CHRIST'S SECOND COMING
The World's Dark Night and
The Coming Day
What sort of world are we living in? The answer of a prosperous gentleman in 1910 for example would be rather different from the answer of most of us today. In those days facts were obscured by artificiality; today the veneer is removed in measure and the facts are clearer. They are destined to be clearer still but we will estimate them as we see them now. Let us make a sober diagnosis.
First we are in a world that is cursed by bloodshed. At the moment war is the principle occupation of the human race. All over Europe and North America men and women are working strenuously in the production of weapons of war. Scientists are giving themselves unsparingly to the devising of more effective methods of destruction while every frontier in the world is watched with feverish jealousy and not a little anxiety. The battle zones are:
A DESPERATE AND TRAGIC SITUATION
In Russia, Africa, China ,the Pacific men are interlocked in a death struggle of such scope and intensity that it is impossible indeed for any one individual to grasp what it mans in terms of human suffering. That is the first fact. Secondly we are in a world that is cursed y cruelty. A man must have a cast-iron constitution who can read of the horrors of a concentration camp without feeling sick. The tortures and evil practices are too terrible to write about here. Think of the butchery of thousands , the defiling of multitudes of women, the dive bombing of Rotterdam, the destruction of Warsaw, the bombing of islands in the Pacific and it is impossible to avoid the conclusion: such facts assert that we are face to face with cruelty as barbarous in the twentieth century as in the first. That is the second fact
Thirdly we are in a world that is cursed by falsehood, lies and an utter disregard of honour. Lies flourish on every hand, men break their pledges with impunity. Nobody can be sure of the truth. Mr. Cordell Hull said of the final Japanese reply to the United States: "In all my public life I have never seen a document more crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions on a scale so huge that I never imagined until today that any Government on this planet was capable of uttering them." (Daily Telegraph 8th Dec.1941). If this were a unique incident we should deplore it;but it is characteristic of the relations of governments and nations. That is the third fact.
Without any question we are in a world of bloodshed, cruelty and lies; the facts are so obvious that they defy refutation by any intelligent person. We may try to explain them away, we may seek to minimise then, we may not like them, we may wish they were otherwise, but wishful thinking is no occupation fir these strenuous days. Pleasant imagination must scatter before the assertion of these solid facts which rear up before us in obstinate defiance. To these facts must be added another which is confusing to many thoughtful people. They are startled that one man in control of a comparatively little clique, should be able to hold an entire continent to ransom. Hitler's word, at this moment, is absolute law in most of Europe. For the rest in such countries as Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland his influence is tremendous and in more or less degree they are subservient to his blackmail. Britain is the one entirely European nation that withstands and defies him..
How is it that in the twentieth century one man can dominate a continent in this way? The answer to that intensely interesting question must come later but for the moment the fact is established beyond question. Hitler has mastered a continent These being the facts they demand not merely a careful and precise explanation, but the world cries out in its misery for an adequate and final solution. Facts, explanation, solution is the framework of this booklet and having surveyed briefly the facts we will seek an explanation.
LET US TURN TO THE POLITICAL SPHERE
For at least five years before the war it was evident that Germany was re-arming. One British Prime Minister declared that Great Britain's frontier was the Rhine, but he directed his policy as if Germany were no nearer than the Rockies! What bitter memories are those conferences at Stresa and elsewhere, those meaningless pacts like Locarno, the waving of bits of paper at Heston signed by Hitler! All the time factories were being adapted or erected for the manufacture of armaments and we watched the airfleet of Germany grow to such proportions as made ours of little account The extraordinary lack of insight and paralysis of action on the part of British statesmen could never have been thought possible.
The other day a young lady was returning home in the black-out by cycle. Up in the darkness loomed a policeman to exercise the whole power of British law. And her offence? No light! Subsequently the magistrate rightly indignant with such a breach of law levied a fine of 7/6d for the offence of cycling without a light. The dear girl ought to have entered politics and she would have known that in that realm you can meander through the affairs of nations without a light. You can plunge your nation into war unprepared, almost unarmed, and so far from being fined- honours and titles are showered upon you. But the statesmen are not the only people who have been "cycling without a light."
