The ardent hope of the Jewish people, based upon Old Testament promises, had been for centuries the establishment of the kingdom of God in visible glory upon the earth. In their ignorance, however, the nation’s leaders completely overlooked two basic facts. One was that the kingdom promises could not be fulfilled to them while they rejected Christ who was Israel’s King. The other was that the only way into the kingdom was by a spiritual birth. In His ministry our Lord made these facts abundantly clear, adding that He, being rejected, would be temporarily withdrawn from them (Matt. 23. 39). Never in His preaching, nor in His conversations with the Pharisees, however, did our Lord even, suggest that the promises of the nation’s restoration and glory had been abrogated or annulled. Since He had so much to say to these men by way of correction, why, if Israel’s agelong aspirations were but an empty dream, did He not plainly tell them this? He exposed the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and showed that in many matters they were missing the inner spiritual meaning of Scripture, but never for a moment did He say anything to weaken or diminish the outer and literal significance of Old Testament promises. To His own He said, “that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24. 44). Who will be so bold as to say that these “all things” did not include His future earthly reign? When the disciples asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1. 6), why did He merely reply that it was not for them to know “the times”, if as a matter of fact the kingdom never was to be restored at all?
It is most important that we should be clear upon this, for it has been taught that the principles of premillennialism were borrowed by the first generation of Christians from corrupt Judaism, and that since our Lord condemned the Pharisees He Himself must have been an A-millennialist. Premillennialism has its roots in the sacred writings of the Old Testament, and there is no truth in the assertion that our Lord was an A-millennialist.
The fact that little is said about our Lord’s earthly reign in some of the Epistles proves nothing and need not surprise us. Very little is said in them regarding the Lord’s Supper, but this does not mean that the writers did not believe in that sacred ordinance. Again, not much, comparatively speaking, is revealed in the Old Testament concerning the felicity of the souls of departed saints. Several books do not allude to it at all, but surely the truth of their future state is not doubted on that account. The Bible is one grand Divine unity, and in it every doctrine has its appropriate place, as has been earlier stated in these pages. God does not needlessly repeat Himself. If He the Author of truth mentions a fact or doctrine once, whether in the Old or New Testament, that should suffice for our faith. There is nothing in any New Testament book inconsistent with the concept of a glorious reign on earth. We believe our Lord and His Apostles held it as a vital article of their faith, though its duration is not revealed until we come to Rev. 20. The apostolic period was not without its disputes over certain doctrinal matters, but, as Dr. J. F. Walvoord has pointed out in “The Millennial Kingdom”, there is no record of any dispute over this issue. There was evidently unanimity upon it in the early Church. We can therefore understand the silence of some writers upon the subject. No need existed for the emphasising of a well known and universally held doctrine.
THE EARLY FATHERS
The period which followed immediately upon the apostolic age has been the purest, most spiritual, and most orthodox period of Church history since the Apostles passed away. In it were saintly teachers who had known and heard the Apostles. Such were well qualified therefore to tell what the Apostles believed on this issue, and also how they themselves and their contemporaries viewed the book of Revelation. Writing of their theological views, Dr. R. H. Charles, a higher critic, who had no millennial bias, said, “The earliest expounders were right, as they were in close touch with the apostolic time”. As we shall now see, the evidence of these early Fathers tips the scales heavily in favour of Premillennialism. A-millennialists of course do not like to admit this. In his work, “The Momentous Event”, W. J. Grier, B.A., devotes a chapter to “The Fathers and the Millennium”. In it he labours hard to disprove a statement by Dr. Charles Feinberg, which is to the effect that “the entire early Church of the first three centuries was premillennial, almost to a man”. In doing this Mr. Grier reviews the teachings of various saints from Clement of Rome (possibly the Clement of Phil. 4. 3) down to Augustine (A.D. 354-430), and whether or not he succeeds in disproving Dr. Feinberg’s claim readers can decide for themselves. He assures us that in Clement’s First Epistle there is “no hint of two resurrections or of a resurrection of the righteous only or of a millennial kingdom on earth”, and that in the Second Epistle (probably written by the same Clement), there is “not a word of a millennial kingdom on earth”. This silence, however, fails to prove that Clement was not a millennialist. He may have been a most ardent one. In his First Epistle he quotes from Heb. 10. 37 and Mal. 3. 1 in support of the view that God’s purposes will “soon and suddenly be accomplished”. Do these quotations not plainly imply the Lord’s earthly kingdom? Many believe that they do. The coming of the Lord to “His temple” in Mal. 3. 1 is followed by the promise that “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old” (v. 4). Is this not a “hint”— and a pretty big one, too—of “a millennial kingdom on earth”? It is a pity the reviewer did not give these quotations.
