The Coming of the Lord, The Crown and Consummation of Spiritual Life
"Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1Peter 1:13.
Could this volume close with a theme more appropriate to our subject, or more animating to the believing soul, than the present- the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as the crown and consummation of the Spiritual life of His saints? There are three revelations of the Lord Jesus spoken of in the Scriptures, with each one of which our spiritual life is essentially connected. His first revelation is His coming in the flesh to accomplish the salvation of His Church. His second, is His spiritual revelation in His saints. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." His third revelation is that which is now to engage our thoughts. "Hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Such is our present subject- the Second Coming of Christ to complete and crown the spiritual edifice of His kingdom in His people. Between His first and second Coming there are strong points of analogy, as there are of contrast. These, however, will incidentally appear in the progress of our subject. We have only to premise- to prevent disappointment- that we are now concerned with the fact, and not with the mode of our Lord's Coming. Our object is simply to treat the subject, not so much in its relation to the structure of prophecy, as in its connection with the perfection and crown of the spiritual and glorious life of the Church-the 'grace'-that is, the glory- that is to be 'brought unto it at His revelation.' The Coming of the Lord in His glory, is the Hope- "the blessed Hope" -of the Christian Church, even as the coming of the Lord in His humiliation was the long-predicted and looked for hope of the Jewish Church. A Savior to come has in all ages and dispensations been the expectation of God's people. The terms which set forth this doctrine are decided and impressive. "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." "We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." "He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all those who believe." "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I ask God that your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is a notable and instructive fact that, very rarely is the event of the believer's death- in other words, the believer's going to Christ- employed in the sacred writings as an argument to holiness, or an incentive to preparation; while, on the other hand, the Appearing of the Lord- or Christ's coming to him- is constantly set forth as a motive to diligence and watchfulness, comfort and prayer.
But let us not be misunderstood. We are far from looking with a cold and indifferent eye upon the fact of the Christian's going to Christ. It is indescribably blessed, and ought never to be foreign to our thoughts. "To die is gain." "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." "Having a desire to depart and be with Christ." The thought that, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, my 'soul may be as the chariots of Amminadab,' bearing me into the presence of the 'King in His beauty' is a solemn and sanctifying one. The death of the believer is a covenant mercy, as much in the covenant of grace as any covenant blessing. "All things are yours- death." It is therefore the privilege of the Christian to die; and he may be assured of this, that, as his death is in the covenant, so the covenant has provided for all the circumstances and exigencies of the impressive event. 'Grace' dying grace- will be brought unto him in death, even as 'grace' glorifying grace- will be 'brought unto him at the appearing of Jesus Christ.'
But, the pole-star of the believer is the Coming of the Lord. Thus is he taught to look above and beyond death- to Him who "has abolished death," and His coming as the "Resurrection and the Life" of all who believe in Him. The adaptation of this doctrine-the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ to the constitution of our being, will appear obvious to every individual who has studied the philosophy of human nature. Is death, we ask, an object of dread to the natural mind in general? Far from it! With no event in human history is man more familiar- none does he less fear- and for none is so little preparation made- as death. It is a fact patent to every mind that men brave death in almost every form from considerations the most puerile and insignificant. Challenge their bravery, insult their people, and they will hasten to vindicate the one at the cannon's mouth, and resent the other at the point of the sword. Death is not the 'king of terror' to such. Thus, we may urge it as a motive to conversion with all the fervor and eloquence we can command, and yet fail to inspire one alarmed feeling, or rouse one serious thought.
But, change the theme- hold forth the Second Coming of the Lord to judge the quick and the dead- portray the august scene- the great white throne- the descending judge- the unfolding books- the trumpet sound- the graves opening- countless myriads crowding up to the judgment seat- the solemn decision- the shrieks of the wicked, rising far above ....... the war of elements, the wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds. "Mountains! rocks! fall on us!" -and you have touched a chord of feeling, and have unsealed a fount of thought, which the most vivid and impressive presentation of death would never have effected.