In the world of religion the situation, if it were not so serious, is ever more grotesque. Ministers and clergy with a sense of the infallibility of their own opinion such as they would never concede to the Scriptures, declared that peace could and should be secured! Congregations passed resolutions, amateur politicians decked with ministerial collar had breakfast with the Prime Minister. They sought him out in Scotland and urged him to give the world a lead in disarmament. If only Britain disarmed the world would follow suit! Whence their authority? We now know that the policy of disarmament was the conception of a madhouse. They might just as well have urged the government to remove the bars of the lion's cage at the Zoo!!
The fact is that the policy of disarmament has contributed in as very great degree to our sufferings, and the policy and the folk who extolled it are alike utterly discredited by the facts of the Germany we know today. These clergy and ministers have surfeited society with a false idealism, and realism has been entirely lacking. The price to be paid for this is not yet known, but we may be sure the bill will be a heavy one and it will be presented for payment. The solemn account of the Living Vine in John 15 still stands true and both God and society will yet settle with organised religion for its gross betrayal of the spiritual realities of the situation in this critical hour. This is no exaggeration. All the confident affirmations of some new world brotherhood, on the indubitable progress of the race, of the certainty of an age of peace, wrought out by the sure achievement of an ordered society. These are demonstrably discredited and when branches cease to function by the life of the living vine- "men gather them and they are burned."
I stress this fact because I believe that if the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in this country, had been really true to its Divine commission, it would have dealt with the really deep-seated causes of the present situation that are cursing mankind and are more fundamental even than the economic factors. Surely God is adequate to the situation? As certainly as He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He must not only be concerned for the welfare of the race but mighty and able to save us in our misery. The message of the Scriptures is that He is not only concerned about the race but that He has made ample provision for its need and beyond that is resolved to carry through His purpose to victory.
THEREFORE LET US GIVE THE BIBLE A CHANCE
to state its case. Let us permit it to speak for itself. It is difficult for many people today to come to the Bible without a prejudice, a prejudice created not by unbelievers but by those who profess to be religious. What is the man in the street to think about the Bible? A correspondent in a newspaper wrote from a Vicarage in Northumberland; "I have myself seen a bishop of my own church shaking his fist while he called high Heaven to witness that, in repudiation of what should have been his most sacred vow, he no longer believed the Old Testament to be the Word of God. In that case he has no place in the Church of England at all, and he is receiving money, and the Church's money at that, for discrediting the very thing he is paid to uphold. Small wonder the average layman does not know where he is!" It is of course difficult for the layman to believe the Bible to be true when a Bishop speaks thus, nevertheless the apostles of our Lord, whose true successors the bishops claim to be believed the Scriptures. Our Lord himself most certainly believed the Old Testament. Indeed, after He was risen from the dead, when it is to be supposed He knew with a certainly quite equal to any religious leader today, He declared: "O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and entered into His glory? And beginning at Moses and out of all the prophets He expounded unto them the things concerning Himself." (Luke 24, 26 and 27) Well let us not be fools and slow of heart like this bishop. We will leave him to shake his fist about while we follow the instruction and example of our Lord whose disciple he professes to be.
For our part we will give the Bible a chance. We may have to sweep away old prejudices but to see the light that illuminates a dark world, to embrace the truth as God gives it and to know it power in one's life is to enter into the possession of The most satisfying and uplifting secret of the human heart in all its need. What then are the facts in the background of world chaos? Why are we where we are? What is fundamentally wrong in human society? The bible is prepared to give us an answer. It speaks of facts of which the politicians are largely ignorant and which the religious leaders are too proud to acknowledge and declare. They are nevertheless, the warp and woof of the Word of God.