Mr. Grier next gives a quotation from Polycarp about the coming of the Judge, and about our resurrection. Included in the quotation is the sentence, “He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead”. Commenting upon this the reviewer says, “Polycarp seems to look for a general judgment at Christ’s second coming. He certainly has not a word of a millennial kingdom on earth”. Now, it is true that the noble martyr here “seems to look for a general judgment”. It is not at all certain though that he does. He “seems” to do so, but you cannot build with any safety upon what a person “seems” to do, can you? Really there is no sure, solid ground in this statement for the view that Polycarp believed in a general judgment. The following is also from Polycarp :
“If we win His approval in the present world, we shall also win the world to come. He has promised to raise us from the dead. If we behave as worthy citizens of His kingdom, we shall also share in His royalty . . . Or do you not know that the saints will pass judgment on the world?” (St. Polycarp’s Epistles to the Philippians, in “Ancient Christian Writers”, Vol. 6, pp. 78, 81).
Now, the first sentence here is a reference to Heb. 2. 5; the second and third sentences are taken from 2 Tim. 2. 11, 12 and Rev. 20. 4, 6; and the last one is a quotation from 1 Cor. 6. 2. It is true that Polycarp does not here use “a word of a millennial kingdom on earth”. Can there be any doubt, however, concerning what he has in mind? What is the context in each of these four passages? In what connection is it stated in Rev. 20. 4 that “they lived and reigned with Christ”? Again, when will the saints judge the world? Will it be in “the age to come”? If so, that age cannot be the Eternal State, for there will be no evil to judge then. Hence it must be in what we call the millennium. If it be insisted that the reference is to the Great White Throne judgment, then that cannot be a “general judgment”, as A-millennialists teach, for how cap saints “judge the world” and in the same session be themselves judged with the world? Which ever view we take, it condemns our opponents. Now, why did Mr. Grier pass over these beliefs of the beloved Polycarp in silence? Perhaps, of course, he had not noticed them.
In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, who is the image of the invisible God”. With these sweeping words Paul begins his defence of the glories of Christ and no room is left for admixture with angel or man, however high. By one positive stroke of the pen, the greatness of the redemptive work of Christ as man is linked to the majesty of His eternal Person. No apology is made; in fact none is necessary. This is not a theory to be submitted to the criticism of men; it is a statement of fact recorded for the acknowledgment of all. Not that the Word of God cannot stand criticism; indeed it can, as one has said, “The dust of criticism is more or less necessary, like the dust in the mill, but it is only justified if one gets good flour from the grist.” Here Paul will speak of the good flour; he will direct attention to the Person of Christ, and as we look on the Lord with unveiled face, we must soon take on His likeness. It is surely a principle of life that if we descend to being occupied with inferior things we shall know ere long conformity to them, hut if we take to ourselves the things that are morally superior we shall soon reflect their graces.
