Chapter 24: THE HOPE


Hope is always proposed to us for a definite object, and that of a kind which the hope should from its nature produce. The hope of the coming of the Lord, and our gathering to Him in glory, is given to the Church militant that it may be thereby strengthened for service and endurance. When the land on which Caleb had trodden was promised him for an inheritance, it was a hope that rested on his soul through the forty yearsí wandering in the wilderness, and during the conquest of the land, until he received it in the apportionment from Joshua; he was then fourscore and five years old, still kept alive by the Lord, and still as strong to go in and out for war as in the day that he had been sent by Moses to spy out the land. He did not expect the accomplishment of the hope until the forty years of judicial sojourn in the wilderness were completed until Jordan was crossed, and the land conquered. It was hope, though he knew of intervening years. When we are directed to look unto "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith," it is as the One who had been Himself sustained by hope, "who for (or answerable to) the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). So, too, as to us; it is as we have the hope set before us, rightly apprehended and sustained in the power of the Spirit of God, that we can serve and suffer.

Every time that believers meet around the Lordís table, to unite in the Lordís supper, as a part of the one Church, they declare, in obeying the Lordís command, that they unite in the Churchís hope: "As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lordís death till He come." The coming is that public coming which He taught: just as we look back at the one Cross, and the one work of atonement there wrought, so is the one hope professed, "that blessed hope: the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." The hope can be as little turned into something ideal, or of sentiment and emotion merely, as can the solemn reality of the Cross, and its one finished work. Any hope but that which God has given might make ashamed: "We rejoice (says the Apostle) in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). For hope resting on Godís Word cannot "make ashamed." Godís love to us is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost given unto us: so that a hope directed by Holy Scripture is one which cannot fail. The Church is taught to pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven, . . . Thy kingdom come;" and this directs our thoughts and hopes onward (as it is surely intended to do) to that day when the Son of Man shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend; and then (and not before) shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.[1]

Manifested glory is an essential part of our hope. So far is the hope of a secret or private removal of believers to the Lord from having that character, that it more resembles the expectation of being taken away by death: a secret translation would be different from death in its nature, but it would be equally contrary to the appearing of the Lord in glory. Death, it must be remembered, is nowhere set before us as our hope; for although the believer has hope in death, and a hope that triumphs over the power of death, the removal of our spirits to be with the Lord is greatly different from our hope. It is a mistake to suppose the coming of the Lord to mean death; for death is not our Lord, and death is ours as well as life; and in dying we go to Him instead of His coming to us. A very similar mistake is it to suppose a private taking of Christís people to Him to be His coming in glory, for which we are called to wait.

An essential difference between the hope of the Lordís coming and death was long ago pointed out in this one particular: if we die, we leave the things here in their present course, and though our own life will be ended by death, yet the things in which we have taken an interest will not; and thus often, so far from the thought of death separating from worldly hopes, it has had the opposite effect of leading into arrangements for the continuance of those things in which pleasure was taken: they have been valued for the sake of persons left behind. The hope of a secret removal of the Church, without the hand of the Lord bringing all the present course of things to an end, may have, and has had, a similar effect. It has been thought that though the Church is removed, all secular things will remain, and that, as to them, arrangements might be made of the same kind as if removal by death were expected. Is this a hope that triumphs over present things and the snares of the world?[2]

There are, indeed, some who say, "An expectation of times of extreme peril before the Lordís coming, times of great tribulation, during which Christís people would have to wait on this earth, would be no hope to meóit would only lead to discouragement and dismay: I want that which would animate my soul; no hope that is not of such a character would produce in me an emotion of present joy, or give me sustained comfort." Such reasoners go on sometimes to say, that even though proof of revealed events to occur before the coming of Christ is logically correct, although no flaw or fallacy can be detected in the arguments, yet because the result is such as cannot be accepted, therefore there must be a defect somewhere.[3] Therefore in meeting such thoughts, it is well that it is on testimony that we rest as to this truth; not on a process of reasoning, but on the inspired declarations which bear on this point on every side.

