WHY WILL THERE BE A SECOND ADVENT?
THAT our Lord intended us as his disciples, to understand, that for some purpose, in some manner, and at some time, he would come again, is, we presume, admitted and believed by all familiar with the Scriptures.
When he said, "If I go away, I will come again," we believe that he certainly referred to his second personal coming. Some think he referred to the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; others, to the destruction of Jerusalem, etc.; but all apparently forget the fact that in the last book of the Bible, written more than sixty years after Pentecost, and twenty-six years after Jerusalem's destruction, he that was dead, and is alive, speaks of the event as yet future, saying: "Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me." And the inspired John replies: "Even so come Lord Jesus."
Quite a number think that when any are converted, that forms a part of the coming of Christ, and that so he continues coming until all the world is converted. Then, say they, he will have fully come.
These evidently overlook the fact that the world will not be converted when he comes; that the Bible, our only guide on the subject, declares that, "In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of [R255 : page 28] God;" that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived;" and that Jesus gave special warning to his little flock, saying: "Take heed to yourselves, lest that day come upon you unawares, for as a snare shall it come upon all them" (not taking heed) "that dwell upon the face of the whole earth, and they shall not escape."
Again, we may rest assured that when Jesus said, "All the tribes of the earth shall mourn and wail because of him when they see him coming," he did not refer to the conversion of sinners --Do the tribes mourn and wail because of the conversion of a sinner? And if it refers, as almost all admit, to Christ's personal presence on earth, it teaches that all on earth will not love his appearing, as they certainly would do if all were converted.
These expect that through the efforts of the Church, the world will be converted, and thus the millennial age be introduced, at the close of which the Lord will come, wind up earthly affairs, reward believers and condemn sinners; that to convert the world, bind Satan, make "the knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth," and "nations to learn war no more," are the work of the Church in her present mortal condition. When she has accomplished this great and difficult task, Jesus comes to wind it up, etc.
They have much Scripture, which taken disconnectedly, seems to favor this view. But even this, we believe, when God's word and plan are looked at as a whole, will be found to favor the other view,--viz., that Christ comes to reign before the conversion of the world; that the Church is now being tried, and that the reward promised the overcomers is, that they shall share in that reign: "To him that overcometh, will I give to sit with me in my throne."--Rev. 3:21. "And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."--Rev. 20:4.
There are two textsin particular used by our post-millennial brethren, to which we would refer:--"This Gospel must first be preached in all the world for a witness. Then shall the end [R255 : page 29] come." They claim this to refer to the Gospel's converting the world before the end of the Gospel age. We pre-millennial believers claim, that witnessing to the world does not mean converting the world, but as it reads, to witness or testify.
This witness has already been given. In 1861 the reports of the Bible societies showed that the Gospel had been published in every language of earth; not that all earth's myriads had received it. No; not one in a hundred of the thirteen hundred millions have ever heard the name of Jesus. Yet the text is fulfilled: the Gospel has been preached to every nation.
We understand that the main and first object of the Gospel in the present age is, "To take out a people, for his name"--the Church--who at Christ's coming are united to him, and receive his name.--Rev. 3:12.
The second text is: "Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool."--Matt. 22:44. The thought generally gathered from this Scripture is, that in heaven God has a [R256 : page 29] throne on which he sits continually, and that when "Christ sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high," he sat down also upon the same throne. This is a misconception. The throne of God referred to is not a material one, but refers to his supreme authority and rulership, for "heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool," and Paul says, "God hath highly exalted him [Jesus] and given him a name above every name." He hath given him authority (above every other) next to the Father. If Christ sits upon a material throne until his enemies are made his footstool [all subdued], then, of course, he could not come until the Millennium has been fully inaugurated. But if it means the exalting to power, it would not interfere with his coming and subduing all things unto himself.
To illustrate: King William is on the throne of Germany, we say, yet we do not refer to the royal bench, and as a matter of fact, he seldom occupies it. We mean that he rules Germany.
Right hand signifies the chief place, position of excellence or power, and the words of Jesus to Pilate agree with this thought: [R256 : page 30] "Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds (storm clouds of trouble.-- Zeph. 1:15) of heaven."--Mark 14:62. He will be on the right hand when coming, and remain at the right hand during the Millennial age. On both views of the subject able arguments are possible, yet both cannot be true. We purpose, therefore, to take a glance at the general
PLAN OF SALVATION,
to see which view is in harmony with it. In so doing, we shall find the relation and bearing of both the first and the second comings, and know where to locate them.
First, then, Has God a plan? All must agree that he has, although almost all are inclined to think and talk of his dealings as though he were dealing by a rule of chance, and governed entirely by circumstance. No; he that would condemn a man for building a tower without first counting the cost, shall he build and people a universe without counting the cost? No, brethren; "Known unto the Lord are all his ways from the beginning." God has a plan, a purpose, and we know that all his purposes shall be accomplished. But how shall we find that plan? It is revealed to us in his word. "Search the Scriptures." Compare Scripture with Scripture, for
"God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain."
We are too much inclined to ask--What does my church say?--upon any question, instead of--What saith the Scriptures? Too much disposed to consult men's theological opinions, rather than God's Word. With the thought, then, that "the Scriptures are able to make us wise," that "the testimonies of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple," let us examine.