The first claim, “Who is the image of the invisible God”, goes right to the heart of the matter. This is undoubtedly a defence of the deity of Christ. Mere resemblance, however high such a thought may be, will not satisfy. It is possible to bear a likeness and still be very far short from equality, but such is not the case with the One who is the image of the invisible God. He who was invisible and unknowable, never before seen and never fully understood, has now come within the range of man’s vision. True it is that the knowledge of this is only enjoyed by the comprehension of faith, but nevertheless the fact remains that the exact expression of the invisible God has appeared amongst men. He who could say, “I and my Father are one,” could also say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”. Certainly there are depths here that cannot be plumbed, but at least faith can bathe in the full ocean of the revelation that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
How jealous is God! As soon as the thought is suggested that the Son in condescension linked Himself with His creatures, immediately there follows the fact that He must be at the head. He is the first-bom of all creation. The expression “first-born” does not necessarily mean born first. It is a title of rank rather than one of birth. For instance, Esau was born first but Jacob was firstborn, and so it was with many others. Here the title used in connection with Christ places Him at the head of all creation, far above Adam who was first in time but certainly not first in rank. The man in pre-eminence was Christ and His manhood was true. He had a body, a soul and a spirit, untouched by sin, but nevertheless perfectly real. Such is the glorious mystery of His Person. He who was God became truly man and Colossians claims for Him the firstborn’s place at the head.
His title, “Only begotten,” does not put Him at the head of creation, rather it singles Him out from it and puts Him exclusively, with no other, in divine relationship; as John states, “The glory as of the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father”. He was always there. He did not come into it; it was ever His place as Son. The words, “Only-begotten”, do not contain the idea of begetting. With men the expression would mean begetting, but with divine Persons it is a term of relationship. Our Lord came forth from the Father and He returned to the Father. While here in time He claimed oneness, co-existence, fellowship and equality with the Father, and no one could substantiate a denial of His claim. Moreover, He who was the exact expression of the invisible God, essentially and absolutely so, was also the first-born of all creation; perfectly unique in deity and humanity.
Having separated the Christ of God from every created being and set Him on His own lofty pedestal, the writer to the Colossians then turns to creation itself to find there that it speaks on every hand of God’s Son. “In Him were all things created”, and again, “All things were created through Him and for Him”. As the third glory of Christ comes out, the writer covers past, present and future by a change of tense in the two renderings of the word “created”. The first is in the aorist, signifying a past action, done once. The second is in the perfect indicative, signifying the present and future result of the act of creation, that is, that all things were created for His ultimate enjoyment.
The scope of the creatorial power of Christ is tremendous. However high one may rise or however low one may go down, all things existing in every realm were called into being by the spoken word of His power. The intensity of it is seen in the choice of words, “visible and invisible”, and again, “thrones, lordships, principalities and powers”. All things temporal and all things spiritual, however high their estate, were the works of His hands; made by Him and for Him. Indeed creation’s destiny depends upon Christ, He who brought it all into being; who laid the basis at Calvary for purging all evil out of it, will yet fashion it for His pleasure.
in Windsor Hall Annual Missionary Meeting, Belfast, on January 4, 1964.
When we were about to leave the Fivemiletown district, a lady who had been saved during our meetings there, said to us, “Have you ever been in Monaghan with your tent?” “No, not yet,” we replied. “Would you go there, if I secured you a place where to pitch your tent?” she asked.
Then she added, “I am from Monaghan. I have two brothers there who are farmers. I’m sure either of them would give you a site. If you wish I shall write and inquire.” “All right,” said I, “and if we consider it to be the mind of God, we shall certainly go.” She wrote, and the reply came back : “Surely, put your tent anywhere on our land that suits you, and we can give you lodgings, too.” Well, that offer was a new thing, but mind you, it did not mean free lodgings. There was no such thing in those days. Mr. Wright and I always paid for our lodgings everywhere we went. But, thank God, the tariff in those days was not anything like what it would be now. Never were we charged more than 10/- per week, except once in a Temperance Hotel in Monaghan town. There we had to pay the noble sum of 12/- per week, which was counted monstrous. It was well the charge was not now to be very high, because to tell you the truth, there were going to be times when our pockets were not to bulge at the seams because of pressure inside. On occasions our watches would disappear for a little holiday, but upon the day of redemption they would again appear. And I see you know what I mean by that.
