The Time of the Redeemer’s Return
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory"
Matthew 24:29, 30
Having shown the Necessity of Christ’s Return, having dwelt upon the Hope of His appearing, having pondered some of the bearings and types of the Fact of His Advent, we are now ready to discuss the Time of His Return and to consider the question—When is our Lord coming back again? By the "Time" of the Redeemer’s Return we do not mean the date, but the position which this great event occupies in God’s dispensational program. Concerning this phase of our subject there is wide difference of opinion. Two positions have been taken and the advocates of each appeal to the Scriptures in support of their conflicting views. These two positions are known as Pre-millennialism and Post-millennialism. The word "millennium" means a thousand years, and "pre" means before and "post" means after. One school of theologians believe and teach that the Lord Jesus will return before the Millennium, another school insists that He will not come back again until the close of the Millennium, in fact not until the end of the world, the end of time itself. As the point at issue between these schools is of great importance and as this book may fall into the hands of a number of people who are bewildered by this contradictory testimony and who are anxious to know what the Scriptures really say upon the matter, we have decided to devote a separate chapter to the examination of the question—Will Christ return before or after the Millennium?
When is our Lord coming back again? In seeking a satisfactory and authoritative answer to this question our first need is a candid mind, an unprejudiced heart, a teachable spirit. It is impossible for us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord while we cling to our own pre-conceptions. The initial requirement in every student of Holy Scriptures is that he shall bow to the authority of the Word and submissively receive at its face value all that God has revealed. We need to approach the Sacred Volume in the attitude of learners, willing to have our own ideas of Truth corrected, and prepared to have our beliefs formed and molded by the teaching of Holy Writ. Such an assertion may perhaps appear a platitude, yet we are fully assured that it is a timely reminder. One of the main hindrances which prevents many of God’s children apprehending Divine truth is that they read the Bible through the eyes of others; they read it with opinions already firmly formed, they read it with prejudicial interest. This is largely true with reference to the subject of our present inquiry. People have been taught by some "Doctor of Divinity," or Seminary professor that the world is growing better, that the Gospel will eventually win all men to Christ, and that the Millennium is to be ushered in by the efforts of the church. It is difficult for those who have been taught thus to set aside the effects of such teaching and come to the study of the Bible to find out exactly what it says concerning these things. Yet we must do so if we would learn God’s mind on the matter. It is "What saith the Scriptures?" not What does our church teach? not What does our Creed or Catechism say? not what did my godly parents tell me? but—What saith the Scriptures? We repeat, in seeking an answer to the question—When will our Lord return? Before or after the Millennium? we need to approach the Bible with an open mind, willing to be instructed by the One who inspired it, and coming to it in the spirit of the child Samuel saying, "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth."
What is the Time of our Lord’s Return? As stated above, two general answers are returned to this question. One class of theologians argue that our Lord will not come back again until after the Millennium; another class declare that He will return before the Millennium. In order to be fair to each of these schools we will first give a brief description of their respective positions.
I. Post and Pre-Millennialism defined.
Post-millennialists teach that the great purpose of the Divine incarnation was that the Lord Jesus through His death and resurrection should found and establish a spiritual Kingdom. They tell us that the Jews who expected their Messiah to set up a material and visible Kingdom on the earth were mistaken. They insist that the only Kingdom Christ has or will ever have is an unseen, spiritual and heavenly Kingdom, the subjects of which are the members of His Church, in whose hearts Christ now rules. They declare that the Redeemer is even now reigning, reigning as King over this earth and that He will continue thus to reign, unseen, until He has overcome all enmity and opposition and won His very enemies unto Himself. The instrument by which He is to achieve this glorious victory is the church, and the Church, we are told, is here to civilize as well as evangelize the earth. Post-millennialists teach that while the Church is an institution and organization separate from the State, yet it is interested in the welfare of the State and that it is the duty of Christ’s followers to take part in polities and see to it that the best men securable are elected to office and that they must be encouraged to frame and enforce laws which make for civil righteousness.
In present-day conditions post-millenarians see the fulfilling of their hopes and the promise of a speedy success crowning their efforts. They regard the multiplication of educational advantages, ‘the discoveries and inventions of modern science, the improvements in hygenic and sanitary conditions, the growing demand for nation-wide prohibition, the increasing number of hospitals and agencies to relieve suffering, the modern trend toward inter-denominationalism and religious, unionism, as so many heralds of the near approach of the Millennium. They believe that the utilization and perfecting of such agencies will usher in the Golden Age, an age of world peace and prosperity, an age when all will know the Lord from the least to the greatest. It is not until the close of this Millennium that they look for Christ to return: then it is they expect Him to come back and ‘wind up’ all things, judge the human race and settle the eternal destiny of every individual of it. Post-millenarians believe in a general resurrection and a general judgment at the end of time. Such in brief and in general is the position and belief held by post-millennialists. We turn now to
At every point the teaching of pre-millenarians is diametrically opposed to that of the post-millennialists. Pre-millenarians regard the Jewish expectation of a literal, visible, material Kingdom as being set up in the earth by their Messiah as a hope authorized by the Word of God because clearly revealed and expressly foretold by the Old Testament prophets. They believe this Messianic Kingdom is now in abeyance but will yet be established. They do not hold that Christ is now reigning as King, on the contrary, they look upon Him as at present exercising His high-priesthood, and they do not expect Him to enter into the office of His Kingship until He returns to the earth and sits upon the throne of His father David.