We have learned in the foregoing chapter Why evil was permitted. Its existence is attributed in Scripture to the devil. Evil continues because Satan's power is continued. It will last [R256 : page 31] throughout the present age, because the devil is the prince [ruler] of this world.--Eph. 2:2. He will continue as its ruler as long as he can, or until he is bound. He cannot be bound until a stronger than he takes the control out of his hands.
God, of course, can control him; and of Jesus it is written, "All power in heaven and in earth is given unto me."
But while Jesus has all power, for wise purposes he has not made use of it, permitting evil to reign and measurably control the world, and permitting the devil to be "prince of this world." --John 14:30. But the time is coming when "He shall take to himself his great power, and reign," exalting his Church, giving her "power over the nations," so that, instead of, as now, being "subject to the powers that be," she shall "rule the nations." But when will he thus assume control? When the Gospel Church, "His body" (Greek--Ecclesia), is complete. (Evil now being permitted for the trial and perfecting of the saints.) This completion of the Church is attained under the sounding of the seventh trumpet.--Rev. 11:15. Here the mystery [church] of God is finished, and "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and his anointed" [church]. Now, we inquire, is this transfer of authority
FROM SATAN TO CHRIST
caused by the conversion of the nations to Christ through preaching the Gospel? We answer, No. At this time the nations are not converted (vs. 18), "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come." If converted, they would not be thus hostile, neither would God's wrath come upon them. On the contrary, God teaches in many Scriptures that a great time of trouble will come upon the nations. "He cometh with clouds" --indications of storm--trouble. "Come, behold the desolations which the Lord hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth." This is the way God tells us he will make wars to cease. The next clause informs us that then he will be exalted among the heathen and in [R256 : page 32] all the earth.--Psa. 46:10. This chastisement of nations will be for their good, and is necessary to them as is the chastisement which God now inflicts upon his children, and it will have a good effect, for we read, When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.--Isa. 26:9. It is in this new dispensation that, with evil restrained--Satan bound--"the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth as the waters do the sea."--Isa. 11:9. The conversion of the world, instead of being due now while the devil is the prince of this world, will be, David says, "When the kingdom is the Lord's and he is the Governor among the nations; [then] all the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all nations shall come and worship before him.--Psa. 22:27,28.
During the infancy of the human family--say from Adam to Moses--God treated his creatures like very young children. So far as we know, they had very little knowledge of their Creator's power or character. They had scarcely any revelation, the exception being the few cases where God favored certain persons, as Abraham, Lot, and others, communicating to them by angels, giving to Eve and to Abraham peculiar promises, which they could only vaguely comprehend.
The next age was to the Jewish nation a schooling season, during which God taught them to respect his promises and laws. They were yet minors, under age, therefore were treated as children, but kept under the Law, their schoolmaster.--Gal. 3:24.
While the Word of God was being written and committed to the Jews for keeping, etc., the remainder of the world seems to have been left in the darkness of heathenism. They bowed down to wood and stone, destitute of truth as they are to-day.
In Scripture the period from Adam to the flood is called "the world [age] that was."--2 Pet. 3:6. From the flood to the second coming of the Lord, "the world that now is," and "the present evil world," vs. 7, and the next grand era is called "the world to come."--Heb. 2:5. [R256 : page 33]
"The present evil world," Gal. 1:4, contains three
The Patriarchal, lasting from the flood to the death of Jacob; the Jewish Age, lasting from the death of Jacob to the death of Christ, when he gave them up, wept over them, and said: "Your house is left unto you desolate;" the Gospel Age, lasting from the resurrection of Christ, when he became "the first born from the dead, and the beginning of the new creation," until the full company of "the Church of the First-born" is complete, at his coming. The time of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the resurrection and reward of prophets, saints, etc.--Rev. 11:18.
We know not how many ages may be in "the world to come;" but that there is more than one we are sure, for Paul speaks of "the ages to come."--Eph. 2:7. The first of these alone is dealt with in Scripture--the Millennial age, during which we live and reign with Christ.--Rev. 20:4.
Having this outline, let us look more particularly at God's doings and sayings, and, first, it will astonish you, doubtless, until you reflect, when I say, that according to his word, God has not exhausted his resources for the world's salvation; that, in short, he is not now trying to save the world, nor has he been during past ages. What has he been doing? "Taking out a people--Church--for his name." Don't think this wonderful, as it is only putting in a striking form, what all Calvinists believe, among whom are Baptists, Presbyterians, and others,-- viz., That God is now electing, or choosing his Church out of the world. Yes, and all our brethren who believe in free grace must admit, that if all his purposes shall be accomplished, and "God's word shall not return unto him void;" if these Scriptures are true, God did not purpose the conversion of the world during the past six thousand years, else it would be accomplished. Neither did he send his word to convert the world up to the present time, else it did not prosper in the thing whereto [R256 : page 34] he sent it.--Isa. 55:11. These two views have been a dividing point in the churches for centuries,--viz.:
ELECTION and FREE GRACE.
We believe the Scripture to teach both, but that it requires the observance of Heaven's first law--order, to rightly divide the word of truth on this subject.