Thus we carried on until our happy partnership was broken by a serious accident which befell Mr. Wright in Co. Monaghan. When returning from a meeting in Drum, his bicycle skidded on a slippery road and his loin was badly hurt. After that he was not able to ride a push bicycle. This greatly hampered him in his service. Indeed he was off work for a long time, and I was left without my partner. For this I was very sorry. After a time, however, I joined with another partner—the late Mr. Hugh Creighton. We had our first series of meetings at Sion Mills in Co. Tyrone. God showed His hand mightily in that place. Never have I seen God’s hand more clearly than in those meetings. The attendances were far beyond anything that had ever been seen in that neighbourhood before. What was better than that, God wrought and saved souls. I cannot tell how many professed faith in Christ, but I know fifty-two souls were baptized and received into assembly fellowship. Strabane, Sion Mills, Kilmore, and Creduff assemblies were all increased numerically as the result of that work. Really it was a great time of blessing.
From Sion Mills, Mr. Creighton and I went to Londonderry city. Here again we experienced much blessing. Twenty souls were added to the Carlisle Hall assembly there through that effort.
Next we went to Rosemont district, Londonderry, and saw a fine work of grace done in meetings in an Orange Hall there. There is a story connected with those meetings which 1 must tell you. It has to do with the conversion of a Roman Catholic girl in that district. As I was passing along the road one day, I offered this young lady a tract. “No, thank you,” she said. “Tell me,” I inquired, “why you will not read a Gospel tract.” “Just because we do not read tracts, sir”, she replied. I assured her that the leaflet did not say a word against Roman Catholics. “Then what is it about?” she asked. “It will tell you about the Lord Jesus and His coming down and dying for you and me on the shameful cross to save us from hell”, was my reply. “Well, I’ll take it”, she said, and so she did. I then invited her to our meetings. “I’ll ask my mistress, and if she is agreeable, I’ll go,” she promised me. That was on a Friday. She came to the meeting on Sunday evening, and I noticed that she listened with rapt attention. She did not come on Monday evening. She came on Tuesday, however, and to our great joy told us as clear and simple a conversion as I have ever heard. Her mistress who was a converted Methodist had been a great help to her, and she had been saved when upon her knees seeking salvation. To use her own words, here is what she said : “I saw by faith the Lord Jesus bearing my sin in His body on the tree, and the burden rolled off, and I was saved.”
Her after experience was remarkable. “I can’t remain in this city,” she said to me one day, “for as I won’t he going to chapel, the priest will be after me”. However, Mr. Wright, my former partner, and Mrs. Wright, who resided in Strabane, took her into their home. Fearing that her father would be after her she removed to Bangor, Co. Down. Later she entered Belfast City Hospital to train as a nurse. While training she was sent to the Fever ward in the Purdysburn Hospital. During all this time she kept writing home, but without giving her address. In one letter, however, she unthinkingly mentioned that she was a nurse and was now doing her fever training. As the envelope of her letter bore the Belfast post mark, her relatives soon put two and two together and concluded she must be in Purdysburn. So drawing a bow at a venture, her sister wrote her a letter to that address, and such a letter you never read. It told her that her father had pined away ever since she left home and left the Church, and that at last he had died, grieving over her with his last words. She went on to say, “Oh, Kathleen, your mother is now at the point of death. Will you not come home to save your mother’s life?” This was too much for her. Though I warned her that this was but a trick to get her home, and that once they got her there she would be their prisoner, her natural feelings were so overcome that she went. “I’ll be back on Saturday,” she said, “No, Kathleen,” I replied, “you will never be back.”
When Kathleen arrived home, the first person she saw was her father, and when she entered the house it was to find her mother busy in the kitchen. She was shown into a room and was told that the parish priest would be there to talk to her next morning. Next morning the priest came to the home. In the presence of Kathleen’s relatives he asked her many questions and warned her of the seriousness of her leaving her Church. Then he requested to be left alone with her. Once all went out, he spoke to her most confidentially. After she had told him all about her conversion through the finished work of Christ upon Calvary, he leaned over to her and in a hushed voice said, “Kathleen, be true to your faith. You are going straight to heaven, and you have the same faith as I have myself.” Then before leaving, he made her promise that she would never pass his door without calling to have a talk about these things. It was not bad for a parish priest, was it?
