"The Christ, Whom the heavens must receive until the times of the restitution of all things."Acts 3: 21.
LOOMING up before the enlightened and instructed eye of God's people is this time of restitution of all things. It has been a long week of sorrow, pain, travail and weariness, but the Sabbath rest is near. The Church, confident in the promises of her Lord, looks forward to the glorious era, clearly and plainly described in Holy Writ. What the Church anticipates with such certainty, the world gropes for, and by every ingenuity seeks to obtain by its own powers. The world wants rest, but every device to secure it emphasises its restlessness.
In Revelation 20: the period of this era is declared to be 1000 years. The length of time is not so important as the establishment of the fact that the truth of Christ's glorious reign on earth does not depend upon one passage of Scripture. It is a sober truth to say that the Scriptures abound with predictions and descriptions of the world's great day of Sabbath rest.
The manifested appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ will usher it in. It will certainly never be achieved before His coming. The signs of His coming never included a period of rest and tranquillity but wars and rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilences.
The Apostles were sure that in the last days there should be perilous times with the love of the many waxing cold. Zechariah (14:4) declared that the Lord should be King after He had come to Olivet. That he was not referring to the advent in humility is clear from the fact that then He came before the siege of Jerusalem, whereas in the chapter in Zechariah He is described as coming after it.
Many people seem to have a remarkable confidence in the teaching of the parable of the mustard seed recorded in Matthew 13: There it would seem to be clear that the kingdom is to flourish and increase. The true exegesis, however, requires that one should consider the relation of the birds to the seed. Any gardener knows that the birds are the enemies of the seed. The Gospel seed is sown, the institutional Church develops out of it, and within it will be found those who are really enemies to the truth. This exegesis is confirmed by the succeeding parable of the leaven in three measures of meal. Three is the number of perfection, leaven throughout Scripture typifies evil, the woman may not altogether be unrelated to the Harlot of Revelation. However that may be, the unmistakable lesson is pointed; the Gospel Church is to suffer corruption. A careful study of the six parables of Matthew 13: will show that the three given outside the house to the multitude, and the three inside the house to the disciples, indicate that in the first three our Lord is describing the development of organised Christianity, and in the latter three the true Church of the redeemed.
St. Peter, right in the Pentecostal era, declared, " The heavens must receive Him until-- the restitution of all things." The "times of refreshing" are to come not from the absence but " the presence of the Lord." One finds it very difficult to understand professing Christians who so vehemently object to any teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ is to appear personally again on the earth. Why do they not want to see Him? Love always desires to see the object of its affections, and it should be the most natural desire of every Christian to see His Lord. Nothing is more clearly intimated in Scripture than that the Golden Age for which we yearn will come after the appearing of the Lord to every eye. It will never come by human ingenuity and organisation.
It cannot come before Satan is bound. No Golden Age is possible while Satan is free to fetter and deceive the human heart. In all the schemes for world brotherhood, permanent international peace, industrial conciliation, the existence of the Devil is ignored. The world to day is dominated by the Satanic power, " The god of this world " is blinding the eyes of men to the truth of the Cross and to the truth of his own existence. Nothing is more remarkable than the disbelief, even amongst ministers, of the personal existence of the Devil. Yet his handiwork is world wide for those who have eyes to see! There is no human instrument, however carefully devised, no peace movement, however zealously espoused, that can secure permanent results while Satan is free. Of the will to peace there can be little doubt, but as to the way of peace there is utter confusion. Until the god of this world is destroyed there will never be peace. This fact indicates to the Church its duty in these days. One only can triumph over Satan, and that One is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has triumphed over the powers of evil in His Cross. He has made peace by the only way it can be made, "By the blood of His Cross." Let the Church hold fast to the Cross, pleading with all men everywhere to accept the salvation that is in Christ, and in Christ only, and it will render a great service to the world about it.
The fact that the millennial period succeeds the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ disposes of the illusion that His coming will mean the end of the world. So far from being a time of destruction it will be a time of restitution and re-construction. Many difficulties arise, of course, which cannot adequately be met. There are provoking questions clamouring for answers, which cannot be given, but the general outline of this time of renewal and regeneration is clear.
There is much told us concerning the position of the Redeemed and Glorified Church in the Millennium. In Revelation we are told that the saints shall reign on the earth and they shall reign with Him. In Matthew 19: we have the promise of our Lord to His disciples, " Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." So the faithful use of the talents entrusted to the servants results in rulership over cities. St. Paul enquires of the Corinthians if they are aware that the saints shall judge the world and the angels. There is much in Scripture to suggest that the Redeemed have not seen the last of the earth. Too much of the future has been relegated to the mists of an ephemeral sphere, and in descriptions of the eternal state there has been no little evidence of an unworthy sentimentality. When our Lord declared, " Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth," He meant what He said, and we may be sure that His words will be confirmed in experience during the Millennial reign. The post-resurrection body of our Lord is probably the pattern of the bodies of the saints during this period, capable of adaptation to human conditions, yet with added powers suggesting wonderful ministries and experiences.
There is no need to hold the idea that death is the end, much less that it is the entrance into a state of aimless occupation. When we read the Scriptures we find there is something else in the future besides the playing of harps. The saints of God shall see Christ crowned in the place where He was crucified, rejoicing with Him where He and they suffered. The once crippled shall leap where they limped, the once blind shall see the scenes amidst which they groped, the once deaf shall hear the songs of the birds. This is a prospect in which we may indulge. It is a robust conception of the future, which men may well feel is no degradation of their manliness. Christians who refuse the assurance of the Scriptures must derive what cold comfort they may from their speculations. But the child of God who believes the word will surely indulge the hope that he may not see corruption, but as a mortal, putting on immortality, he may enter into the glorious age of the reign on earth of the King of kings.
Israel will have a definite place and service in the Millennial period. United in the land, the promise to Abram in Genesis 15: 18, will be literally fulfilled. At long last the boundaries there defined will be the measure of her territory. The temple will be re-built as prophesied in Ezekiel 43. The dimensions are perplexing but they are not impossible, while it is by no means certain we are working out our calculations on the correct basis. That it will be re-built, we may be sure. The Dead Sea will be revived from the Mediterranean, as so graphically described in Ezekiel 47. It will be the task of Israel to take the message of the kingdom to the heathen. The Church is now doing as well as she may what the chosen race will accomplish with greater success.
After the reconciliation with Messiah, the people of Israel, at one with the occident and orient, and the premier linguists of the world, with a knowledge of the human family not shared to the same extent by no other race, will go forth to proclaim Messiah's Kingdom. We may well believe the message will evoke a wonderful response. David's Throne will be re-established as Hosea predicts: "Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days."
The heathen nations, the great Gentile races, will not be lost sight of during that glorious era. With a noble gallantry the Christian Church is doing its utmost to evangelise the heathen. Our Missionary Societies are overburdened with demands that can never be met, and yet there are more heathen now in the world than when Carey first landed in India. But there is to be a great revival when the Lord is King over all the earth. The second part of Joel's prophecy (2: 28) will be fulfilled and in the words of Isaiah, " the Lord God will cause righteousness and peace to spring forth before all the nations."
Great blessings will attend the Gentile races through the reconciliation of the children of Israel with their Messiah. St. Paul, in Romans 11: shows how the fall of Israel has resulted in salvation to the Gentiles. Israel rejected Messiah, and she herself has been rejected. Through her rejection the Gentiles have had the blessing of salvation. But Israel is to be restored. " Now if the fall of them is the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness? For if the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" When is that receiving to be? When they look upon Him Whom they have pierced, and that is at His manifested coming in glory with His saints. Resting in this hope, therefore, the Church anticipates the time when through the instrumentality of lsrael, " the whole earth shall be filled with the glory of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
During the Millennial reign the world of nature will be renewed. Inanimate nature will respond: "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree." St. Paul saw " the whole creation, " groaning under the curse. That curse will be removed at His appearing, for that is the time of the full redemption. The animal world, no less, will share in the blessing. It is now at enmity through man's sin, but in that day the wolf and the lamb shall lie down together.
Then indeed the world will have peace, for, " the government shall be upon His shoulder." No corruption then, no bribery, no secret control of vested interests. But in that day the Government will be upon His shoulder and the long centuries of corruption will be over.
All this fits in with our deepest desire and one wonders why such a conception is resented, until one sees that it banishes all the schemes of men and leaves no place for the indulgence of human pride. Man wants a new world but if he cannot build it himself he prefers the one he has got. Rather than accept it as a gift from God, he would wallow on in sin and misery. He has planned his tower of Babel which shall be a monument to his ingenuity, intrepidity and enterprise, but it can never be by human effort, for " The zeal of the Lord shall perform this."
When will the masses, when will ministers of religion learn that the key to life's complexity is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, Whom the heavens must receive--not for ever--but until the times of the "restitution of all things?"
May those times of refreshing speedily come "from the presence of the Lord!"
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