First, we will glance at Election. During the age preceding [R257 : page 34] the deluge, there is no Scriptural account of God's giving mankind any law, nor any but very little light of revelation. One promise shines out; the Seed of the Woman was to bruise the Serpent, and even this required future revelation in order to be comprehended. God had, however, a few patriarchs or servants, who had light above the masses as lamp-posts in a dark way.
The Patriarchal age had increase of light. It is now revealed that this seed is not only to crush evil [the serpent], but to "bless all the families of the earth;" still God's Church is represented by single individuals only, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, etc.
These patriarchs were elected--chosen. "God called Abraham and said," etc. Not his kin, but Abraham alone was chosen; he had many sons and daughters, but only Isaac was chosen. "In Isaac shall thy seed be called." Of Isaac's two sons only one was chosen, "as it is written," Rom. 9:11,13, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated," (loved less). God chose before they were born, "that the purpose of God according to election might stand." Now, remember, I do not say that God elected one to go to heaven and the other to go to hell: no, far from it. That is the common misconception of the Scriptural, and when properly understood, beautiful doctrine of Election.
At Jacob's death another advance step in God's plan is taken, and typical or fleshly Israel is formed. From this time one man no longer represents God in the world; but a nation, all the sons of Jacob and their posterity. And now we have an elect nation or church, and God gives all his special blessings to it. Other [R257 : page 35] and larger nations--Egypt, Chaldea, etc., are passed by, left without light and without knowledge, while these are given to Israel. "What advantage then hath the Jew? Much every way, chiefly because to them were committed the oracles (laws and testimonies) of God." This is Paul's statement. God speaking to them, says: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth."--Amos 3:2. This people alone was recognized and thus continued until Christ came. Yes, and after it, for during his ministry he preached to them, and would not suffer his disciples to do otherwise, saying as he sends them out, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." Why so, Lord? "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."--Matt. 15:24. All his time was devoted to them until death, and here was his first work for the world--the first display of his free and all abounding grace--
GOD'S GRANDEST GIFT,
not for Israel only, but for all, for "Jesus Christ, by the grace
of God, tasted death for every man." And now, also, in the
Gospel age, a certain sort of election obtains. Some parts of
the world are more favored with the Gospel (which is free to all
who hear) than others. Contrast yourself, with your privileges
and knowledge, with the heathen man who never heard the
call. When this called-out company (called to be "sons of
God," "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, our
Lord") is complete, then the plan of God for the world's salvation
is only beginning. Not until then will "THE SEED" "bruise the
serpent's head," and "bless all the families of the earth." For
the seed is not Christ, the head, alone, but the Church, which is
his body, as Paul informs us, Gal. 3:16,29, "Which seed is
Christ...and if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed,
and heirs, according to the promise." The same company are
to bruise the serpent.--Rom. 16:20: "The very God of Peace
shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
[R257 : page 36]
THE GOSPEL AGE.
The Gospel age makes ready the chaste virgin (church) for the coming Bridegroom. When ready, the Bridegroom comes, and they that are ready are united to him. The second Adam and the second Eve become one, and then the glorious work of restoring mankind begins--"the time of restitution of all things which God hath spoken."--Acts 3:21. In the next dispensation, new heavens and new earth, she is no longer the espoused Virgin, but the Bride. THEN "the Spirit and the Bride say come, and whosoever will, let him come and drink of the water of life freely."--Rev. 22:17.
As Adam, the beginning of the fleshly race, was composed of man, and the helpmeet taken from his side, as it is written, "Male and female created he them, and he called their name ADAM"--Gen. 5:2; so the "Second Adam," of whom Paul says the first "was a figure," or type (Rom. 5:14), has a helpmeet taken from his side (redeemed by his blood), and when she is fully formed and perfected, the Bridegroom comes, and they go in to the marriage; they become one, "the new creation of God"--(Read Eph. 5:25,30,32), making in "Himself of twain (Jews and Gentiles) one new man." The Church is composed of both.--Eph. 2:15. This new man we have found to be the seed "to crush the serpent's head,"--"the seed of Abraham," "in whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed." The Gospel age, so far from closing the Church's mission, was only a school of affliction to enable her, as well as her head to be touched with a feeling of earth's infirmities, that she also might sympathize with mankind, and during the Millennial age assist them, when "the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth," scattering the darkness of sin and ignorance, causing "wars to cease unto the ends of the earth." These are the "times of restitution," which Peter says are due when Christ comes.--Acts 3:17,19. For this "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting for the manifestation [R257 : page 37] of the sons of God."--Rom. 8:22,19. These sons are not now manifest. There are among Christ's flock many "wolves in sheep's clothing." Among the wheat there are many tares; but when in "the harvest" ("the end of the age"), they are separated, then shall the righteous shine forth (be manifested) as the sun in the kingdom of their Father--and then to the groaning creation (mankind) shall this "Sun of Righteousness arise, with healing in his wings."
But let us leave this bright and pleasant picture of the coming day, of which with the poet we could say:
"Haste thee along, ages of glory,
Haste the glad time when Christ appears,"
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVE DIED
before the plan of God has thus reached its fullness? There have lived on earth since creation (six thousand years), about one hundred and forty-three billions of human beings. Of these the very broadest estimate that could be made with reason would be, that less than one billion were Saints of God--the Church-- the Bride. What of the one hundred and forty-two billions who died out of Christ? What is their condition?
