off their guard so that "sudden destruction" comes "as a thief in the night".

7. Intensification of alternatives to the Truth. "Many false prophets", and false teachings. 

All these can be noted in the Scriptures relating to the Lord's Coming.

"Knowledge shall be increased"; what an eye-opening phrase that is for the present time. "Many shall run to and fro"; such a word needs no comment.

That Peter in his letter should have perfectly described the nuclear and atomic age and its effects as marking the approach of the end is startling when it is remembered that such things were unknown in his time.

Surely we have said enough to give evidence that rapid and unprecedented intensification in every realm - nature, human life, spiritual realms, phenomena, and particularly ungodliness - is the most pronounced indication of the near approach of His Coming. If this is true, we can appreciate the appeal that vigilance, devotion, and faithfulness, shall correspond to the demand. Surely, when the forces of evil and the world are so energetic, there can be no room for slackness and falling off on the part of the saints.

The Coming of the Lord is ever made the basis of an appeal for watchfulness, preparation, faithfulness, and purity. Everything will make it so easy for the Lord's people to lose heart, let go zeal, and feel helpless and worn out.

Now is the time to lay hold of the prayer of the Apostle Paul and make it ours continually - "that he would grant you... that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man" (Eph. 3:16).

"When these things begin to come to pass... lift up your heads; because your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28) - not 'your destruction', 'your shame', 'your end', but your "redemption", and the word means 'your way out'.

T. Austin-Sparks

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