But let us direct our thoughts to this august event as it relates to the final glory of the saints. Not to speak prophetically, what are some of its most prominent and impressive features? The Coming of the Lord will be Personal. With the Personality of Christ we deal too faintly. Oh, it is not with the gospel of Christ or with the Church of Christ- or with the Ordinances of Christ or with the Ministers of Christ- we have mainly to do; but with CHRIST HIMSELF! "Come unto ME, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," is the gracious invitation. Oh truth most divine! oh privilege most precious! that teaches me to repair- not to a creed, or to a dogma, or to a system- but, to a PERSON: that Person God in my nature! One like myself- a personal Savior, and personal Friend- "touched with the feeling of my infirmities."
Now such will be the revelation of Jesus Christ at His Second Coming. It will not be a spiritual, but a Personal, revelation of our Lord. The angels, at His ascension, preached the Personal Coming of Christ. "This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven." Blessed hope! That same Jesus- in the same form will come Himself to raise His saints, and present them as a "glorious Church" to His Father.
But, oh, how changed! No mock-majesty invests Him now! no thorn-crown is upon His head! no reedy-scepter is in His hand! no look of anguish shades His brow! He comes in His proper personal glory, and before His face the heaven and the earth flee away!
The revelation of the Lord will be Visible. "Every eye shall see Him." Magnificent spectacle! Appalling thought! -magnificent to those who loved, confessed, and served Him here below: appalling to those who, living and dying as Balaam, take up his melancholy lamentation- "I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not near." Oh how the imagination droops its wing in the attempt to soar to the splendor and sublimity of that spectacle- Christ visible to every eye!
Pause, then, for a moment, and contemplate, with the eye of faith, or if you have no faith, with the eye of imagination, this tremendous scene. Look at that point, far away in the ethereal regions, where the gradually lessening form of our Savior disappeared from the gaze of His disciples, when He ascended to heaven. In that point see an uncommon, but faint and undefined, brightness just beginning to appear. It has caught the roving eye of yon careless gazer, and excited his curiosity. He points it out to a second, and a third. A little circle soon collects, and various are the conjectures which they form respecting it. Similar circles are formed, and similar objections made, in a thousand different parts of the world. But conjecture is soon to give place to certainty- awful, appalling, overwhelming certainty. While they gaze, the appearance, which had excited their curiosity, rapidly approaches, and still more rapidly brightens. Some begin to suspect what it may prove; but no one dares to give utterance to his suspicions. Meanwhile the light of the sun begins to fade before a brightness superior to his own. Thousands see their shadows cast in a new direction, and thousands of hitherto careless eyes look up at once to discover the cause. Full clearly they see it; and now new hopes and fears begin to agitate their breasts. The afflicted and persecuted servants of Christ begin to hope that the predicted, long-expected day of their deliverance is arrived. The wicked, the careless, the unbelieving, begin to fear that the Bible is about to prove no idle tale. And now fiery shapes, moving like streams of lightning, begin to appear indistinctly amid the bright, dazzling cloud which comes rushing down as on the wings of a whirlwind. At length it reaches its destined place. It pauses: then, suddenly unfolding, discloses at once a great white throne, where sits- starry, resplendent, in all the glories of the Godhead- the Man Christ Jesus. Every eye sees Him; every heart knows Him.
Too well do the wretched, unprepared inhabitants of earth now know what to expect, and one universal shriek of anguish and despair rises up to heaven, and is echoed back to earth. But louder, far louder, than the universal cry, now sounds the last trumpet; and far above all is heard the voice of the Omnipotent, summoning the dead to arise and come to judgment. New terrors now assail the living on every side, no, under their very feet, the earth heaves as in convulsions; graves open, and the dead come forth; while, at the same moment, a change, equivalent to that occasioned by death, is effected by Almighty power on the bodies of the living. Their mortal bodies put on immortality, and are thus prepared to sustain a weight of glory or of wretchedness which flesh and blood could not endure. Meanwhile, legions of angels are seen, darting from pole to pole, gathering together the faithful servants of Christ from the four winds of heaven, and bearing them aloft to meet the Lord in the air, where He causes them to be placed at His own right hand, preparatory to the sentence which is to award to them everlasting life.
Christian, if you would gain more and greater victories over the world than you have ever done, bring this scene often before the eye of your mind, and gaze upon it until you become blind to all earthly glory. He who gazes long at the sun becomes unsusceptible of impressions from inferior luminaries; and he who looks much at the Sun of Righteousness, will be little affected by any alluring object which the world can exhibit.
It will follow from this exceedingly graphic description that the Coming of the Lord will be a visible spectacle- a spectacle seen by every eye; but especially and more gloriously so to the enraptured vision of the saints. "Behold, He comes With clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him." This is not a minor feature of the august event; it is one which the believing mind delights to anticipate.
A Savior seen is an object both to faith and sense. A believing sight of Christ is the spiritual life of the soul. Until He is thus seen, He must be an unknown and an unapplied Savior. The uniform teaching of the Bible is consonant with this truth. "Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." Responsive to the divine invitation of the Old Testament is the evangelist's invitation of the New. "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." And all this harmonizes with the writing of the Apostles- "Looking unto Jesus."
Such is the action of faith. Looking to Christ is believing in Christ. It was by a look- a look of faith- that the serpent-stung Israelite was healed. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Oh what a guilt-removing, heart-cheering, soul-saving truth is this! Penitent sinner! a look of faith at Jesus will bring an immediate and free salvation to your soul. However distant the Object or dim the sight, one glance of Christ is life! Sensible of the moral virus circulating through your entire being- made to know the plague of your own heart arrived at the end of all human remedies- like the poor woman in the gospel, having "spent your all on physicians, and are nothing bettered, but rather grown worse"- now behold the Lamb of God! look and live!- look and be forever healed of your plague!
All your merit is in Christ all your salvation is in Christ: all your help is in Christ. "Christ is all, and in all," of your hope of heaven. And this salvation is yours on one condition only- that you receive, and do not merit it; that you accept, and do not purchase it. It is the free- unpurchased and unpurchasable- gift of God. "By grace are you saved." "It is of faith that it might be by grace." "By the works of the law shall no man living be justified." Oh, if you, a poor sin-laden soul- longing to find rest will but cast overboard the oar of your own doings, with which you are 'toiling in rowing' to get to heaven, and accept in faith the finished work of Christ, that weary soul of yours soon would find the rest for which it sighs!
But this first saving sight of Christ is the commencement of a series of yet clearer, more sanctifying and assimilating views of the same ineffable Object. The history of spiritual life- and this is one of its brightest 'lights'- is a continuous "looking unto Jesus." It is a looking to Jesus, and learning; looking to Jesus, and admiring; looking to Jesus, and loving; looking to Jesus, and obeying; looking to Jesus, and suffering; living and dying, still looking unto Jesus, until the dim but ravishing vision of earth is changed for the full, beatific vision of heaven!
This will be the "grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ"- the unveiled sight of our glorified Redeemer. "We shall see Him as He is." To have seen Him by faith in His humiliation was a marvellous, soul-saving spectacle: but, to see Jesus in His glory- our true Joseph- "taken from prison and from judgment," and highly exalted with 'a name which is above every name,' coming in the clouds of heaven, escorted by angels, encircled by saints, and on His head the jeweled diadem of the universe, oh, this will be a spectacle, transcending and eclipsing all others! What a sanctifying effect should this hope have upon our mind! what a molding, unearthly influence should it exert upon our life! "Every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He (Christ) is pure." Thus the doctrine of the Coming of the Lord is one of the most practical, as one of the most consolatory, truths of the Bible. It is impossible fully to believe it, much less to receive it in the heart, and be insensible to its Christ-endearing and Christ-assimilating power. Surely the believer, whose heart is in heaven where Christ its treasure is, will be in frequent and close communion with his absent Lord; and the Church, as a Body, 'looking for and hastening unto the Coming of the Lord,' will long for the cry that shall break the stillness of the midnight hour- "Behold, the BRIDEGROOM comes; go out to meet Him!"
Lord, may I be found waiting and watching and praying for Your appearing! To see You, be this the ardent desire, the highest ambition of my soul: and whether I cross the river to come to You, or You do cross the river to come to me, let my lamp be daily trimmed and brightly burning, lest, "coming suddenly, You find me sleeping."
We can only allow ourselves a passing glance at two events consequent upon the Coming of the Lord, which must ever be radiant with hope, and replete with a soothing and sanctifying power, to the Christian mind- the first, the believer's Resurrection. This is "the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ." This is termed "the First Resurrection," a thousand years intervening between it and the Second. "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." Could we fix your mind upon a blessing connected with the Coming of the Lord more glorious and precious than this?