Atheism answers: They are eternally dead. There is no hereafter. They will never live again.
Calvinism answers: They were not elected to be saved. God foreordained and predestined them to be lost--to go to hell --and they are there now, writhing in agony, where they will ever remain without hope.
Arminianism answers: We believe that God excuses them on account of ignorance, and that if they did the best they knew how, they will be as sure of being a part of the "Church of the First-born" as is Paul himself. [R257 : page 38]
To this last view the great majority of Christians of all denominations hold, from a feeling that any other view would be irreconcilable with justice on God's part.
But, we inquire, what do the Scriptures teach on this last point? That ignorance is a ground of salvation? No; the only condition known in Scripture is FAITH. "By grace are ye saved through FAITH." Justification by faith is the ground-rock of the whole system of Christianity. When, on the day of Pentecost, Peter was asked--"What must we do to be saved?" --he answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved."
Again he says, Acts 4:12, "There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," than the name of Jesus.
Paul reasons that a man must hear the Gospel before he can believe: "How shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard?" This--God's plan--that men shall be saved on account of faith, Paul says was to the Jews a stumbling-block (because they expected salvation as a reward of keeping the Law) and to the Greeks (the worldly-wise) foolishness. But, nevertheless, it has "pleased God, by the foolishness (in the eyes of men) of preaching to save
THEM WHICH BELIEVE."
I want to Scripturally close you in to the thought, that all who have not heard could not believe, and not believing, could not be a part of the Bride of Christ. But you object: Paul, in the first two chapters of Romans, teaches, "that these having not the law, are a law unto themselves," and that this law, which their conscience furnishes, is sufficient to justify them. No, I answer; you understand Paul differently from what he intended. Paul's argument everywhere is that "all the world is guilty before God." "For if I had not known the law I had not known sin." "For by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law given to the Jew revealed his weakness, and was intended [R257 : page 39] to show him that he was unable to justify himself before God. "For by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified in his (God's) sight." As the law thus condemned the Jews, so Paul says it is with the Gentiles also. Though ignorant of the [R258 : page 39] Law, they had light enough of conscience to condemn them. (All the light the Gentile could have would not justify sin; it would all the more condemn them, as the written law did the Jew.) "That every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God," Rom. 3:19, in order that eternal life may be seen to be "the gift of God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord," to every one that believeth.
Well, you answer, the Bible to the contrary, I believe and insist that God won't damn the world for ignorance. Now, let us see. Do you practice what you declare? Why do you assist in sending missionaries to the heathen, at a cost of thousands of valuable lives and millions of money? If they will all be saved, or even half of them, through ignorance, you do them a positive injury in sending them a preacher to tell them of Christ, for we know that only about one in a thousand believes when the missionaries do go to them. If your idea be correct, it were far better that no missionary should ever be sent. Before, nearly all saved; now, because of knowledge, nearly all lost. In the same way we might reason that if God had left all in ignorance, we would all have been saved. Then instead of the Gospel being good news, it would be more properly named bad news.
No, my brethren; you do believe that "there is no other name given whereby we must be saved." Your actions speak the loudest and speak rightly.
Now, suppose we look at these things just as God tells us of them, and leave the clearing of his character to himself.
WHAT HAS BECOME OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND
First, we answer, that you may be sure they are not now suffering in hell, because not only do the Scriptures teach that [R258 : page 40] full and complete reward is not given to the Church until Christ comes, "when he shall reward every man," but the unjust are to receive their punishment then also. Whatever may be their present condition, it cannot be their full reward, for Peter says: "God knoweth how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished," and he will do so. But the thought of so many of our fellow creatures at any time being lost, without having had the knowledge which is necessary to salvation, seems terrible, indeed, to all who have a spark of love or pity. Then, too, there are a number of Scriptures which it seems difficult to harmonize with all this. Let us see in the light of his dealings how we shall understand the statement, "God is love," or, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him might not perish."
Ah, Lord, it seems to poor, frail humanity that if you loved the world so much, you might have made provision, not only that believers might be saved, but also that all might hear.
Again we read: "This is the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Lord, all our reasons seem to say, not so. We cannot see how Jesus lighted more than a few of earth's billions. Yonder Hottentot gives no evidence of having been so enlightened, neither did the Sodomites and myriads of others.
Once more we read: "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man." How, Lord, we ask? If he tasted death for the one hundred and forty-three billions, and from other causes it becomes efficacious only to one billion, is not his death comparatively a failure?
Again: "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Surely it is to but a little flock that it has been glad tidings, and not to all people.
Another is: "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and man--the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all." A ransom! Then why should not all have some benefit from Christ's death? [R258 : page 41]
Oh, how dark, how inconsistent do these statements appear when we remember that the Gospel Church is "a little flock." Oh, how we wish it would please God to open our eyes that we might understand the Scriptures, for we feel sure that did we but understand, it must all seem clear; it must all declare in sweetest harmony, "God is Love." Oh, that we had the key! Do you want it?--Are you sure you do? It is the last text we quoted: "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." Due time! Ah, now we see! God has a due time for everything. He could have testified it to this one hundred and forty-two billions in their lifetime. Then that would have been their due time; as it was not so, their due time must be future. We know that now is our due time, because it is testified to us now. Christ was a ransom for you before you were born, but it was not due time for you to hear it until years after. So with the Hottentot; he has not heard it yet, and may not in this life; but in God's due time he will.