Pre-millennialists do not believe that it is the mission of the Church to civilize the world, but instead, they are deeply impressed that the great duty and business of the Church is to evangelize the nations. While recognizing that civilization is a byproduct of evangelism, yet they insist that their marching orders are contained in Christ’s mandate—Go, preach the Gospel to every creature. Believing this, and realizing that a full obedience to their Lord’s command will require all their strength, time and talents, they (or, at least, an increasing number of them) look upon politics, social-reform movements, humanitarian efforts, etc. as outside of their own jurisdiction, as something which is an integral part of that world from which their Master was cast out, the "friendship" of which is expressly declared to be "Enmity with God" (James 4:4). While they rest with unshaken confidence upon the Divine promise that God’s Word shall not return unto Him void but that it shall accomplish that which He pleases and prosper in the thing whereto He sends it, and while they go forth preaching the Gospel in the assurance that the Holy Spirit will use and bless it to the conversion of many of those that hear it, yet pre-millennialists can find no promise anywhere in the New Testament that the world as a whole shall improve during the time of Christ’s absence from it; on the contrary, they read that "In the last days perilous times shall come" and that "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse" (2 Tim. 3:1, 13).
Pre-millennialists do not believe there can be any Millennium until Christ returns to the earth, takes its government upon His shoulder and reigns in power over it. They do not believe that there can be any real improvement in moral and spiritual conditions down here while Satan is free, and realizing the utter impotency of man to cope with his powerful Enemy they recognize that the only hope for this poor world is the Second Advent of Christ to it and His removal of Satan from it. They believe that before this can happen Christ will first come for His Church and instead of interposing a thousand years between the present and this blessed event, they are looking for Him to return at any moment. Such in brief and in general is the belief and position of pre-millennialism.
Now it is very evident that both of these positions cannot be sound and tenable, that one of them must be false and unscriptural. Post-millennialism and pre-millennialism cannot both be right, one of them is most certainly wrong. Which of them is in error? Again we would urge upon our readers the need of drawing near to God and praying Him for a teachable spirit and asking Him to enable them to approach the examination of this issue with an unprejudiced mind and an open heart.
II. Post and Pre-Millennialism Examined
1. An examination of Post-millennialism.
Post-millennialists teach that the only Kingdom over which Christ will ever reign is a spiritual and celestial one. They say that those Jews who expected their Messiah to set up a visible and material Kingdom on the earth are mistaken, that they erred in the interpretation of their prophetic Scriptures and cherished a carnal and unworthy hope. Let us examine this assertion in the light of God’s Word. In Psalm 132:11 we read: "The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it: Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne."
This was one of many Messianic prophecies scattered throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. it is a prophecy which has never yet been fulfilled. When our Lord Jesus was here upon earth He did not sit upon any "throne," instead of occupying a Throne He was nailed to a cross. True, He is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, but this is not the fulfillment of what Jehovah "swore in truth." David never occupied a heavenly throne; his throne was an earthly one, he reigned in Jerusalem; and God has declared that the Lord Jesus shall sit upon David’s throne. This Old Testament prophecy was confirmed in New Testament times. In Luke one we learn that an angel appeared unto Mary and said, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the "Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:30-33).
The above is not a single prophecy but a compound one. It is made up of five separate items. Mary, the "virgin," was to conceive and bring forth a son; her son’s name was to be called "Jesus"; Jesus was to become great and recognized as the Son of God; the Lord promised to give unto Him the "throne of David," and over the "House of Jacob" He was to reign forever. Utterly unlikely as it appeared to human wisdom at the time, part of this prophecy has already been fulfilled—literally fulfilled. There was a literal birth, Mary’s son was literally named "Jesus," and a literal "greatness" has become His portion; by what sleight of hand then can the exegetical knife be run through this prophecy and a literal "Throne of David" and a literal reign over the "House of Jacob" be denied?
Post-millennialists teach that Christ is reigning as King today and that He will continue to reign thus, unseen, until He has subdued and won all His enemies. But the first part of this assertion is altogether lacking in scriptural authority. Nowhere in the New Testament are we told that Christ has already begun His Kingly reign, and nowhere in the Epistles is He denominated the "King of the Church." It is true that Christ is now seated upon a "throne," but not upon His own Throne. Christ is seated on the Throne of His Father, but His own Throne and the Father’s Throne are clearly distinguished in Scripture —"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His Throne" (Rev. 3:21).It is not until after He has vacated His Father’s throne and returns to this earth that He will occupy His own throne as is clear from Matthew 25:31 —"When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the Throne of His glory."
Post-millennialists teach that the world is to be conquered by the Church. Their favorite slogan is "The world for Christ." It is supposed that in order to capture the world the Church must make concessions to and compromises with the world. Post-millennialists insist that it is the bounden duty of all Christians to help forward every movement which makes for civic and social righteousness. But of such it may be said, yea, it has been said by the Holy Spirit Himself —"For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). The New Testament knows no righteousness apart from the Cross and places no value upon a reformation which is divorced from regeneration. Post-millennialists argue that believers ought to take part in politics and that it is their business to look after the regulation of legislation. But politics give Christ no place and where Christ has no place His followers must have none. The Lord Jesus has left us an example that we should follow His steps, but we search the records of His earthly life in vain to discover any mention of Him taking any part in the politics of Palestine in His day.
Post-millennialists teach that the Gospel is yet to convert the world and that before Christ returns to earth all men will know Him from the least unto the greatest. A captivating concept surely, but upon what is it based? Certainly not upon the declarations of the New Testament. We are commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, but nowhere is there a promise that the time will come when every creature will believe the Gospel. The Lord Jesus taught that "As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:37). What were the conditions in Noah’s days? Did all men then receive the messages of God’s servants? Nay verily: On another occasion Christ said, "Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be when the Son of Man is revealed" (Luke 17:28-30)—do these words present the picture of our Lord returning to a world which has been won by the Gospel? Nay verily. Our Lord very plainly intimated that He did not expect to return to a world where Christianity had universally triumphed: "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
Post-millennialists teach that our Lord will not return until the close of the Millennium and that then there will be a general resurrection of the dead, followed by a general judgment, at which every member of the human race will stand before the great Judge to have his eternal destiny decided. Such a conception is anti-scriptural in every part of it. In the nineteenth chapter Of Revelation we see heaven opened and the Lord Jesus coming forth seated on a white horse and with Him are the "armies which are in heaven." Accompanied by His saints the King of kings and Lord of lords returns to this earth as is evident from the next verse for there we are told that He shall "smite the nations and rule them with a rod of iron." In Revelation 19 Christ is seen making a footstool of His enemies preparatory to the inauguration of His reign of blessing, and in the next chapter we read, "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled" (Rev. 20:1-3). In the verses that follow we are told that those who have part in the first resurrection shall reign with Christ throughout the thousand years. Thus we learn that Christ leaves heaven and returns to the earth before the Millennium commences. The concept of a general resurrection and a general judgment is equally unscriptural as we shall show later.
2. An examination of Pre-millennialism.
Pre-millennialists, as their name indicates, are looking for their Redeemer to return before the Millennium begins, looking for Him to introduce and usher in the Millennium itself. To them a Millennium without Christ is unthinkable. From their cradles they have been taught to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven," and they cannot conceive of a Kingdom without a King. The Millennium is the time when men’s desire for a Golden Age will be realized, but that Golden Age cannot dawn until the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings. The Millennium is the time when the sword shall be made into a ploughshare and the spear into a pruning-hook, when for a thousand years there shall be no war, but earth-wide peace will only be made possible by the return and personal presence of the Prince of Peace.
Pre-millennialists believe that in the Millennium Christ will set up on the earth a visible, material Kingdom, that He will occupy the literal throne of David and reign from Jerusalem as the King of the Jews. They base their belief upon many plain declarations in Scripture to that effect. Isaiah predicted it—"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the Kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously." Ezekiel foretold it—"And He said unto me, Son of man, the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and My holy name shall the House of Israel no more defile by their abominations that they have committed" (Ezek. 43:7),while at the close of his prophecy he says of Jerusalem in the Millennium, "And the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there" Zephaniah heralded it—"Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee’ (Zeph. 3:14-17). Zechariah announced it, "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be My people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent Me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land and shall choose Jerusalem again" (Zech. 2:10-12, and see further 8:8, 23 and 14:16).
Pre-millennialists believe that the Messianic reign and Kingdom of the Lord Jesus are yet future. They believe that Christ Himself so taught. In the Parable of the Nobleman, He declared, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for Himself a Kingdom, and to return. And it came to pass, that when He was returned, having received the kingdom, then He commanded the servants to be called unto Him, to whom He had given the money, that He might know how much every man had gained by trading" (Luke 19:12, 15). Here we learn that Christ’s return and His reception of the "Kingdom" are inseparably connected together. Not only do the Scriptures plainly refute the assertion that Christ is now reigning, but existing conditions cannot be made to square with this belief. How absurd it is to say that Christ is now reigning over the earth when His authority is despised and rejected by the whole of the unbelieving world! No Christ-rejector can be termed a follower of the Lamb, and if he is not a "follower" then he is not subject to the will and rule of the Lord Jesus, and if he is not subject to Christ, then in no sense is Christ his "King." Moreover, the conditions which prevail upon earth today repudiate the idea that Christ is even now reigning over it. The scepter which the first man lost has never been restored, the "Curse" has not yet been removed, and Satan is still at large! But all things will be changed when the Lord Jesus takes the government upon His shoulder and reigns in power and righteousness.
Pre-millennialists believe that it is God’s purpose in this Age to take out of the nations "a people for His name" (Acts 15:14). To effect this the Gospel has been given and the Holy Spirit has come down to this earth. As the Gospel is preached, as many as are ordained to eternal life believe (Acts 18:48), for though "many be called," there are "but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16). God’s purpose in this dispensation is an Elective one, and let it be said with emphasis, God’s purpose has not failed, is not failing, will not fail—"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isa. 46:9, 10). The Gospel is not a failure, the Holy Spirit has not failed in His mission, it is theologians who have failed—failed to understand the purpose of God and to read aright His present program.
III. Post-Millennialism Refuted..
The post-millennial position rests largely upon a mistranslation. In Matthew 13:89 we read "The harvest is the end of the world," and again in Matthew 24:8—"And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Now the Greek word which is used in the above passages is entirely different from the one found in John 3:16—"God so loved the Kosmos." In the verses quoted above the word is not "Kosmos" but aion and ought to have been rendered "age"—"the harvest is the end of the age." In the marginal rendering of the R. V. Matthew 13:39 reads "The harvest is the consummation of the age." Both of the Greek words which are translated "world" in the King James Version occur in Hebrews 9:26—"For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the Kosmos: but now once in the end of the aion hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." Here it is evident that "aion" cannot mean "world." The Lord Jesus was offered as a sacrifice for sin more than eighteen hundred years ago, and the end of the "world" has not come yet. It was at the consummation or end of the Mosaic age that our Lord appeared and died upon the cross in order to effect our salvation. So, in the above instances read, "The harvest is the end of the age," the present age and not the end of time, for just as the Mosaic age was followed by the Christian age, so the present Dispensation shall be followed by the Millennium. That the "harvest" referred to by our Lord in the Parable of the Tares takes place at the end of this age rather than at the end of the "world," is further seen by a comparison of Joel 3:13-17 and Revelation 14:14-20 which refer to the same "harvest" and where this harvest is definitely placed at the commencement and not at the consummation of Messiah’s reign. That our Lord will return before the Millennium rather than at its close is clear from many considerations.
