The Redeemer’s Return
by Arthur W. Pink
As we take up our pen to write these closing paragraphs, we do so conscious that we have merely skimmed, here and there, the surface of a vast ocean of truth. Though upwards of five hundred Scriptures have been referred to in these pages yet, hundreds more could have been cited in support of the positions which we have advanced. An exhaustive classification and examination of all the passages which are connected, directly or indirectly, with the subject of the Redeemer’s Return, would necessitate many volumes rather than one. Our opponents greatly err who suppose that pre-millennialism rests upon a few doubtful and obscure passages. The texts upon which we rely are neither few nor ambiguous, and their testimony is neither scanty nor uncertain. No other doctrine of Scripture can produce a larger, more distinct and more vigorous testimony in its favor. The Coming and Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is a theme which pervades the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is the central burden of prophecy. It is the grand solution to the mystery of Divine Providence. It is the one great hope of the Church, of Israel, and of creation.
The personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ to set up His Kingdom on the earth and reign over it in power and glory is no novelty of a feverish age, no hasty conjecture caught up at random without consideration and unsupported by reliable evidence. It is no fable of romance, but sober, Scriptural reality, though far beyond what fancy ever painted. It is no creation of a disordered mind, but the Golden Milestone of Scripture to which all lines of prophecy are rapidly converging. It is no pet theory of certain religious fanatics, but the approaching Climax of all history. It is no mere dream of idealists, but the promised consummation and glorious issue of all the confusion and change, the sin and sorrow, the disease and death which have desolated the earth for six thousand years. It is the divinely ordained Remedy for those deep and manifold evils under which humanity now groans and which men are so earnestly, yet vainly, seeking to cure.
Had we followed the inclinations of our own heart, we should have devoted a chapter to the history of Millenarianism. We might have quoted from the early Church "fathers" and shown that during the first three centuries of the Christian era it prevailed universally, its only opponents being the Gnostics. We might have referred to the writings of the Reformers, and shown how they one and all looked for the imminent coming of Christ. We might have inserted citations from modern authors whose piety and scholarship are unquestioned. But we had no desire to buttress our position by human authority even of the most ancient and honorable mind. Let not our faith stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Unless our theses can he unequivocally maintained from Holy Scripture, it were vain to call in human witnesses however numerous or however venerable.
The saddest thing of all in connection with our subject is that Christian theologians have divided into opposite camps. And yet it need not surprise us that the Second Coming of Christ is a controverted doctrine—what doctrine of Scripture is not? Nevertheless, it is the bounden duty of every lover of the Lord’s appearing to pray earnestly that it may please God to lead out a greater number of His children into the light, and that there may be a more harmonious and united testimony borne to this most important of all truths. We fervently trust that one result of our humble labors will be that many who read these pages will go forth crying "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him." That the masses will give neither heed nor credit to the alarm is only to be expected. When Lot warned his sons-in-law of the impending doom of Sodom "he seemed as one that mocked" (Gen. 19:14). When Israel’s prophets forewarned the nation of coming judgments, the people clamored for those who would speak unto them "smooth things" (Isa. 30:10). And when our Savior announced the destruction of Jerusalem, His words fell upon ears which skepticism had closed. But, notwithstanding, our duty is plain. Results belong unto God; our business is to sound the alarm and "to exhort one another: and so much the more, as we see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:25).
Brethren, the end of the Age is upon us. All over the world, reflecting minds are discerning the fact that we are on the very eve of another of those far-reaching crises which make the history of our race. Their sense of justice tells them that the unbridled lust, the increasing oppression, the unparalleled bloodshed, have defied Heaven long enough and that the Judge of all the earth must soon rise in His wrath to make "a short work" (Rom. 9:28) of it all. Those who look out on present conditions are forced to conclude that the consummation of this dispensation is at hand. But it is only they who give diligent heed to the study of the prophetic Word that have "understanding of the times" (1 Chron. 12:32). Let the believer ask, Watchman what of the night? and the infallible answer is, "The night cometh"! And it never appeared so nigh. Everywhere the shadows are gathering deeper and broader, lengthening out and falling with ominous gloom all over the earth. The world’s night is at hand.
The sands in the hour glass of this Day of Salvation have almost run out. The signs of the Times demonstrate it. "But," it may be asked, "Have not other ages, as well as the present, been crowded with signs of distress?" Undoubtedly. We read, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time" (Eccl. 1:9,10)! Many of the Signs which now appear in the sky have been visible to former generations, yet, today, they shine out more clearly and more prominently than ever before. "But," it may be objected, "Have there not always been pessimists who interpreted gloomily the events of their day? Have not others, again and again, written in similar strain, only to be shamed and discredited?" Be it so. But were they not wise men who took the earliest alarm, even though their fears were not immediately realized! They read evil in the Signs of their Times and gave utterance to their convictions so that their fellow-men might be aroused; and surely that was not folly. They unduly magnified the evil, and erred in their calculations, yet it cannot be denied that their warning was beneficial in its results even though it was premature. But today, the Signs are so plain they cannot be mis-read, though the foolish may close their eyes and refuse to examine them. What these Signs are we have shown at length in chapter six and if the evidence there furnished has not convinced the reader that the Lord is at hand, then there is little hope that any further arguments drawn from Scripture will do so. Notwithstanding, we digress for a moment in order to call attention to one other Sign entirely different from those previously mentioned. In Nahum 2:3, 4 we read, "The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of His preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall justle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings." What an accurate description of the conditions which now prevail in every city and along every public high-way throughout the land! The enormous increase in the number of automobiles, so that such a congestion of street traffic is produced it may literally be said "They justle one against another in the broad ways;" their glaring head-lights at night time when they appear as "flaming torches;" and their high rate of speed so that they "run like the lightnings," are here accurately depicted. What is to be particularly noted is that this phenomenon is peculiar to this present generation, and that we are expressly told it is to be a characteristic of "The Day of His Preparation."
"But," it may be asked again, "Why is it that so few of our religious leaders and teachers are heralding the approach of Christ?" The answer is, Because many of them are blind themselves—"blind leaders of the blind." As the Word declares, they are "ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. 3:7). It is greatly to be feared that the majority of our preachers are following the traditions of the elders rather than studying the Scriptures for themselves. Their prophetical views were formed under Seminary interpretations of eschatology and the Seminaries, in turn, are committed to some system of theology, a system formulated in most cases by men who lived centuries ago. While the Church is deeply indebted, under God, to such men as Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Whitefield, yet, it must be borne in mind that they lived in an age when Prophecy was almost entirely neglected. It was not until last century that the Holy Spirit stirred up the people of God to the deep importance of studying prophetic and dispensational truth: Previous to the nineteenth century all teaching which had reference to the Second Coming of Christ was, with very rare exceptions, merely traditional, that is to say, it was nothing more than what had been handed down from one generation to another, it was merely the reciting of the dreams of others who had gone before. We say "the dreams," for after the Hope of the Redeemer’s Return was lost—while the Bridegroom tarried—all the virgins slumbered and slept, and while they slept they dreamed, and wild and weird were their dreams. They dreamt that the Church was to conquer the Devil and that the Gospel would win the world to Christ. This dream captivated the minds of theologians of every shade of religious belief. Each succeeding generation recounted this dream in still more glowing language, until the climax was reached some four years ago. How much we heard of religious progress, of the march of civilization, and of the "good time" that was coming! The horrible arts of war were to be nothing more than humbling memories of the past. The labors of our politicians and the activities of the Church would soon produce an era wherein the universal rights of mankind were freely recognized, when tyranny and injustice would be overthrown, and when culture and virtue would reign supreme. Christian and secular philanthropists congratulated each other in view of the Golden Age which their joint efforts were hastening on. But the happenings of the last three years have rudely dissipated this dream. The dreadful War has shown that much which went under the name of civilization was nothing but veneered barbarism. The battle fields of Europe bear witness to the fact that the optimistic and jubilant spirit which possessed our church leaders a few years ago was nothing more than Laodicean self-complacency, saying "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," when in reality Christendom was "wretched, and miserable and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17). The blood-soaked earth of today exposes the utter vanity of the delusive hope cherished by the post-millenarians and gives fulfillment to God’s Word which declares "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them" (1 Thess. 5:3).
Unless men had been strangely blinded, the analogy, of the past ought to have corrected the blind optimism of which we have just spoken. Every previous dispensation has ended in human failure and Divine judgment! The Edenic dispensation saw the fall of man and his expulsion from the garden of Eden. At the close of the Noahic dispensation "God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth" (Gen. 6:12,13). The Patriarchal dispensation, when the sword of the magistrate was committed into the hands of man, witnessed the revolt and overthrow of the Tower of Babel and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven. The Abrahamic dispensation ended with the people of God in the iron furnace of Egypt and with the overthrow of Pharaoh and his hosts at the Red Sea. The dispensation of the Wilderness wanderings terminated with the disobedience and death of Moses. The dispensation of the Judges closed with "every man doing that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). The dispensation of the kings ended with God selling His apostate people into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. The dispensation of the Divine Incarnation closed with the crucifixion of the Lord of Glory. Why then should this dispensation prove an exception to the general rule? Why is it that men are so loath to acknowledge that under man’s pilotage everything drifts to shipwreck? Why, except for the pride of the human heart! According to the inspired declarations of Holy Writ, this dispensation, so far from closing like a brilliant sunset in a sky from which every cloud shall have passed away, will expire in a storm-burst of Divine fury, in which the brightest hopes of the flesh will perish like cobwebs in a flame.
Unspeakably sad have been, and still are, the pernicious effects of the post-millennial teaching. Instead of listening to the voice of Divine truth many of the professed followers of the Lamb have heeded the siren voices of the earth which have drawn them into entangling alliances with the world, deceiving them as to their prospects here and persuading them to substitute carnal policy for spiritual energy and time-serving expediencies for sell-denying faith. O that the children of God would hold themselves aloof from the world’s plans of social amelioration and political aggrandizement, and take up their cross and follow their despised and repotted Lord, remembering that "the friendship of the world is enmity with God" (Jam. 4:4). Christ has not left His Church here to "make the world a better world for the. natural man to live in, nor to make the natural man a better man to live in the world" (Haldeman). No; Christ has left His Church here to preach a Gospel which shall result in the formation of a new man, a "perfect man" made meet to live in the world to come. So far as this world is concerned, nothing awaits it but Divine judgment. Men may busy themselves with their own plans and think to evolve a lasting good and peace out of the present confusion and strife, but their hope of setting the world right is built upon the sand. Yet, as we have seen, there will shortly be manifested a pseudo Prince of Peace who will inaugurate a false millennium and thus deceive the whole world. This Imposter will gain the confidence of and obtain dominion over all Christendom. Nor should this strike us as incredible or impossible. History records how in a few short years a young lieutenant rose out of comparative obscurity and had Europe at his feet, and in Napoleon Bonaparte we have a foreshadowing of what is yet going to be when God’s time is ripe.
"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" (1 Thess. 5:4). No; the things which are hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed to babes in Christ. As the humble believer marks with what readiness educated people accept the most absurd crudities offered to them in the name of religion; as he observes on every side, thrones and republics creaking and crumbling; as he gazes upon immorality which has come in like a flood that is ever swelling and widening in its course; as he beholds the increasing numbers of those who have a form of godliness but deny its power; as he looks in vain for any deep sense of sin, for courageous faith, for an unworldly walk, in the majority of those who bear the name of Christ; as he takes knowledge of the despised Jew coming into remembrance, and the nations of the earth taking more and more notice of this strange people; as he hears men of the world, who pay no heed to the Word of God, acknowledging that present conditions cannot continue much longer, and predicting that a momentous crisis is at hand; and, as he is painfully conscious that there is much to show that the Holy Spirit has already begun to retire from the earth,—he lifts up his head, knowing that his redemption is nigh at hand, yea, that the Redeemer Himself is at the door.
At the door! What a prospect! To look at the present frailty, suffering, and groaning of our vile bodies, and then to anticipate the moment when they shall be fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body; to read the histories and biographies of the apostles, of the early Christian martyrs, of the spiritual giants of the Reformation, of the choicest saints of the ages, and then to anticipate the time when we shall meet them, converse with them, and gather together around our blessed Lord; to anticipate that glad hour when everlasting joy shall be upon our heads and when sorrow and sighing shall flee away; When the joy of meeting shall be spoiled by no fear of separation, and the beauty of holiness shall be defiled by no stain of sin—this is a hope which may well endure all trials and stay the heart in these days of tragedy and anguish. Amidst the increasing darkness and gathering storms of these last days, we do not stand bewildered and dejected. But, with the blessed promise "Surely, I come quickly" ringing in our ears, love responds, "Come out of Thy royal chambers, O Prince of all the kings of the earth; put on the robes of Thy imperial majesty; reach forth Thy hand and grasp the scepter of universal sovereignty, for the voice of Thy Church calls for Thee, and all creation sighs to be renewed."
"The dawn of day is breaking,
Behold! it streaks the sky,
And hearts for Him are waking,
Who soon shall fill each eye;
Soon! Soon! in brightness beaming,
"The day-star" shall appear,
With glory round Him streaming,
Our eyes are looking onward,
To see the One we love;
Our feet are pressing forward,
To tread those courts above;
Our hearts do leap with pleasure,
As nearer comes the day
When love, beyond all measure,
Shall beckon us away.
There "face to face," beholding
The One who came to die,
His glory all unfolding
Before each raptured eye,
With nothing there to hinder
But all to call forth wonder,
And ceaseless bursts of joy.
There on His bosom resting,
Oh! deep and full repose,
No more a time of testing—
No more to meet our foes;
But there, in brightest glory,
To gaze upon His face,
And ever tell that story—
"The glory of His grace."