But does not death end probation?--one inquires. There is no Scripture which says so, we answer, and all the above and many more Scriptures would be meaningless or worse,
IF DEATH ENDS ALL
to the ignorant masses of the world. The only Scripture ever quoted to prove this generally entertained view, is, "As the tree falleth, so it lies." If this has any relation to man's future, it indicates that in whatever condition of knowledge or ignorance he enters death, he remains the same until raised up again.
But can knowledge ever reach these billions in their graves while dead? No; God has provided for the resurrection of them all. For "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." As death came by the first Adam, so life comes by the second Adam. Everything that mankind lost in the first, is to be restored in the second. Hence, the age following Christ's second coming is spoken of as "the times of restitution," --Acts 3:21. [R258 : page 42]
Life is one of the things lost, and is to be one of the things restored. When restored to life with the advantage of experience and knowledge of evil, which Adam had not, he may continue to live eternally on the original condition of obedience. Perfect obedience will be required, and perfect ability will be given under the righteous reign of the Prince of Peace. Here is the salvation vouchsafed to the world. This enables us to use another text, which is little used except by Universalists, and although not Universalists, yet we claim the right to use all Scripture. It reads: "We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them which believe." Here are two classes of saved ones--all (the world) and believers. All are saved from the Adamic death and believers of the present Gospel age receive the special salvation.
When the first-mentioned class (the world) are saved from the weakness, degradation and death to which all are now subject --when they by reason of Christ's ransom are, during the Millennial age restored to human perfection, enlightened by truth and brought to a knowledge of the love of God; if then they will not live in harmony with the law of God's kingdom--Love --they will be "destroyed from among the people."--Acts 3:23. This is the second death.
Now, we see that "the testimony in due time," explains all of
those difficult texts. In due time it shall be "glad tidings of
great joy to all people." In due time, that "True Light shall
lighten every man that cometh into the world," and in no other
way can these Scriptures be used without wresting. We take
them to mean just what they say. Paul carries out the line of
argument with emphasis in Rom. 5:18,19. He reasons that as
all men were condemned to death and suffered it because of
Adam's transgression, so also Christ's righteousness justifies all
to life again. All lost life, not of their own will or choice, in
the first Adam; all receive life at the hands of the second Adam,
equally without their will or choice. When thus brought to life,
having the love of God testified to them, their probation,
[R258 : page 43]
THEIR FIRST CHANCE,
begins. We do not preach a second chance for any. Since all believers are now "called in one hope of their calling,"--viz.: to be the Bride of Christ, and since this company will be completed at the end of this age, it could not be a second chance for any in the next age, for there is to be but one Bride of Christ.
Peter tells us that the "restitution is spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets." They do all teach it. Ezekiel tells us of the valley of dry bones, "This is the whole house of Israel;" and God says to them, "I will bring you up out of your graves and bring you into your own land." To this Paul's words agree, Rom. 11:25,26. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles (the elect company 'taken out of the Gentiles,' the Gospel church) be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved," or brought back from their cast-off condition. For "God hath not cast off his people whom he foreknew." They were cut off from his favor while the bride of Christ was being selected, but will return to favor when that work is accomplished.--Vs. 28 to 33. The prophets are full of statements of how God will "plant them again, and they shall be no more plucked up." This does not refer to restorations from former captivities in Babylon, Syria, etc., for the Lord says, "In that day it shall no more be a proverb among you 'the fathers ate a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge;' but every man shall die for his own sin."--Jer. 31:29,30. This is not the case now. You do not die for your own sin, but for Adam's--"As in Adam all die." He ate the sour grape and our forefathers continued to eat them, entailing further sickness and misery upon us. The day in which "every man shall die for his own sin," is this Millennial or Restitution day. But, when restored to the same conditions as Adam, will they not be as liable to sin and fall again as he was? No; they will be liable, but not as liable; they will have learned in their present [R259 : page 43] lifetime the lesson which God designs to teach all,--viz., "The [R259 : page 44] exceeding sinfulness of sin." They will then be prepared to appreciate the good and shun the evil, and the Gospel Church then glorified will be, "the kings (rulers) and priests (teachers)" of that new age, for "Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world (age) to come, whereof we speak? etc. This restoration to perfect manhood will not be an instantaneous act accomplished in their resurrection, but a gradual work after their resurrection, requiring for its accomplishment all of the Millennial age--"Times of Restitution." And during that time, they shall be rewarded for the "cup of cold water" given (Matt. 10:42) or "beaten with many or few stripes" (Luke 12:47), according to their improvement or neglect of the measure of light enjoyed during the Gospel age.
There will be something to be gained, and therefore to be sought for by mankind during the next age: Raised to a measure of life, the means of reaching perfection as men will be supplied them, yet they will never reach that condition, unless they put forth effort to obtain it, and make use of the means provided. When made perfect they will have everlasting life, in the same sense that Adam had it, and that angels now have it, i.e., on condition of obedience to God's law.
But are we sure that God intends these blessings for any but the "people whom he foreknew"--the Jews? Yes. He mentions other nations also by name, and speaks of their restitution. Let me give you an illustration that will be forcible.