God’s Word makes known the exact conditions which are to obtain here immediately preceding the Redeemer’s Return. The Holy Spirit has given a number of graphic portrayals of the world as it will exist when our Lord comes back to it. One of these pictures is to be found in Isaiah 2—"For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan. And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up. And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols He shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth." Do these verses picture a world ready to receive a returning Christ? No; they tell us that in "the Day of the Lord"—that which immediately follows the present "Day of Salvation"—men will be "proud and lofty"; it intimates that idolatry shall prevail universally; it tells us that instead of men coming forward to welcome the Lord Jesus, they shall flee from Him in terror.
Another passage which describes the conditions which are to prevail on earth at the time of our Lord’s Return is found in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9—"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; when He shall come to be glorified in His Saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." Observe that here we are expressly told that our Lord comes back again to take vengeance on "them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel." It is utterly impossible to make this statement harmonize with the concept of Christ returning to a world which had previously been won to Him by the Gospel.
Again, in 2 Peter 3:3, 4 we read, "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of." Observe that the apostle is describing conditions that are to obtain in "the last days," i. e., the last days of this present dispensation. Here again we learn then, that instead of this Age closing with the universal acceptation of the Gospel, instead of the last days witnessing a world reconciled to God, instead of the Christian era dosing with earth-wide prayer for the Coming of the King, we are told that, "there shall come in the last days scoffers," a class of people who have no concern for God’s glory but who walk after their own lusts; and further, we are told that these "scoffers" shall mock at those who are looking for the appearing of our Savior and that the "ignorance" of these scoffers is due to a wilful and deliberate rejection of God’s revealed truth.
Putting together the above pictures we learn that in the days which precede Christ’s Second Advent the earth will be filled with proud idolaters, with those that know not God and obey not the Gospel, and with those who mock and scoff at the prospect of a speedily returning Redeemer. Further; we learn that the actual return of Christ is introduced not by Gospel successes but by Divine judgments. Thus we say that the condition of the world when our Lord comes back to it proves that His Second Advent occurs not at the close of an era of Millennial blessedness, but at the end of a dispensation wherein God has dealt with infinite long-sufferance with a race of rebels, and that at His coming He takes "vengeance" on His enemies ere setting up His Messianic Kingdom.
2. The Teaching of Matthew 13 proves that no era of Millennial blessing precedes Christ’s Second Advent.
In Matthew 13 we have the record of seven parables—the number of completeness—which our Lord uttered consecutively. These parables are prophetic in their significance and scope. They deal with conditions which are to obtain here during the time of our Lord’s absence. They are concerned with the visible profession of Christianity and they look forward to the closing scenes of the present dispensation. As there is much in them upon which we cannot now comment at length we shall content ourselves with singling out only that which bears upon our present inquiry.
The chapter opens with the well-known Parable of the Sower who went forth to sow. It pictures the broad-cast sowing of the good Seed by the Savior Himself, and in His interpretation of the parable we learn that the "Seed" is the Word of God. The parable sets before us the beginning of the Christian dispensation and makes known to us the manner and extent of the reception of the Redeemer’s mission and message. It gives us the ratio of the Gospel’s success and forewarns us that all men are not going to receive God’s Word, that the majority will not, that only a fractional minority will. It shows us that the proclamation of the Word is to encounter Satanic opposition, yea, that the world, the flesh, and the Devil, will combine in their efforts to prevent it bringing forth fruit.
The result of the sowing is plainly stated. Three castings out of four were fruitless! Most of the seed fell upon barren ground. The greater part of the field which, in our Lord’s interpretation, we learn is "the world," completely failed to bring forth any increase. Some of the seed fell by the wayside and the fowls of the air picked it up; some fell upon the rocks and the sun burnt it up; some fell among thorns and it was choked. Only one-fourth of it fell upon "good ground" and even there the fruitage varied and decreased in its yield from a hundredfold to thirty-fold (see vs. 23). In His interpretation, the Lord tells us that the different kinds of ground on which the Seed fell represents various classes of people who hear the Word.
Now what light does the above parable throw upon our present inquiry? It throws a clear light and in its light we discover the fallacy of the post-millennial position. There is no hint whatever in this parable that a time was to come when the whole of the field would be covered with waving wheat, instead, the only possible inference which can be drawn from it daffy repudiates such a conception. Who would dare to suggest that the Divine Sower Himself, the "Lord of the harvest" would be followed by other sowers who should prove more successful titan He? The results of our Lord’s own sowing were prophetic of the history of the entire Christian dispensation. In no period of tills Age has the whole field—the world—been receptive to the Seed, in no period have more than a fractional minority received the Word and brought forth fruit unto perfection. In every generation, from the time when our Lord walked the earth in the days of His flesh until now, the emissaries of Satan and the cares and riches of the world have combined to choke and make unfruitful the Word of God. From this parable then it is impossible to deduce any promise of a world ultimately converted by the Gospel.
The second of the parables found in Matthew 13—that of the Wheat and the Tares—brings out even more forcibly than the previous one the fact that there can be no Millennium of earth-wide blessedness before our Lord’s return. The Parable of the Tares is also prophetic in its bearing. It makes known to us that which succeeded our Lord’s own ministry. Immediately following the Divine Sower’s scattering of the good Seed, an Enemy came and sowed evil seed in the same field. The Enemy was "the Wicked One" and it is to be particularly noted that he sowed neither thorns nor thistles but "tares" —a bastard wheat—which so closely resembles the genuine article that the one cannot be distinguished from the other until the time of harvest. Here then is seen the efforts of the Evil One to neutralize the gracious work of the Son of God. The interpretation of this parable was supplied by the Lord Himself: just as the wheat represents the "children of the Kingdom," so the tares symbolize the "children of the Wicked One? Let it be noted, however, that the "tares" do not represent wicked men as such, but "the ministers of Satan," "false apostles, deceitful workers" (2 Cor. 11:13) who were secretly introduced by the Enemy amongst God’s people just as the tares were sown among the wheat.
Part of this parable began to be fulfilled in the days when the New Testament was written. In the false teachers who harassed the early disciples we may see the mingling of the taxes with the Wheat. The "children of the Wicked One" were the Judaizers who entered in among the churches of Galatia and who taught that salvation could not be secured by faith alone, that Circumcision was also necessary. The "tares" may be seen in Hymeneus and Philetus of whom we read, "who concerning the Truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (2 Tim. 2:17, 18). The apostle Peter referred to the same class when he wrote, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily ("secretly") shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction"
(2 Pet. 2:1). Jude, likewise, had reference to such when he declared, "For there are certain men crept in unawares (as the "tares" were sown secretly among the wheat), who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4). Thus we see that at a very early date the tares were mingled with the wheat.
Again we ask, What light does this parable throw upon the point now under discussion? And once more the answer is, much every way. In our Lord’s declaration that the tares should grow together with the wheat until the time of harvest, which He expressly declares is the end of the age, we discover how preposterous, erroneous, and unscriptural is the teaching that the Gospel will yet win the world to Christ. At the time of harvest the world is still a mixed field, and this fact cuts away all ground for supposing that before our Lord returns the tares will be all rooted up or changed into wheat. Instead of the tares being transformed into wheat before the Millennium is ushered in, we are told that at the time of harvest the tares are bound into bunches and afterward cast into the fire—a very different picture that from the children of the Wicked One being reconciled to God! In the words "Let both grow together till the harvest" two solemn facts are revealed—first, Satan shall continue to hinder the success of the Gospel without interruption till the end of the age; and second, the Christian profession once corrupted shall continue thus to the close of the dispensation. And thus it has proven. Finally, be it observed, that in the casting of the tares—the children of the Wicked One—into the furnace of fire, we learn once more that the Age closes not with the universal reception of the Gospel but with Divine judgment upon the wicked!
The third parable of Matthew 13—that of the Mustard-seed—differs from the former ones in that it was not interpreted by our Lord. Post-millennialists have taken advantage of this fact and have made it teach that which gives countenance to their own pre-conceived theories. In this parable they see the promise of a world conquered by the Gospel. Now, whatever this parable may or may not signify, it certainly must not be made to contradict the teaching of the two which have gone before it. As already stated, the seven parables recorded in Matthew 13 form part of one connected discourse by our Lord and are so many prophetic representations of the development of the Christian profession during the time of His absence. This third parable then cannot set forth the universal diffusion of the Truth because the previous ones show that this is prevented by the opposition of Satan, which opposition is to continue until the end of the age. What then does this third parable teach?
The position which this parable occupies in the series is one of the keys to its interpretation. The first parable is concerned with the beginning of this dispensation, the time when our Lord was here upon the earth. The second deals, prophetically, with conditions that obtained in the lifetime of the apostles, showing us the false teachers—the children of the Wicked One—who crept in among God’s people in their day. This third parable then looks forward to a later period and presents a prophetic picture which saw its materialization in the fourth century of our era. The growth of the little mustard-seed into a great tree represents the development of the Christian profession from an insignificant commencement into a system of imposing proportions. In the fourth century A. D., Christianity was popularized by Constantine who adopted it as the State religion and compelled more than a million of his subjects to be baptized at the point of the sword. The parable of the Tares shows us Christianity corrupted by the insidious introduction of the children of the Wicked One among the children of God: the parable of the mustard-seed forecasted the growth and spread of a corrupted Christianity. This assertion of ours may easily be verified by the details of the parable itself.
The mustard-seed developed into a great tree—an abnormal thing in itself, nay, a monstrosity—so the popularization of Christianity in the days of Constantine produced an unnatural and ungainly system which was foreign to its spirit and nature. Observe that the "fowls of the air" came and lodged in the branches of the great tree. In the first parable of the series the Lord Himself tells us that the birds of the air represent the emissaries of Satan. The great tree then, stands for a nominal and national Christianity, a monstrous, world-system, that which in our day is the aggregate of the so-called "Christian nations." In a word, the great tree symbolizes Christendom which in Revelation 18 is said to be the "hold of every foul spirit and a cage for every hateful bird."
Further confirmation of our assertion above, that the great tree which issued from the mustard-seed represents the abnormal growth of a corrupted Christianity is furnished in Daniel 4 where we have recorded a dream which came to the first head of the Gentile powers. In his dream Nebuchadnezzar also saw a "great tree," and in the fate which it met with we learn the end which is appointed to the tree of the parable. To quote—"I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and a holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit; let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches" (Dan. 4:10-14).
To sum up our comments upon this parable. Instead of lending favor to the position of post-millennialism, its teaching—viewed in the light of Daniel 4—absolutely shatters the foundation of that system. Instead of teaching that the professing Church shall conquer the world, it shows that the world has conquered the professing Church. The mustard-seed symbolizes the outward character of the Christian profession at the beginning of this dispensation, when its devotees were few in number, poor in this world’s goods, and despised by the great ones of the earth. In the third century A.D., the professing Church was like unto a humble little seed, unpretentious in appearance and insignificant in its dimensions. But in the fourth century there was a dramatic change. Constantine became a nominal Christian and adopted Christianity as the State religion. Then it was that the "tree" grew and became strong in the earth, putting out its branches in all directions. But then it was, also, that the fowls of Satan found shelter within its imposing boughs. However, great as the tree has become, its end is sure. Just as we learnt in the previous parable that the tares shall yet be consigned to the fire, so shall this great "tree" yet be cut down and brought to nought.
We turn now to the fourth parable of Matthew 13—the parable of the Leaven, the leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened. This parable is one of the foundation passages of post-millennialists. In it they see clear proof that the Reign of Righteousness, the Golden Age, is to be brought about by the efforts of the Church. The woman, we are told, symbolizes the Church, the three measures of meal the human race, and the leaven the Gospel, which, working silently but surely shall yet permeate the whole of humanity and influence all men Godward and heavenward. But the assumption that the leaven here signifies the influence and power of the Gospel will not stand the test of the Scriptures, for in the Word of God "leaven" is uniformly employed as a figure of that which is evil. The Israelites in Egypt were commanded to put away all leaven from their houses on the night of the Passover, and to eat the lamb with un-leavened bread. Leaven was rigidly excluded from every one of the Levitical offerings which typified Christ. When our Lord was here upon earth He bade His disciples "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:11). Writing to the Corinthians the apostle exhorted them to "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lamp, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:7, 8). Thus we see that, in harmony with its nature, leaven, is uniformly used as a figure of evil. How strange then that sober expositions should ever have regarded sour dough—a form of incipient putrefaction—as a symbol of the unadulterated Word of God working in the hearts of men!
What then is the meaning of the parable of the Leaven? We answer that just as the former one brings before us the external development of a corrupted Christianity, so this one shows us the internal working of corruption within the Christian profession. The third parable brings us, historically, to the time of Constantine; the fourth carries us forward to the time of the rise and growth of the Roman Catholic Church. The "woman" in our parable figures the "mother of harlots and abominations of the earth" (Rev. 17:5)—"that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess" (Rev. 2:20). Her act in "hiding" the leaven comports well with the secrecy and stealth which has ever characterized the methods of the Roman hierarchy. The action of the woman is further evidence that the post-millennial interpretation of this parable is erroneous, for there is nothing secret about the proclamation and spread of the Gospel. Said our Lord to His disciples, "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops" (Matthew 10:27); and wrote the apostle, "But having renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, not handling the Word of God deceitfully" (2 Cor. 4:2). But both "craftiness" and "deceit" did mark this woman’s action. She stealthily introduced into the meal a corrupting element, and though the resulting bread might be rendered more palatable, nevertheless it had been polluted. The three measures of meal stand for the whole of Christendom, and as Dr. Haldeman has pointed out, it is very remarkable that there are just three great divisions in Christendom, namely, the Roman Catholic, the Greek, and the Protestant Churches. And how true it is that these three divisions of the meal have each and all been thoroughly corrupted by the leaven introduced by the "woman"! Everywhere there are relics of Romanism, even in all the so-called Protestant churches.
To say that this parable teaches that the Gospel is to win the whole world to Christ is to put light for darkness and is to make error equal truth. If the leaven represents the Gospel, the woman the church, and the meal the entire human race, then we have to confess that our Lord erred in His judgment and entirely over-estimated the power of the Gospel to find a response in the hearts of men, for after eighteen centuries of Gospel preaching we cannot point to a single country where all its subjects make even a profession of Christianity; nay, the world over, we cannot find a single city, town, or hamlet where everyone of its inhabitants is a believer in the Lord Jesus. No; this parable shows us the secret working of a putrefying element which spreads nought but corruption,—Can then the Millennium be introduced by the universal diffusion of a corrupted Christianity!
In these four parables we discover the methods used by Satan to hinder the work of true Christianity. At the beginning he sought to oppose by catching away the Seed, which method was pursued throughout the first century when the Devil endeavored to exterminate and annihilate the Word of God by means of the sword and the bonfire. In the second parable we see him changing his tactics, aiming to destroy Christianity by mingling his own children among the people of God. In the third we see how by a master-stroke of the Enemy the Christian profession was Paganized and as the result the world was won over by dazzling the eyes of men with a gorgeous ritual, with imposing architecture, and with the sanction and approval of the Roman Emperors themselves. In the fourth we discover how he succeeded in corrupting the doctrines and practices of Christianity by introducing into its midst a foreign and putrefying element which has resulted in the leavening of the entire mass.
We shall not tarry long with the last three parables of this series. There is nothing at all in them, any more than in those already considered, which confirms and establishes the post, millennial teaching. A treasure buried in the field (which is "the world") can scarcely figure the universal success of the Gospel. A "pearl"—which is an object taken out of the "sea" (symbol of the nations) is no picture of a world won to Christ. While the Drag-net—the last of the series—enclosing as it does "every ‘kind" of fish, the "bad" as well as the good, surety refutes the assertion that at the close of time Christ will return to find all men reconciled to Himself.
3. Our Lord’s Olivet discourse shows that there is no universal triumph of the Gospel before His Second Advent.
The Olivet Discourse of our Lord is recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. We cannot now attempt a detailed exposition of these highly interesting and important chapters, but would simply single out from them a few things which throw light upon our present inquiry. At the beginning of Matthew 24 we find that three of His disciples asked our Lord, "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?" (v. 3). What then was the answer which our Savior returned to these questions? Did He reply saying that the Age would end with the universal triumph of the Gospel? Did He tell them that the Sign of His coming would be a converted world that would be eagerly awaiting His return to it? If so, this clearly decides the issue once for all, for there can be no appeal against the declarations of the One who was the truth incarnate.
As we read the verses which record our Lord’s reply to the questions of His disciples we find that instead of Him painting a picture in bright and attractive colors, He portrayed a set of conditions which were pathetic and tragic in their bearing and nature. Instead of intimating that things on earth would improve during the time of His absence, He showed that they would get worse and worse. Instead of promising an era of peace and prosperity, He predicted a time of blood-shed and famine, instead of telling the disciples that truth would be universally diffused and received, He forewarned them of the coming of false prophets who should deceive many. Instead of teaching that His followers would grow more zealous and faithful to Him, He announced that because iniquity should abound the love of many would "wax cold." Instead of saying that He should come back here to be received with an open-armed welcome, He predicted that on His return "all the tribes of the earth shall mourn." It is true that He said, "This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations," yet a little further down in the same chapter He very plainly intimated that it should meet with an almost universal rejection—"For as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be," proves this.
It is therefore well nigh impossible for us to imagine anything more directly opposed to the post-millennial theory than what we find here in this address of our Lord’s. It would appear from His utterances as if He, with omniscient vision, foresaw the very teaching which is so common in our day and that He designedly and deliberately anticipated and repudiated it. In verses 29 and 30 of Matthew 24 we read, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
The "tribulation" here spoken of is described in verses 21 and 22 of this same chapter—"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." How different this from the glowing pictures painted by the post-millennialists! That the things here mentioned cannot possibly have reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is evident from the fact that "immediately after the tribulation" of those days the sun was not "darkened," the moon did not "cease to give her light," and the Son of Man was not seen "coming in the clouds of heaven." No; these verses describe conditions which are to prevail at "the end of the Age." Observe particularly that it is said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened" etc., and that "then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven." The conditions then which are to immediately precede the Second Advent of Christ are not those of Millennial blessedness but those of unparalleled tribulation.
4. The present working of the Mystery of Iniquity proves that there can be no Millennium before the Redeemer’s Return.
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition" (2 Thess. 2:3). In the first Epistle to the Thessalonians the apostle makes mention of the Second Coming of Christ in every chapter, and in the first chapter of the second Epistle he recurs again to the same theme—"The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ"
(vv. 7, 8). Then, at the opening of chapter two in the Second Epistle he further says, "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." Observe that here the apostle speaks of "The Day of Christ" which is different from "The Coming of Christ." The "day of Christ" signifies the Millennium and is used in contrast with "Man’s day" (1 Cor. 4:3, margin) which denominates the dispensation in which we are now living. Here then the apostle expressly states that "that day (the Day of Christ) shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition."
The "Man of Sin" is the Antichrist who at the very close of this Age will oppose and exalt himself "above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:4). In the seventh verse of this same chapter the apostle tells us "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth (hindereth) will let (hinder), until He be taken out of the way." Notice that the "Mystery of Iniquity" was said to "work" referring to the action of the leaven which was corrupting the meal even in the apostle’s own lifetime. That which has ‘hindered" the full development of the Mystery of Iniquity" and which now prevents the revelation of the Antichrist is the presence on earth of God the Holy Spirit. But He is to be "taken out of the way"—removed from the earth when the saints are raptured to heaven. Then will the Devil be allowed ‘free rein’ and the Son of Perdition will be publicly manifested. In the days of Antichrist God will send men strong delusion "that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (v. 12). The career of the Antichrist will be cut short by the return of our Redeemer to the earth—"whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming" (v. 8). The "Mystery of Iniquity" then, will be brought to a conclusion only by the Return of Christ in judgment which is another proof that there can be no Millennium before the Second Coming of Christ.
To sum up the teaching of 2 Thessalonians 1:6-2:12. The testimony of this passage is in perfect accord with the declarations of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24. Instead of teaching that before Christ returns all men will be converted by the Gospel, it distinctly affirms that the Day of Christ (the Millennium shall not come "except there come a falling away first" (Greek "apostasy"). Instead of teaching that this Age will close by witnessing a universal turning unto the Truth, it explicitly states that it will terminate with God giving up multitudes "that they should believe a lie." Instead of teaching that this Dispensation will end with Christ exalted in the hearts of all, it declares that it will close with the manifestation and exaltation of the Antichrist and with the Lord coming back in judgment to destroy the Wicked One and to take vengeance on those that know not God and have scorned the Gospel of His Son.
IV. Pre-Millennialism Established.
We must quote once more a passage that has already engaged our attention in another connection, namely, the Parable of the Nobleman. Before quoting from it, however, we would first observe that this parable was uttered by our Lord in order to correct a mistaken notion that was being entertained by certain of His auditors: "And as they hoard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear" (Luke 19:11). Here is further proof that the "Kingdom," referred to subsequently by our Lord was not a spiritual Kingdom instituted by Him just after His death and resurrection, but was a Kingdom which was not to "appear" for a considerable length of time, in tact not until He returned again to the earth. To quote once more from this parable—
"He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for Himself a Kingdom and to return. And it came to pass, that when He was returned having received the Kingdom, then He commanded these servants to be called unto Him, to whom He had given the money, that He might know how much every man had gained by trading" (Luke 19:12, 15). Thus we see that our Lord’s receiving of the Kingdom and His return synchronize. The Kingdom to which our Lord here referred was the Messianic Kingdom which was the subject of numerous Old Testament prophecies. It was the "Kingdom" mentioned in Daniel 7:13, 14 of his prophecy—"And I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him (compare "received" in the above parable) dominion, and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve Him." As the context here shows, the time when the Son of Man is "given" this Kingdom is immediately following the destruction of the Gentile powers which from the Book of Revelation, we know will occur just prior to the Millennium. If further proof be needed that Christ’s "receiving of the Kingdom" takes place before and not after the Millennium it is furnished by 1 Corinthians 15:24 where we are told that at the close of the Millennium—which is the time when He shall have "put down all rule and all authority and power"—He shall "deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father." If then Christ "delivers up" the Kingdom to the Father at the close of the Millennium then the conclusion is irresistible that He "receives" the Kingdom at the beginning of the Millennium.
2. The "Times of Restitution" can be ushered in only by the Second Advent of Christ.
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the Times of Refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the Times of Restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21). The "Times of Restitution" here promised to Israel on the condition of their national repentance is one of the names of the Millennium itself. It is termed thus because at that tame Israel shall be restored to favor with God again. It is termed thus because at that time Palestine shall be restored, restored to its original fertility, when it shall again be "a land that floweth with milk and honey." It is termed thus because at that time the animal creation shall be restored, restored to Edenic conditions, when once again "the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb." It is termed thus because at that time Creation shall be restored and delivered from its present bondage of corruption, restored to its original freedom and glory. The "Times of Restitution" is defined in the very passage where this expression occurs, defined in the previous words "the Times of Refreshing" which shall come from "the presence of the Lord." Note particularly that these "Times of Restitution" cannot come until Christ Himself comes back again. This is expressly affirmed in the words "Whom the heaven must receive until." Observe it does not say "Whom the heaven must receive or retain during the Times of Restitution," still less until the end of the Times of Restitution"—which it most certainly would say were the teaching of post-millennialism true—but "until the Times of Restitution," that is, until those times arrive. When these "Times" come then shall the Lord return, and when He returns then shall come "Times of Refreshment" for His people on earth.
Observe, further, that we are told, these "Times of Restitution" were spoken of by all Gods holy prophets. Of what "Times of Restitution" then did the Old Testament prophets speak? We answer, of Millennial "Times," when all the nations of the earth shall be brought beneath the sway of Messiah’s scepter. The Old Testament prophets uniformly connect the Times of "Restitution" with the Coming of Christ to the earth and they certainly knew of no Kingdom being brought in by the efforts of the Church. The above declaration of Peter then proves two things: First, that until the Times of Restitution the Heaven must retain our Lord; second, that as soon as these "Times" arrive, Christ shall assuredly return. Hence, there can be no Millennium until Christ comes back again to the earth, but as soon as He does come back again the Millennium will be inaugurated.
3. The Restoration of Israel is only made possible by the Second Advent of Christ.
Under this head we shall seek to prove briefly three things—that Israel as a nation will be restored, that Israel’s restoration occurs at the Return of Christ, that Israel’s restoration will result in great blessing to the whole world.
That Israel as a nation will be actually and literally restored is declared again and again in the Word of God. We quote now but two prophecies item among scores of similar ones:—"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our righteousness. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the House of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land" (Jer. 23:5-8). Again; "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be King to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God. And David My Servant shall be King over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children forever: and My Servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctity Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore" (Ezek. 37:21-28).
That Israel’s restoration synchronizes with our Lord’s Return to the earth may be seen from the following Scriptures:—"And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him; and He will save us: This is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:10 and read on to the end of the following chapter). See further the whole of Isaiah 60 which follows the opening verse—"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon them." In Acts 3 we learned that Peter declared to Israel that if they would "Repent and be converted" that God would "send Jesus Christ unto them" and that following Christ’s Return there would be the "Times of Restitution," even the Times of Refreshing which should "come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19-21). In Acts 15:16 we read, "After this, I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down." And in Romans 11:25, 26 we are told, "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."
That Israel’s restoration results in great blessing to the whole world may be seem from the following quotations—"And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men" (Mic. 5:7). "Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isa. 27:6). While in Romans 11 we are told that the restoration of Israel will bring even greater blessing to the world than did their casting away—"If the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness! If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead!" (Rom. 11:11, 15).
4. A groaning Creation can be delivered only by the Second Advent of Christ.
The difference in belief between post and pre-millennialists concerning this point is as great as the difference between light and darkness. Post-millennialists believe that Christ will not return until the end of time and that then He will come to judge the human race. As to what is going to happen at the end of time Scripture does not leave us in ignorance. Says the apostle Peter, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet. 3:10). Post-millennialists then look for the world (the Kosmos) to be "burned up" and for "the heavens" to "pass away" at the time of Christ’s Return; in other words, they look for the destruction of the old creation as the consequent of the Second Advent. But pre-millennialists look for the emancipation of all creation from its present bondage as one of the glorious results of our Redeemer’s Return. They base this belief on the teaching of Romans 8:18-24, a passage which has already been examined in an earlier chapter. Without again entering upon a detailed exposition of the entire passage, let us seek to summarize its contents.
"The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (v. 22). This is the lot of all Nature today. The world groans beneath an accumulating load of sin and wretchedness. Man groans: his soul groans, and so does his body. Animals groan. The earth itself groans, sometimes Like a great giant in awful pain. How then can the world enjoy a thousand years of rest and peace and blessedness whilst the whole creation is in travail? The whole creation is here personified and represented as sending up to heaven a loud and agonizing groan. And God in heaven hears it: His ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, nor is His arm shortened that it cannot save. A day of liberation for the groaning creation hastens on. It is announced in the very passage we are now reviewing. The day when this groaning creation will be delivered is the day when Christ returns to usher in the Millennium and when the saints shall be revealed in glory with Him. The time of creation’s deliverance is here said to be at "the manifestation of the sons of God" (v. 19 and compare Colossians 3:3). This manifestation of God’s; sons is in verse 23 denominated "The Adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" which has reference to the "first resurrection"—the "resurrection of the just." A groaning creation then is waiting for the Return of Christ and with Him the Saints manifested in glory, for then, and not until then, will it be emancipated from its present thraldom.
Here then is the answer to our question—What is the time of the Redeemer’s Return? He shall return before the Millennium. He shall come back to usher in the Millennium and set up His Messianic Kingdom, restore Israel, and deliver a groaning creation. As to how near His pre-millennial coming may be we leave for consideration in the next two chapters.