Later Kathleen’s father died. She decided to go to America. Upon leaving, the priest gave her a letter which, to use her own words, “would, had it been possible, have taken me to heaven.” Kathleen never went back to the church of her parents. She settled in Philadelphia, Pa., and has been in assembly fellowship there for many years. I had a letter from her not long ago. The priest, who was also trusting in the precious blood, continued to write to her until he died.
I have told you only the beginning of my early experiences in Gospel work, and I have related this story to encourage personal work. You never can tell when giving out a tract what the results will be. Go on, sow the seed. Keep at it, and trust in God to do the rest.
P.S. It was my privilege and joy to be in the home of this dear Christian lady and her husband a few months ago. She has related her conversion in an eight page tract—“My Search for God.” Any desiring copies may obtain them by writing to—Mrs. D. McIntosh, 5530 North Third St., Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.A., 19120. And please pay for postage.
Three or four days before our Lord Jesus Christ died for us on the cross, His enemies were arguing with Him, trying to trip Him up with trick questions. The first two groups of questioners were insincere, smug hypocrites, but the answers which the Lord Jesus gave to their questions amazed and silenced them. The man who put the third question was evidently honest and sincere : the Lord Jesus Himself told him that he was not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12. 28-34). This man’s question was—“Which is the first commandment of all?”
The answer which the Lord Jesus gave must have surprised all His hearers, for He did not quote the first of the Ten Commandments, but a word which Moses had spoken to the Israelites after he had repeated the Ten Commandments to them on the eve of the conquest of the promised land :—
“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD : and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6. 4,5).
And He followed this by quoting part of another word which Moses had spoken many years before to the children of Israel, with the comment that this, the second most important commandment, was like the first:—
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart : thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19.17-18).
(In both instances the words in bold italics were those actually quoted by the Lord Jesus: the other words cited here make up the immediate context in each reference).
It is hard to over-estimate the importance of these words. God is worthy of our unlimited love: we should love and care for our neighbour as we love and care for ourselves. But there is yet another word, spoken by the Lord Jesus on the very eve of the cross, which is perhaps even more significant and certainly even more searching.
The occasion was just after the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Judas had received the sop, and gone out into the night. The Lord Jesus had told His disciples what they should do to remember Him in the ‘little while’ which would lie between His going to the Father and His coming again. Then He went on to say :
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13. 34, 35).
Does the simplicity of these words blind us to their real meaning? We should not only love our brethren as ourselves, but we should love them as Christ has loved us. John the apostle expressed this beautifully when he pointed out that such love must make us willing to lay down our lives for our brethren (1 John 3. 16).
The second part of the Lord’s statement is also of vital importance. The essential mark of a true disciple of Christ is that he loves his fellow-disciples. The stress here—and let us remind ourselves that this is a word of the Lord Himself— is not on the accuracy of our doctrine or the moral uprightness of our lives, vital as these are, but on our love one for another. For the best of all commentaries of these verses, turn to John’s First Epistle, and note all the references to loving one another in this letter.
A few years ago dissension in an assembly in a country where the majority of the people are non-Christians, reached such a point that the police had to intervene. The senior police officer, who was not a Christian, said to them : “You call yourselves brethren (brothers) : why don’t you act like brothers do?” The world will notice how we act toward each other much more than they will listen to what we say : and the more they see of mutual love amongst us the more they will be prepared to listen to our preaching.
In many assemblies we mourn the lack of ‘results’ in our evangelistic work. Is not this the cause? May God enable us to truly love one another, so that our assemblies will not only be known as places where sound doctrine is preached and where believers live upright lives, but also as places where Christians love one another.
My earliest thoughts about eternal things were when someone told me, “If you are a bad boy the Devil will throw you into a big fire (Hell), but, of course, if you are a good boy God will take you to Heaven when you die.”
But I can also remember the first time I saw that word “ETERNITY,” and, what a strange feeling it gave me. It was in our school book, in that old hymn, written A.D. 1141, by the godly monk Bernard, of Clairvaux :
Its last verse runs—
“Saviour our only joy Thou,
As Thou our crown wilt he,
Be Thou, O Lord, our glory now,
And through ETERNITY
Some time after this a gentleman, who himself was saved, and knew where he would spend ETERNITY, traced in the snow on the country road, so that the passers-by could read it, that same word, ETERNITY. Thus you will see by these circumstances that God was again and again reminding me of the brevity of time and the reality of eternal things.
Later, two Evangelists commenced Gospel meetings in our neighbourhood. Among other hymns that were sung was that solemn and heart-searching one :—
ETERNITY, Time soon will end,
Its fleeting moments pass away;
O Sinner, say where wilt thou spend
ETERNITY’S unchanging day?
Shalt thou the hopeless horror se&,
Of Hell for all ETERNITY?
ETERNITY, O dreadful thought
For thee, a child of Adam’s race,
If thou should’st in thy sins be brought,
To stand before the awful Face,
From which the Heaven and earth shall flee,
The throned One of ETERNITY.
How I used to tremble as I thought of Eternity and of dying in my sins! But the Devil hushed my anxious thoughts about these things and filled my mind with the things of the world. How truly I was being led captive by the Devil at his will (1 Timothy 2. 26).
In August, 1903, the Lord in His rich grace sent along two of His servants with a Gospel Tent to proclaim the Good News once more. Again I heard the voice of God warning me about putting off the matter of my soul’s salvation. I remember well the large text in red letters behind the platform, and the question on it: “WHAT THINK YE OF CHRIST?” One of the speakers took that for his text one evening. He said, “After you leave the tent tonight some of you no doubt will be saying to each other, ‘What do you think of the preachers? What do you think of the singing? What do you think of the preaching?’ But these are unimportant questions. The all-important question is, ‘What think ye of Christ?’ Dear friend, I realized again that while those who were saved by grace could say: “He is altogether lovely the chiefest among ten thousand” (Sol. 5. 10-16), He was still “as a root out of the dry ground” to me. I knew Him not as my Saviour and my Redeemer. The following Lord’s Day I was there again with my two unsaved companions. On coming near the tent we could hear them singing that good old hymn, “Showers of Blessing.”
I trembled to think of the showers of blessing that had come in the past to others, and that I was still in my sins going down the broad and crowded road that leads to destruction and to a lost Eternity.
We could not get our usual back seat that night, so had to go nearer the front. I don’t remember what Scriptures were read, but I do remember the preacher quoting Gen. 6. 3. “The Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” and Prov. 1. 24-26: “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.”
He went on to say : “Some who are in the tent to-night are afraid to close in with Christ and to trust Him, because of the sneer and the laugh of their ungodly companions. Remember, “they may laugh you into hell but they will never laugh you out of it. For once there, the undying worm, the unquenchable fire, the blackness of darkness, the ETERNAL torment will be yours.” As I sat and trembled in my seat, I said, in the words of that old hymn :—
“My old companions fare ye well,
I will not go with you to hell,
I mean with Jesus Christ to dwell;
I will go!”
“I then fully trusted in Jesus;
And oh, what a joy came to me,
My heart was filled with His praises,
For saving a sinner like me.”
I left the tent that night, a happy soul, and happy in the knowledge of sins forgiven, in the Saviour’s love; and now many years have passed and gone since that memorable night and I can commend this living, loving Saviour to you, dear unsaved one.
“God commendeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 6. 8).
“For God so loved the World, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3. 16.
(By onr beloved brother, the late Mr. Sam Moore, Toronto).
Few of the ladies of to-day who appear in ermine-trimmed clothes or capes are aware that the little animal whose coat they wear was once as proud of it as they are.
So great is the passion to preserve it spotless that nothing is permitted to discolour it. Hunters use this knowledge to their advantage. Instead of setting traps, snares, etc., the entrance to its home is covered within and around with filth. When dogs get the scent and a chase commences, the little creature makes for home but pride within is so strong that instead of entering such a filthy place, he turns and faces his pursuers and death before defiling himself.