Surely, if we find their restitution foretold you will be satisfied. But why should they not have an opportunity to reach perfection? True they were not righteous, but neither were you when God gave you your opportunity. Jesus' own words shall tell us that they are not as guilty in his sight as the Jews, who had more knowledge: "Woe unto thee, Capernaum, for if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained unto this day." Thus Jesus teaches us [R259 : page 45] that they had not had their full opportunity. "Remember," Jesus says of the Sodomites, that "God rained down fire and destroyed them all." So if their restoration is spoken of in Scripture it implies their resurrection.
Let us look at the prophecy of Ezek. 16:48, to the close. Read it carefully. God here speaks of Israel, and compares her with her neighbor Samaria, and also with the Sodomites, of whom he says, "I took away as I saw good." Why did God see good to take away these people without giving them a chance, through the knowledge of "the only name?" Because, it was not their due time. They will come to a knowledge of the truth when restored. He will save them from death's bondage first, and then give them knowledge as it is written. "God will have all men to be saved, and to come to a knowledge of the truth."--1 Tim. 2:4. When brought to the knowledge, then, and not until then, are they on trial for eternal life. With this thought and with no other, can we understand the dealings of the God of love with those Amalekites and other nations, whom he not only permitted but commanded Israel to butcher. "Slay Amalek utterly--leave neither man, woman nor child." "Spare not the little ones." How often my heart has ached, and yours, too, as we sought to reconcile this apparent wantonness on God's part with the teachings of the new dispensation, "God is love," "Love your enemies," etc. Now we can see, that the entire Jewish age was a type of the higher Gospel age; Israel's victories and conquests merely pictures of the Christian's battles with sin, etc. These Amalekites, and Sodomites and others were used to illustrate, or to be "examples" "for our admonition." These people might just as well die so, as of disease and plague, and it mattered little to them, as they were merely learning to know evil, that when on trial "in due time," they might learn good, and be able to discriminate and choose the good and have life.
But let us read the prophecy further. After comparing Israel with Sodom and Samaria, and pronouncing her worse, vs. 53, [R259 : page 46] says: "When I bring again the captivity of Sodom and Samaria, then will I bring thy captives in the midst of them." [In death all are captives, and Christ came to "set at liberty the captives and to open the prison doors" of the grave.] In vs. 55, this is called "a return to
THEIR FORMER ESTATE,"
--restitution. But some one who cannot imagine how God really could be so good or just, suggests: God must be speaking ironically to the Jews, and saying he would just as soon bring back the Sodomites as them, but has no notion of either. Let us see. Read vss. 61,62. Nevertheless, "I will remember my covenant with thee; I will establish it to thee." "Yes," says Paul, "this is God's covenant with them--they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance."--Rom. 11:27,29. The sixty-third verseconcludes the argument, showing that the promised RESTITUTION is not based on the merits of the Jews, Samaritans or Sodomites-- "That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee, for all that thou hast done, SAITH THE LORD GOD." When God signs his name to a statement in this way, I must believe it--"Saith the Lord God." And no wonder if they are confounded when in the ages to come he shows forth the exceeding riches of his grace. Yea, many of God's children will be confounded and amazed when they see how "God so loved THE WORLD." They will be ready to exclaim with brother Paul: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out."
But some will inquire, How comes it that this has not been seen long ago? We answer, God gives light and knowledge to his people only as it is due. The world was left in almost entire ignorance of God's plan until the Gospel age, when Christ came, bringing life and immortality to light through the Gospel. The [R259 : page 47] Jews up to that time supposed that all the promises of God were to and for them alone, but in due time God showed favor to the Gentiles also. Christians generally have supposed that God's blessings are all and only to the Church, but we begin to see that God is better than all our fears; and, though he has given the Church the "exceeding great and precious promises," he has made some to the world also.
"The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more, unto the perfect day," and the fact that it now shines so brightly, and that we are able to see more of the beauty and harmony of God's word, is strong presumptive evidence that we are in the dawn of that glorious Millennial day, when "we shall know even as we are known."
But we promised to harmonize those doctrines of the Church generally supposed to conflict,--viz., CALVINISM, or Election, ARMINIANISM, or Free Grace. Perhaps you already see how they harmonize themselves by simply recognizing the order of the ages, and applying each text to the place and time to which it belongs. Let me, then, point out to you
THE INCONSISTENCY OF EITHER CALVINISM
when separated from each other. In doing so, we do not wish to reflect on those who hold these doctrines. We shall merely call your attention to features which their warmest advocates must confess to be their weak points.
First--Calvinism says: God is all-wise; he knew the end from the beginning; and, as all his purposes shall be accomplished, he never could have intended to save any but a few--the true Church--the little flock. These he elected and predestined to be eternally saved; all others were equally predestined and elected to go to hell, for "known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world."--Acts 15:18.
This has its good features. It shows, and properly, God's Omniscience. This would be our ideal of a GREAT God, were [R259 : page 48] it not that three essential qualities of greatness, viz., MERCY, LOVE and JUSTICE are lacking, for none of these qualities find place in bringing into the world one hundred and forty-two billions of creatures damned before they were born, and mocked by protestations of love. No, no. "God is love;" "God is just;" "God is merciful."