But will the expectations produce no animating hope? Will there be no emotions according to God from the thought of seeing Christ in His glory, and being like Him at His coming? It is not on the intervening darkness that we have to rest, but on the brightness beyond; that is our hope, and it is made known to us that we may understand our place of service and patience while waiting for the coming of our Lord, by which all trial shall be for ever ended. However hopeless it may be to meet the arguments of idealistic visionaries, who assume a conclusion, and refuse to submit to opposing Scripture testimony, yet for others it is well distinctly to show that the hope of Christís coming was given to be the sustainment and consolation in intervening trial. So far from its being a thing to cast down or depress, it is gracious in the Lord to have told us what to expect in the path of the Church up to the time of the appearing of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Peter, in his first epistle, contemplates Christians as "begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet. 1:3), while waiting for the "inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1: 4, 5). Meanwhile, such may be "in heaviness through manifold temptations; that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honor, and glory at the appearing [revelation] of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7). The trial may be borne, the temptations may be endured, as knowing what the blessing shall be at the revelation of the Lord himself. And what is the practical exhortation to those thus set in the place of present trial: "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind; be sober, and hope to the .end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13). This, then, is the point at which we are to look beyond all suffering, and this is the truth, as applied to our souls by the Spirit of God, which is to give us present sustainment. But, lest any should imagine that the Church should be exempt from special and peculiar times of suffering, as well as that which falls on men in general, he says, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christís sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Pet. 4:12,13). "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls unto Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator" (1 Pet. 4:19). So also as to service. To those who feed the flock of God, taking oversight, the promise is, "When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Pet. 5:4).

The Apostle James teaches us not only the need of patience in waiting for the Lordís coming, but that that hope is our power in continuous patience: "Be patient, therefore, brethren unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (Jam. 5:7,8).

The Apostle Peter, in his second epistle, while instructing the Church as to events which would take place, and how they were to be guided after his decease, gives the practical directions how they should be occupied with the prophetic Word until the Lord comes: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy" ("the prophetic word more abiding" than the voice in the holy mount had been), "whereunto ye do well that ye take heed (until the day dawn and the day-star arise)[4] in your hearts" (1 Pet. 1:19). Thus it is to the prophetic Scripture that we are directed; and he who feels the force of this injunction, and apprehends the authority of Scripture as given forth by the Holy Ghost, will feel that no diligence, no pains can be too great to be bestowed upon that which God has so given us, and about which He tells us that we "do well to take heed." Those whose hearts are subject to this commandment will not call the careful study of Scripture "mere head knowledge," "knowledge of the letter," or anything of the kind; they will seek to know what God has said, knowing that all Holy Scripture has been written for our learning, and for the reason that the Apostle gives immediately after: "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and so far from feeling that their hope is dimmed thereby, they will know that they are waiting for Christ according to His word and will. To such the prophetic word will be indeed a light; and though darkness be around, they will be guided by that lamp which the Holy Ghost has kindled, until the day dawn and the day-star arise, until the glorious appearing of Him who is "the bright and morning star." Substitute a secret coming for the appearing of Jesus, and the prophetic word is no guide at all; for what bearing can prophecy have on the walk of those who ought not (on that theory) to be informed of a single event that can occur previous to the imagined secret rapture? Not such, however, is the teaching of apostles and prophets.

In the second and third chapters of this epistle, the Apostle gives ample warning of evils that should be. When men ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" those who are instructed in Scripture may point to those testimonies which show what is to be expected, and why, in mercy to those who shall be gathered in, that day has not yet come. " We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:13). We wait then "according to His promise." If the millennial blessing :)f Jerusalem and the people of Israel (Isa. 65:17,18) is an exemplification of the new heaven and earth thus promised, how much there is in which the prophetic word may cause us to rejoice as to the glories of the reign of Christ. If we look for the new heavens and new earth, this is to us an object of hope; but it is one which cannot be immediate; for not till Christ has put down all authority and power, not till all enemies are subjected to Him, and even till death, the last ,nervy, has been destroyed, can there be the new heaven and the new earth. Thus we hope for Christís glorious coming, we hope for the millennial reign which then begins, and we hope onward for that which is thus postmillennial (Rev. 21:1-8), when "God shall be all in all. " We see before us point after point of glory and blessedness revealed, "according to His promise." "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye be found of Him in peace without spot and blameless." (2 Pet. 3. 14.) "Ye, therefore, beloved, seeing ye know before [the warnings given of intervening evil], beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness" (2 Pet. 3:17).

Most close is the connection between prophecy and promise: Prophecy is to the believer often promise: thus in Hebrews 12:26, "Now He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." Where is this promise written? In Haggai 2:6 we find the prophecy, which to the child of faith is promise, because it has to do with that day when the "kingdom which cannot be moved" shall be ours, in contrast to all that can pass away. The same epistle had before taught, "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:36,37). The appearing of the Lord is to manifest His triumph in the Gospel: "As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, without sin, until salvation" (Heb. 9:27,28).[5]

The Epistles of Peter and James, and that to the Hebrews, are parts of Scripture which some term "Jewish;" but are they not markedly Christian? Does not the hope of Christís appearing, as set forth in them, lead to Christian walk and acting? Ought not patience, service, and hope to characterize all Christians? But these are some of the graces here set forth as results of a true apprehension of the coming of Christ. So, too, is the diligent study of Godís Word, and the upholding of its authority. There have been previously quoted many passages from the Epistles of St Paul to Gentile churches or to individuals: is not the consolation concerning the departed a precious part of our hope? Is it a light thing to be called always to abound in the work of the Lord? Is ability to glory in tribulations of small importance? And yet all these are connected with the hope of the appearing, the manifest revelation of Christ, and with nothing previous, and with nothing secret. Imagine a secret coming, and then how will any of these precepts and principles apply?