THE FIRST FACT IS THE HEART OF MAN
We have been afraid to tell the world how it really stands before God and in His sight according to the Scripture. The fact is that all our trouble begins in the human heart. It is the heart of man that is at the heart of our trouble. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Serious as that condition is however, there is more to be said: Until the Living Christ redeems us we are "dead in trespasses in sins." (Ephesians 2:1) There is in every man until quickened in Christ a faculty which is inoperative towards God. The guilty pair in the Garden of Eden were warned: "Ye shall not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."(Genesis 2:17) The sentence was carried out, not in the body of Adam but in his spirit. That died the moment he sinned and that day they were cut off from the presence and fellowship of God. Preachers have doubted, some have scoffed at the teaching of these chapters of Genesis, but they are not nearly so legendary as much that has gone forth from our pulpits in recent years.
Here is the first basic fact: the heart of man is deceitful and the spirit which should be alive unto God is dead in sin. There are thus two fundamental needs: a change of heart and a bringing to life of the spirit dead in sin. Human nature is itself at the heart of the world tragedy and any scheme for a better world which ignores the need of a changed heart, and a new life spirit is doomed to failure. It is as foolish as if the government sent a thousand tanks to the Middle East but declined to supply them with any petrol or ammunition.
THERE CAN BE NO NEW WORLD ORDER WITHOUT A NEW NATURE.
There is another pertinent fact in Scripture, which cannot be ignored. Paul speaks to the Ephesians (chapter 2) of a mysterious being whom he calls "the prince of the power of the air." He adds that he is "the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience." Now it is usually regarded as a mark of education and culture to treat the suggestion of some real demonical power exercising sway over men with contempt and ridicule. Of course ridicule is easy. At the same time we must be sure of our ground and those who deny the fact have set themselves s formidable task. This is not time for laughing and the people who have ignored the fact of the existence of the devil are precisely those who have been talking so glibly about world brotherhood. They have been proved wrong in that; the scriptures declare them wrong in this. Paul was a man of learning and also of revelation, the learning is invaluable; the revelation indispensable! His letters have stood the test of nearly 1900 years. Let us then listen to Paul speaking to Christians in his letter to those at Ephesus.
He declares in the last chapter: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the princes of this present world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm." What a revelation of supernatural power! There are "princes of this present world." Does this explain anything? Our Lord sealed Daniel's words with His authority, and we may read in Daniel 10 and notice those ominous beings called:"the prince of the kingdom of Persia," and the "Prince of Greece." Nations have kingdoms and governments but over every nation there is not merely a human ruler but a spirit ruler with supernatural power. Governments make their treaties and pacts without any regard to these beings, but it us they who seek to control the situation. Why do men break treaties? Why do men resort to war? Why do nations spend their time and their wealth in mutual destruction? The answer is in the Scriptures.
The nations are ruled by supernatural powers and in their hands governments and politicians are hopeless. People who have withheld themselves from Divine possession and control by their unbelief are led captive by the Devil at his will. The fact becomes patent when attention is paid to our Lord Himself. In the wilderness He was "tempted of the Devil." Let it be noted that for the account of His experience we depend entirely on what our Lord related. The Devil is therefore a real being and the issue of the possession of the kingdoms of the world was between them. Having taken our Lord to an high mountain he "showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time." (Luke 4:5) Then the devil said "All this power will I give thee and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be Thine." Notice then the devil's claim on these kingdoms of the world. Our Lord does not contradict him. Notice no less the terms on which those kingdoms will be handed over. At least in worship it was absolute submission.
Let it be noted however, for our purpose,
THAT SATAN ENTICES TO WORLD OPINION.
He has an end in view for himself in anyone he can entice into the project. World dominion will be the prize Satan dangles before the eyes of any man ready to serve him in absolute submission. Let the reader remember this as he surveys the present situation. We are faced with a terrific bid for world dominion. That fact is indisputable. It is attended with every demonstration of cruelty, bestiality, lies and depravity that it is a common expression of people that Hitler is "devil possessed." Are they nearer the truth than they know? I remember talking some little time ago to a brother minister whose theological views are different from mine. Said he: "I cannot think of a personal devil such as you speak of but mark you, there's something to be said for it now! Something to be said for it now! It is a splendid thing when a man ceases to act as if his thoughts moulded facts and begins to allow essential and eternal facts to mould his thinking. In very truth there is "something to be said for it now."
These then being the supernatural facts lying behind the physical facts it is evident that world problems are problems indeed, for God is confronted with the evil heart of man--who is under the power of that spirit who works in the children of disobedience. No wonder votes for peace were so futile! How did ministers and clergy ever deceive themselves into supporting such an idea? What then is the outlook? Are we facing the abyss? We most certainly are if we are left to ourselves. Our need is threefold.
HUMAN NATURE MUST BE CHANGED NEW LIFE MUST BE GIVEN TO THE MAN WHO IS DEAD IN SIN
and the power of Satan over this world must be broken. What is God's answer? First let it be noted, that according to Scripture God has no answer save in His son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has made Him "Heir of all things." God's purpose is not in the introduction and maintenance of Christian principles. Christian principles can be obeyed by Christian persons only. It is one of the outstanding faults of modern preaching that Christian principles are urged upon people who are not Christians. Not at Christian principles but in the "Name of Jesus every knee shall bow." God's answer to the world is a Person! Indeed the Christian ministry is intended to be a testimony to Him: "Ye shall be witnesses unto ME." The Christian minister ought to witness to nobody else and nothing else but Jesus. Jesus is uniquely and absolutely God's entire complete and final answer to world need. First His death on the Cross is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) God accepts Him as such and when any man accepts Him for himself- as being a sinner, God receives that man in repentance and faith.
Secondly Jesus has been raised from the dead and is in heaven to be "a life giving spirit." (I Corinthians 15:45) Therefore when I accept Him as my Saviour He breathes into me as a direct creative act from Heaven His own new life bringing my dead spirit to life. I am, what our Lord Himself declared was necessary, "Born again" or "Born anew" or born from above." (John 3) That is God's answer and let it be noted God's only answer to the problem of human nature in its sin and to the dead spirit in man. The answer is entirely comprehended in Jesus only. Not in the church, for the church without Christ is as dead and as helpless as the world. The task of the Church is not to point men to itself but to point men to Him as John did: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29)
But how is this related to the mighty world issues of today? This may meet the individual need but what about a world need? It is a pertinent question but bear in mind this basic fact: the universal need is answered by God through One Individual even the Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him as He ministers life to individuals as such. There is no mass movement with God. His ministry is as personal and individual as Jesus himself. Bearing in mind therefore, this supreme and essential ministry of salvation and life eternal to the individual let us turn once again to Daniel. Look at chapter 2 and read it through noticing certain broad features concerning Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Notice that the king could not understand his own dream. The politician was troubled by his nightmare. Notice also that the religious leaders were helpless. They claimed occult powers which when put to the test was seen to be make-believe. The politicians in a nightmare and religious leaders floundering in helplessness in the hour of test are characteristics of the present hour. Notice that a young man, Daniel receives the revelation from God while waiting upon God believing that God would give the answer. Then observe that the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar and revealed by Daniel was the image of a man. It represented man's government of man by man. Then give close attention to the stone. It is "cut out without hands." Man is not responsible for its manufacture, organisation or creation. It comes to be without any action or power of man.
It is a creation of God and the crucial consideration must not be missed. Not only is this stone unconnected with man, it is not only entirely separate from the image but it comes into violent contact with it, crushes it to powder which the wind blows away. The end of all those mighty empires of man's making is dust, gone with the wind! The present system of man's government of man by man in all its forms is under Divine condemnation. How can man in rebellion against God and under the tutelage of the powers of darkness expect that any system of man's government can be eternal? The state of the world today proclaims from the housetops the utter incompetence of man to govern and rule the earth. The stone cut out without hands is Christ. He is the Stone, which the builders rejected. He has been rejected by man but He is destined to rule and reign over man in the sphere where He was once rejected. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and like this stone, it shall fill the whole earth.
The teaching of Scripture is quite clear. The kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever. We are hastening to a crisis and climax! It is a crisis of God! That crisis centres in the
PERSONAL RETURN OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
. How will this crisis arise? The Scriptures do not disclose the precise time of His appearing. They indicate clearly, however the conditions of the world when He comes. The last chapter of the prophecy of Zechariah gives us the clue. He will come when the nations of the earth are engaged in a death struggle. It will be the bloodiest war ever fought on the earth. From this we may quickly deduce two fundamental principles. There will be no ending of war on the earth until the Lord returns. He Himself in His own Person is the Prince of Peace, and with His return He will usher in the era of millennial peace. The other principle is implicit in the first. We have no authority in Scripture to speak of a warless world apart from the Presence in Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Warless worlds achieved by man by education and culture, reinforced with a moderate amount of religion, is an idle dream, destined continually to be transformed into nightmare-as in this present hour.
Satan is till engaged, and will be to the end, in spurring on men to attempt world dominion. If this is not the last war before the Lord returns then, no matter what efforts are made to make the world safe for democracy, they will fail. Satan is the uncontrollable factor in the situation, and, while he has human hearts and human nature at his disposal, no treaty that statesmen can devise and no scheme put into operation will ever achieve the end in view. Satan is a spirit power resolved at last to answer the incarnation of our Lord by himself incarnating the man who will be absolutely his tool. Incarnation in the Antichrist, which will be Satan's method of final destruction for the nations, will actually be the means by which he will be brought under the complete power of the Lord Jesus when He comes to Mount Olivet.
ARMAGEDDON IS NO FIGURE OF SPEECH
It is the historic point in time to which the nations are hastening. The issue in the final struggle will be the Jew, and the nations defending the Jew. The nations defending the Jew will be hard pressed as the Antichrist himself sweeps into Palestine with mighty forces at his disposal. His intention will be the utter extermination of the Jewish race, for as surely as that race has been the object of divine solicitude so surely it has been the object of Satanic hatred. The battle of Armageddon will be determined not by a victory for one side over the other, but by the Personal Return of the Lord Jesus Christ whose feet shall stand upon Mount Olivet. The mountain from which Jesus ascended into heaven. How futile will be the armaments of men at His appearing! Men count power in terms of tanks but if the God of Providence allows the temperature to drop sufficiently, then, as the German have discovered the oil freezes in them and they are useless. When He returns with His mighty host of immortals, no human earthly power, no power of Satan himself shall be able to withstand Him.
The power to make war will be broken. Satan will be bound, the Antichrist committed with him to the abyss. And at last the world will know something of security and peace--when Jesus Himself reigns in Jerusalem "a greater than Solomon." But you will say: If all this is true why does He not come now at once? I have stated that He will not come alone but with a great company of immortals. That company will be those who have received the new nature and life from Him through repentance and faith. They constitute God's great army. When that army is complete then the Lord can and will act. In the mystery of Providence nothing can be done until the last individual is "born again" and brought into the church of God's great army. The moment that is done Jesus will act!
Therefore the supreme need at this hour to meet the world's need is to broadcast the good news of salvation and earnestly to plead with men to embrace newness of life from and in Jesus. Each one so acclaimed hastens the day when war shall be no more. Each one born from above is another recruit for the ranks of that mighty company which will overcome Satan and his hosts and the army of Antichrist. That is why the individual attitude of God and His purpose is supreme. That is why dear reader, in the midst of this bloody war the supreme question for you is still your relationship to the Lord Jesus. Are you in rebellion against God or have you come to Him in repentance? Have you received life from above from the Lord Jesus or are you still "dead in sins?" Are you looking for and hastening the Day of the Lord Jesus or vainly plunging into the hopeless medley of man's idealism so continually broken by the realistic facts of life? Only the man who has received the new nature and from whom Satan has been cast out can be an instrument of God for the coming victory of His son. Join that army even while you read these lines, kneel in humble repentance at His feet, ask the Lord Jesus to give youHis life from above and hence forth live, work and pray as those that await for their Lord.
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