Second--Arminianism says: "Yes, God is love," and in bringing humanity into the world he meant them no harm-- only good. But Satan succeeded in tempting Adam. Thus, "sin entered into the world, and death by sin," and ever since, God has been doing all he can to deliver man from his enemy, even to the giving of his Son; and though now, six thousand years after, the Gospel has only reached a very small portion of those creatures, yet we do hope and trust that within six thousand years more, through the energy and liberality of the Church, God will have so far remedied the evil introduced by Satan, that all may at least know of his love, and the knowledge of God be co-extensive with the knowledge of evil.
The commendable feature of this view is, that it accepts the statement that "God is love." But, while full of loving and benevolent designs for his creatures, he lacks ability and foreknowledge adequate to the accomplishment of those loving designs.
While God was busy arranging and devising for the good of his newly-created children, Satan slipped in, and by one stroke upset all God's plans, and in one moment brought sin and evil among men to such an extent that, even by exhausting all his power, God must spend twelve thousand years to even reinstate righteousness to such a degree that the remainder of the race who still live will have an opportunity to choose Good as readily as Evil; and the one hundred and forty-two billions of the past six thousand years, and as many more of the next, are lost to all [R260 : page 48] eternity, in spite of God's love for them, because Satan interfered with his plans as God had not foreseen. Thus Satan, in spite of God, gets thousands into hell to one God gets to glory. [R260 : page 49] This view must exalt men's ideas of Satan, and lower their estimation of him who "Spake and it was done; commanded, and it stood fast."
But how refreshing it is for us to turn from these fragments of truth, as separately considered, and
SEE HOW HARMONIOUS
and beautiful they are when united. How, during the present and past ages God is electing or gathering, by the preaching of his word, the Gospel Church. How he wisely permitted evil to come into the world, in order that he might develop his church, which, thus "being made perfect through suffering," might be prepared for her glorious work in the future; and how the masses of mankind, though not now on probation, are nevertheless getting a knowledge and experience by contact with sin, which he foresaw they would be the better off; and, furthermore, how he took occasion, in connection with this, his plan, to show us his great love, by so arranging that the death of Christ was necessary to our recovery from sin, and then freely giving him, "to be a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world," and then in the next dispensation--
"THE NEW HEAVENS AND EARTH,"
(Rev. 21:1-9-10, and 22:17)--when "the Spirit and the Bride say come, and whosoever will may come and take of the water of life freely," he will show his "Free Grace" in fullest measure.
This period of his presence and reign is commonly known among Christian people as the Millennium, which means one thousand, and which is applied to the time future, "when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9), and none need to say unto his neighbor, "Know thou the Lord?" "All shall know him," etc. The time when there shall be no more curse (Rev. 22:3), "when the desert shall blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1), and "streams [R260 : page 50] shall break forth in the deserts" (Isa. 35:6), when "the tabernacle of God will be with men and he shall dwell with them" (Rev. 21:3), when Satan shall be restrained and righteousness shall control. "Then nation shall not lift up sword against nation," "nor learn war any more;" but "they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks" (Micah 4:3). Glorious prospect for the world!
"Haste thee along, ages of glory,
Haste the glad time when Christ appears!"
Is not this the teaching of God's word? Men never would have thought of such a glorious plan of salvation. Truly God has said: "My ways are not your ways, nor my thoughts your thoughts." Hereafter when we address him, "Our Father," may it call to our mind that his love and compassion are far greater than the pity of our earthly parents; and while we study his words more and more, and seek to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge and love of God," let us ever remember that--
"Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his word in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain."
Having seen how much of the great plan of God awaits the coming of Christ for its accomplishment, and having, we trust, found why Christ comes, can we help loving his appearing?
[R260 : page 50]
THE UNPARDONABLE SIN.
"WHOSOEVER speaketh a word against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.--Matt. 12:32. [The word here rendered world, as in many other places, should be rendered age, and is so rendered in all new translations.] [R260 : page 51]
This text teaches first that there is such a thing as forgiveness of sins both in the present Gospel age and in the coming--Millennial --age. The basis of all forgiveness of sins, is in the fact that "Christ died for our sins."
Secondly, it teaches that some sins are possible, which God will not reckon as a part of the Adamic sin which passed upon all men and which is to be forgiven all men. If men looked at Jesus and ignorantly supposed him an impostor and blasphemed him, it would be excusable and forgivable as a result of the fallen nature. Even should they blaspheme the name of God, and say they believed in no such being, etc., this too might be forgiven for the same reasons. But when God's power (the Holy Ghost) was manifested in doing them good as it was manifested through Jesus, there certainly was no excuse for even the most depraved of men ascribing those good works to an evil power--Satan. And this is just what Jesus tells them, that such conduct cannot be classed as a part of the general human depravity, and it therefore cannot be forgiven.
The light was shining so clearly, that though their eyes were nearly blinded by sin, they could not help realizing some of the light as Jesus manifested some of "the powers of the world (age) to come." As he said to them on another occasion, their "stripes" (punishment) in the next age will be in proportion as they have been able to comprehend and do justly and have not so done. They whose moral sight and hearing have been totally destroyed by Adam's sin and its results (if any such there be-- the Lord knoweth) will have no stripes in the future, will be forgiven fully. They who see a little and could obey a little and do not so do, shall be forgiven the things they did not see and could not do, but will be beaten (punished) with a few stripes for the few things they saw, and could, but did not do. They who saw more and whose ability to perform was less impaired by the fallen nature, and who fail to do according to their ability, are to be beaten with many stripes.