The Resurrection of Christ was the crown and consummation of His humiliation; the Resurrection of the Christian will be the crown and consummation of his glory- the edifice of his spiritual life will then receive the 'top-stone, amid the shoutings of grace, grace unto it!' "Blessed is the pen" -so wrote an aged saint nearing her heavenly flight "and blessed the heart that indites it, that gives one cheering view of the mighty blessings that await the sleeping dead! The dust of the Christian reposes in quietude until the voice of Jesus rouses the slumberer perfected in His own beauty. Happy Christian! your journey may be a thorny one, and 'the last enemy' may be even now approaching; but, courage! the time is coming when this identical body- re-united to the soul- will be raised a glorious body- the soul increasing in knowledge, beauty, and bliss, through the countless ages of eternity. Oh the glory and the happiness of that moment, who can fully describe! Lord, increase my faith!" (Mary Winslow)
Such is the animating influence of a simple faith in the hope of the Resurrection, and such the spiritual breathing which that hope inspires! Who would not strive after holiness, "if by any means"- by the most strenuous exertions- he might, with the Apostle, "attain unto the resurrection of the dead;" and, with all who have departed this life in the Lord, have part in the First Resurrection. The re-union and the recognition of the saints stand high up in the catalogue of blessings synchronizing with this revelation of Jesus Christ.
One of the saddest and bitterest sorrows of earth is the separation, by death, from those we love. Oh the pang of receiving the last sigh- of catching the last look- of listening to the last word-of one who was to us in life more precious than life itself! But, the gospel unveils the hope of a re-union, and even before the risen body- of a recognition of all the holy dead! "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so those also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.... Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Who longs not for the "grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ"?
"Oh thrilling thought, that I shall be
With Him who shed His blood for me,
Where nothing from Him can sever!
Where I, with sainted hosts above,
Overshadowed by the Holy Dove,
Shall banquet on His boundless love,
And know that word- 'forever'.
"Oh thrilling thought, to see Him shine,
For evermore to call Him mine!
With Heaven-all Heaven-before me;
To stand where angel myriads gaze,
Amid the illimitable blaze,
While He the Godhead full displays
To all the sons of glory."
And now will come the crown and consummation of our spiritual life! Unshaded by a cloud- uneclipsed by an object- it will shine forth as the sun in its meridian glory, ever deepening, ever widening with its new orbit of life and knowledge, of happiness and splendor. No shadows will dim it no doubts will disturb it- no fears will ruffle it- no sin will taint it now; but, lost in the Infinite Ocean "Where flows this river down to us," it will be swallowed up in God, and "God Shall Be All in All!"
Be watchful; be diligent be holy; for the Coming of the Lord draws near! The events flow transpiring in the world's history indicate its approach. The "signs of the times" are pregnant with profound and solemn significance. The 'fig-tree' blossoms! The Jews are hastening to their own land- the Turkish power is drying up- the nations of Europe are arming- earthquakes, and judgments, and rumors of war are, to the intelligent and observant eye- if not proximate signs of the Lord's Coming- yet are indices of a most ominous and significant character! "When these things begin to come to pass, then LOOK up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near." Be this our holy and constant attitude- under all circumstances looking up, waiting and watching our Lord's appearing.
"Look up! when all around is bright,
And sunshine gilds each day;
When every earthly, sweet delight,
Is strewed along the way.
"Look up! and bless the God above,
Let gratitude arise;
Forget not Him, who in His love
Your every need supplies.
"Look up! when all is darkness round,
Your heart with grief oppressed;
When sorrow's darkest shadows drown
The joys within your breast.
"Look up! in earnest, faithful prayer
All is in mercy given;
Your every grief, your every care,
Is meted out in Heaven.
"Look up to Jesus! who has shed
His precious blood for thee;
Oh, raise your weary, drooping head,
And His salvation see!
"Look up! for strength and heavenly might
Upon your Savior wait;
And He shall make your Shadows Bright,
And crooked places straight.
"Look up! when death is hastening on
When life is almost over;
The victory then will soon be won,
And joys for evermore!
"Look up! by steadfast faith and see
The land of holy rest,
Where saints through all eternity
Shall be with Jesus blest.
"Look up! and hail your Coming Lord
He comes to call for you;
To burst your chain-to break your cord,
And set His prisoner free!"
"Until the Day breaks, and the shadows flee away, I will get to the Mountain of Myrrh, and to the Hill of Frankincense."