So far as there is found in the holders of the secret advent a power of Christian hope, love, service, joy, and endurance, so far does it spring, not from their theory, but from the measure of truth with which the soul is directed to Christ as the One who shall come. God sometimes works graciously on souls, in spite of very defective apprehensions of truth; but how much more could they act according to Him if their hopes were rightly directed.

The Apostle John teaches us: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is; and every man that hath THIS HOPE in Him (i.e. resting on Chris) purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:2,3).

This, then, is the practical power of the hope of Christís manifestation: this it is that can enable believers to glorify Him who has cleansed them in His blood, and clothed them in His righteousness: this it is that sets before them that consummation in which Christ shall be glorified, in His people receiving the full results of His redemption. This Scripture answers any who ask, "What effect can the hope of Christís appearing have? and why should such an expectation be cherished as a holy hope? Then it is that we shall be like Him. It is not a deduction, not a conclusion in which there may be some mistake; but the definite statement of the Holy Ghost in His own inspired Scripture. If we believe the promises of God as He has set them forth, we shall not transfer to a secret coming of Christ the many things and the practical results which the Scripture joins to His appearing in glory. It is better to act implicitly on what God says, even when we understand not His objects: still more should we do this when He tells us why He teaches us, when He seeks to make known to us His counsels, and intelligently to guide our souls by the promise of that revelation of Christ; then all who have been partakers of grace shall fully show the efficacy of His blood of atonement, and then shall they reign with Him in His manifested glory.

"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."

Plymouth, March 17, 1864.


ENDNOTES:

[1] The advocates of the secret rapture well know that they are looking for what will (they suppose) be long prior to the kingdom; therefore do they put from them as their hope the Scriptures which speak of "the kingdom" and "the Gospel of the kingdom." But we are taught to pray, "Thy kingdom come;" and, lest this should be idealized, the next words are, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." This is not the point to which those look who expect to be taken to the Lord, and that then there will be a period in which Godís will shall be especially contravened on earth in all Satanic power and anti-Christian blasphemy. Therefore such act consistently in abstaining from the use of the petitions of the Lordís Prayer. But we may know assuredly, that any theory or principle which sets aside a distinct command of Christ is thereby proved to be erroneous. We can thus test what seem to be refined forms of doctrine.

[2] "My children are not yet converted (it has been actually said), therefore they have not the hope of the rapture of the Church; but as Christ may remove me as one of His people any day, I have to make proper provision for them and their position in this world."

[3] Such persons often escape from the bearing of Scriptures on their consciences by calling them "Jewish." But let such be asked, Do you mean unbelieving-Jewish, or "Christian-Jewish?" If they say the latter, then must the persons to whom such Scriptures apply be part of the Church, as essentially so as the Ephesians were; if they say the former, then it may be asked them, How can unconverted Jews use any part of the New Testament at all? If an expression be adopted, and used without explanation or definition it may then afford a shelter for any ambiguity or fallacy.

[4] The reasons for regarding "until the day dawn and the day-star arise" as a parenthetic clause, and for connecting "in your hearts" with what has gone before ("take heed in your hearts, ") are very strong; for what sense is there in the day-star arising in your hearts? If it meant any attainment in us, then it would indicate when we could do without the Scripture. The only tolerable objection that I have heard to the verse being thus read is, that prosecw in this sense is an elliptical phrase for prosecw ton noun, and that thus en taiV kapdiaiV is a most unsuitable addition. But, first, an elliptical phrase is often so used that the ellipsis could not be supplied without encumbering the sentence; and, second, "in your hearts" is a kind of adverbial expression equivalent to "inwardly." We may be told to direct our minds inwardly to Holy Scripture, because it needs that it be inwardly digested. "In your hearts" is similarly an adverbial expression in 1 Peter 3:15, "Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts" ("inwardly sanctify Him"); if, indeed, there is not there a parenthesis, "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled (but sanctify the Lord Christ) in your hearts." 1 Peter 3:21 is an instance of an expression remaining at the end of a parenthesis, connected in sense and construction with what has gone before: "save . . . by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" belong together; while "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience before God," is simply a parenthetic statement.

[5] Men, as men, have before them death as the wages of sin, and after that the judgment: believers instead of having death thus as the penalty to fall on them, look back to the cross where Christ bore their sins; instead of looking on to judgment, they look to the coming of Christ for salvation in its fullest and most ample sense.