Now notice that all who receive "stripes" receive them for [R260 : page 52] unpardoned sins, for if the sins were pardoned they would not be punished for them. In our earthly courts if a man had trespassed against the law in two ways, and the penalty of the first crime was imprisonment for five years, and for the second six months; if it could be shown that he was not really to blame for the first crime, but was forced into it by circumstances over which he had no control, but the second crime was measurably under his control, the decision of the court would be "guilty" on both charges: but he would be pardoned on the first charge and not on the second; the result would be that he would serve the six months' punishment.
Here are two earthly crimes, one pardonable and one unpardonable. So it is with God's law; all are sinners and condemned --guilty--on account of Adam's sin, but the full ransom from that sin has been paid, and so though condemned before the court of heaven, it is announced that all of our imperfections traceable to that cause are freely and fully forgiven. But neither more nor less is pardonable. All sins against light and ability are unpardonable, cannot be forgiven at any time, and hence must be punished. The world will have many such sins to be punished in the age to come, and they receive in some instances much punishment in the present life and age. In a word, all punishment indicates unpardoned sin, for if it were pardoned it would not be punished as well.
Paul tells us of extreme cases of this sort of unpardonable sin. Men of the world who have a little light we have seen can commit it, but when a man becomes a Christian and has the eyes of his understanding opened--when he is brought from the condition of darkness and ignorance, into the light of the knowledge of the Lord, to then "sin willfully" is terrible indeed. Due and full allowance is made for all our weaknesses and imperfections which come to us through our fallen nature, and which clog and hinder our doing as we should wish to do--our Father's will: but no more. If we cease to desire to do God's will, we cut loose from our Lord and begin to walk according to our own [R260 : page 53] will as natural and no longer spiritual beings. This is the thing pictured by the proverb: "The dog is returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."-- 2 Pet. 2:22.
In Heb. 6:4-6, Paul assures us that any Christian who has reached a full and mature development in the spiritual life, having "been enlightened," "tasted of the heavenly gift," "been made partaker of the Holy Ghost," "tasted of the good word of God" --if such shall fall away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Why? Because this is an unpardonable sin. But can they not be punished for this sin and thus be free from it in time? No, with the above description of the Apostle, we understand that these had enjoyed all the blessings due them on account of Christ's ransom: i.e., they were reckoned of God justified from all sin, as new creatures had been brought to a condition of enlightenment and knowledge of the Lord's will, and then, had deliberately and willfully acted contrary to it. We do not refer to a child of God stumbling or being overcome of the old nature for a time, but as expressed in Heb. 10:26--"if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more (a) sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour (destroy) the adversaries."
In a word, we understand Paul to teach that the class here [R261 : page 53] described have received all the benefits due them through Christ's ransom, and that their willful sinning against knowledge, etc., places them in the same position as Adam occupied when he sinned; the penalty of all such willful sin is death. In Adam's case it was the first death. In the case of these it is the second death. They had been reckoned dead as Christians, and then reckoned of God alive as new creatures, and now they die for their own willful sin--the second death. There is neither forgiveness nor excuse for such sin; they must have the full penalty and die. They have lightly esteemed the ransom after they knew of it, and thus have "trodden under foot the Son of God [R261 : page 54] and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified (set apart as new creatures) an unholy (ordinary-- common) thing, and done despite (disrespect) unto the spirit of (favor) grace."
These have no hope; they could not be recovered from the second death in any other way than as Adam and his children were redeemed from the first death--i.e., by some one dying for their sin as Jesus died for Adam's sin. Will Jesus die again for them? No, "Christ being risen dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." Nor could there be any object in bringing such to life again; having had full redemption, and having come to know both Good and Evil, if they love evil rather than good and willfully do it, let them be deprived of life. All will say it is love on the part of our Father to deprive them of life, which, if continued, would be only of injury and evil both to themselves and others.
It will readily be seen that this sin to this last mentioned extent --punishable with the second death--could not possibly have been committed prior to the Gospel age, since not until Pentecost did the Holy Ghost come as a teacher to guide the church into the truth.--John 16:13. It had in past time been active through holy men of old, as they--"spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," but it moved them to write but not to understand. It came upon the prophets as servants to communicate; it comes to us as a seal of sonship, and to enable us as sons to understand our Father's will.--Rom. 8:14. Consequently in previous ages none ever "tasted of the good word of God," or "became partakers of the Holy Ghost," etc., and consequently none who lived in past ages could sin away forever all hope of a future life.
The millions of past ages never have been recovered from the first death (Adamic) in any sense, and must be so recovered before it will be possible for them to commit the "sin unto death."--Heb. 6:4,6. That Israelites, Sodomites, Egyptians, and others have not fully lived up to the knowledge they possessed [R261 : page 55] we doubt not, and they will doubtless, therefore, have "stripes" in the coming age for sins not pardoned by Jesus' ransom.
We are glad to say that we believe very few have ever committed this "Sin unto death;" that very few ever possessed the knowledge, etc., specified by the apostle, we feel sure; and that is the specified condition.
"There's a wideness in God's mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty."