by James B. Currie, Japan.
The greatness and the glory of the long expected “appearing” of our Lord Jesus is evident to all devout readers of God’s Word. These most excellent features are especially notable in two short, but colourful sentences, the apostle Paul uses concerning this climactic event continually referred to throughout the whole of Holy Scripture. The first of these statements is found in 2 Thess.2.8 where, in the context of the man of sin’s advent and final destruction, the future appearing of the Lord is called, “the brightness of His coming”, words which sometimes are rendered “the outshining of His appearing.” Such is the greatness of that ‘outshining’ that he “whose coming is after the working of Satan” will be consumed with “the breath of the Lord’s mouth” (J.N.D.).
The second of Paul’s statements is that of Tit.2.13 where the “appearing” is equated with the “blessed hope” of the present day believer. We are exhorted to look (in expectation) “for that blessed hope even the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” It is to be observed that “the appearing of the glory” is that of “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” and constitutes “the blessed hope” of every child of God today. The “outshining of His presence” and the “outshining of His glory” are both, intrinsically, envisaged in the Biblical term “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Tim.6.14, and point to that blessed occasion when He will come in manifested glory to set up His kingdom right here on earth.
It has been calculated by various writers that the subject of the Lord’s Second Coming is directly spoken of about 350 times and is strongly hinted at in many hundreds of other references throughout the Old and New Testaments. One thing is certain; some individuals may deny the veracity of the teaching but no one can gainsay the fact that it is part of the warp and woof of the writings which claim to be God’s unique revelation to men. Careful perusal of these writings shows that two separate advents of the Messiah, Israel’s future King and mankind’s only Hope, are clearly predicted. Sometimes these two aspects are in such close proximity in the record of revelation that distinguishing them is not so easy. Perhaps the best-known example of this is found in the words of Isaiah the prophet, written hundreds of years before the birth of the Lord Jesus. In ch.61.1,2 the prophet is led to write, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God.” “To preach good tidings unto the meek” and to “proclaim … the day of vengeance of our God” are two vastly different commissions entrusted to the One upon Whom the Holy Spirit came. Many hundreds of years later, the Lord Himself read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, as recorded in Luke chapter 4. The Lord, on this occasion, read as far as the words “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” and then “closed the book.” He omitted the words to “proclaim … the day of vengeance of our God.” Two ministries of entirely different character are closely linked in the Divine record. One commission, in grace, to preach good tidings and the other, in judgment, to wreak vengeance on those who obey not the gospel.
When the Lord Jesus “closed the book” in Luke chapter 4 it is most appropriate that He left the sentence uncompleted. The many affirmations of Scripture enable us to see that, not only the character but also the time when these ministries would be fulfilled would be different. As He read Isaiah’s words in Nazareth that day, He “had not come to judge the world; it was to save He came.” He came to be “the Saviour of the world”, consequently “it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” Lk.24.46. The second part of the prophecy concerning the Lord’s proclaiming the day of vengeance remains as a future fulfilment. We may rest assured that the prophetic words pertaining to the Lord’s birth, its place, His death, its manner, His resurrection and ascension having all been literally fulfilled, the things spoken of in connection with His second coming in glory will, in exactly the same way, have their literal fulfilment.
The fact is then, that the Holy Spirit has, in His wisdom, seen fit to set forth the two aspects of the Lord’s Second Advent in His unfolding of God’s mind to us, the character and the time of these two perspectives being so different. In order to follow a consistent interpretation of Scripture we must recognise that the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus also has these two complementary features, both of which are of singular importance. So that they may deny this, many writers stress that there is but one ‘Second Coming’ and dogmatically assert that any who speak of ‘two aspects’ of the Coming are actually saying that the Second Coming will consist of two advents of the Lord. Nothing could be further from the truth. That there is but one Second Coming of the Lord Jesus is hereby unequivocally maintained, but that the Scriptures teach two characteristically distinct happenings involved in the Coming must be asserted in the same manner also. The one event comprises two Divine activities in relation to mankind. One is called ‘the Rapture’ and the other called ‘the Revelation’ or ‘apocalypse’. Both these words are biblically correct. The actual word ‘rapture’ does not appear in our K.J.V. but it means ‘to be caught away’ or ‘caught up’ in keeping with 1 Thess.4.17. ‘Revelation’ means ‘to make manifest’ or ‘to unveil’ and is the term used in Rev.1.1. The words themselves are different; so are the concepts in regards to character and time.
The many differences evidenced between ‘the rapture’ and ‘the revelation’ (or ‘appearing’, found six times in the K.J.V. version), make it imperative that some basic distinctions be acknowledged. The ‘revelation’ (and consequently the ‘appearing’) is a subject occupying much of the O.T. The ‘rapture’ is said by Paul to have been a special “word” given to him by the Lord, 1 Thess.4.18. He elsewhere calls the change that will take place then as a “mystery”, something heretofore hidden and undiscoverable by natural means but now made known by God through His Holy Spirit, 1 Cor.15.51. This does not apply merely to the dead saints being raised, but has reference to the fact that while the dead saints will rise on this occasion there will be those who, in keeping with the word given to Paul by the Lord in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, will not sleep but will be changed. Job knew that he would one day be raised from the dead but he was aware of the fact that his resurrection would take place when his Redeemer stands “in the latter day upon the earth” Job 19.25. This seems to be the uniform testimony regarding O.T. saints at the time of the Lord’s appearing, Job 19.25-26; 14.3; Hos.13.10,14, but the dead saints of this age will be raised and will with “those who are alive and remain” at the time, be changed and caught up (raptured) together in the air to be with the Lord for ever. Other differences are to be found in these two features of the one great event. They will be touched upon in due course.
The term ‘parousia’, often translated ‘coming’, is used for both the Lord’s coming for His saints, Jn.14.3; 1 Thess.4.17, and His coming with them, Jude 14; 1 Thess.3.13. Various authorities interpret the word to mean ‘coming’, ‘actual presence’ and ‘continued presence with’. These three thoughts are most suitable when the Coming of the Lord is being considered. He comes for His own, He is with them during the heavenly activities of the Judgment Seat and Marriage Supper and continues with His people, heavenly (the Church) and earthly (Israel) as He sets up His Throne to reign. It is failure to recognize these three nuances of meaning as well as the unwillingness to differentiate between Israel and the Church, which brings about much of the confusion in regard to the coming again of the Lord Jesus.
With the above assertions as the background, this will be the first consideration. The prediction of the coming in glory of Israel’s Messiah in the O.T. seems to have the covenants given of God as a basis. There are eight covenants (some writers see more) to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, if the ‘New Covenant’ spoken of by the prophets and enlarged upon in the N.T., is included. Of these eight covenants three are of great significance. These are the Abrahamic Covenant, Gen.12.1-3; 13.14 -17; 15.18; 17.1-8: The Mosiac Covenant, Deut.29.1; 30.1-9: The Davidic Covenant, 2 Sam.1-19. Each of the other covenants had both conditions attached and blessings promised but these three, in a special way, had to do with Abraham’s Seed, nation and land, as well as with the throne and house of David. The prophetic promises to be fulfilled in the appearing of the King were meant to affirm, re-affirm and confirm all that God had pledged Himself to bring about in the reign of David’s greater Son and Abraham’s Seed. To Abraham and to his Seed was the land promised. Paul interprets ‘the Seed’, in the singular, to mean the Lord Jesus, Gal.3.16. Abraham’s nation would become great and all nations would be blessed through him and through his Seed. While the land and the throne were covenanted in perpetuity and unconditionally, in later times the prophets show that the Divine promises are contingent upon the appearing of God’s Own Son. In the words of Isaiah, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” 9.6-7. Elsewhere this Son is said to bear the Name “Immanuel” which means “God with us” Isa.7.14; Matt.1.23. With the appearing of the Lord Jesus in glory, accompanied by His saints and “the angels of God”, (‘the reaping angels’), who will “sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire” Matt.13.29-50, the kingdom will be established and last 1,000 years, Rev.20.4. There will be neither decrease in its power nor any end to the peace that will characterise it; it will be a reign of judgment and justice where the poor especially will be under the mantle of the Lord’s magnanimity.
The many references to the promises made with regard to the establishment and character of the kingdom in the O.T. are, of course, relevant to the appearing of Christ. They are far too numerous to be dealt with here but a few will suffice to emphasise what has already been taught.
Isaiah wrote, “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it … for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” 2.2-3. The inauguration of this kingdom will be brought about by the appearing of One of Whom Isaiah wrote in 11.2-4, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked (or lawless one, Newberry).” The outcome will be a kingdom, the character of which is also described by Isaiah in the same chapter. Because “a king shall reign in righteousness” 32.1, nature itself will enjoy reconciliation when there will be none to “hurt or destroy in all (God’s) holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” 11.6-9.
Each of the prophets in turn adds to this picture of righteousness and tranquillity which will commence after “the son of perdition” is destroyed, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, and the Son of Man suddenly appears to thrust in His sharp sickle to reap the ripened harvest in judgment, Rev.14.14-15.
Jeremiah notes that, first of all, the time of “Jacob’s trouble” will occur when the travail of the nation of Israel will be so great that even the men will be as women who suffer in child birth. But says the Lord, “I will cause them (Israel) to return to the land that I gave to their fathers … he (Jacob) shall be saved out of it … I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds” Jer.30.3,7,17. These things will take place “in the latter days” 30.24, and will coincide with the appearing of the Lord coming to reign in glory and to put His enemies beneath His feet.
To these blessed depictions Ezekiel adds further information concerning the glory to be revealed. He picks up, as it were, where Jeremiah leaves off. He records for us the words of the Lord Who said, “I will set up one shepherd over them, and He shall feed them; even My servant David; He shall feed them, and He shall be their shepherd” 34.23. A shepherd to care for them; a prince to protect them; a covenant of peace for them to enjoy so that, in contrast to their present day situation, they will dwell in safety in the wilderness and even ‘camp out’ in the woods! With the “showers of blessing” coming down upon them and the “Plant of Renown” in their midst, “the House of Israel” will be seen to be “My people saith the Lord” 34.30. The appearing of the Lord in Glory will, in effect, bring about the new birth of the nation. Clean water will be sprinkled upon them and a new spirit will be put within them, 36.25,26, which is what Nicodemus ought to have known, Jn.3.5. Then the nation, born anew, will be ushered into the Kingdom of God of which John, at a later time writes, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever” Rev.11.15. Thus the 1,000 year reign of Christ here on earth beginning with His “appearing in glory” will flow into the eternal kingdom marked by the new heaven and the new earth.
Daniel adds weight to the happenings leading up to the Ascension of the Lord Jesus to the throne here on earth, and in doing so gives to the Lord a very meaningful title. In chapter 7 he writes, “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 there was given Him (the Son of man) dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall never pass away” vv.13,14. Earlier, when revealing and interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream he showed that it was of ‘latter day’ significance. The monstrosity the king saw was symbolic of four vast empires of which Nebuchadnezzar’s was the first. While “a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory” were given to him and to the kings who would follow, the final destiny for that which the giant idol represents is to be broken in pieces and to be consumed by “the stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands” 2.37,45. This is the stone to which Peter refers. To the believer “a living stone” but to those who stumble at the word and are disobedient “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” 1 Pet.2.4,8.
Others of the prophets have much to say about this event which, for the believer is an auspicious one. Nor are the Psalms without a voice either. David, to whom the kingly promise was given, wrote “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the king of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle … Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.” Ps.24.7–10. The nation of Israel, and the city of Jerusalem will, with such sentiments, welcome their King in the day of His appearing.
It is widely recognised that Matthew’s Gospel forms a bridge between the two Testaments. This comes about not simply because of the place this gospel occupies in the canon of N.T. writings. Rather, it is that the contents of Matthew’s record demand it be placed at the beginning of the twenty seven books. Had this Gospel been set in any other order of place it would have seemed very much out of sequence. Since the first Testament focused so much on the coming King and kingdom it seems most natural for the first book of the New Testament to continue developing these very subjects. The two advents of the King and what they entail are exactly what Matthew writes about.
The first words of the Gospel tell us what the writer’s subject is, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” 1.1. In these few words the Lord Jesus, as to His humanity, is linked with three of the most important personages in the Hebrew Scriptures; Adam, David and Abraham in that order. There are thirteen lists of names throughout the O.T. that are actually called generations or genealogies such as “the generations of Noah”; “the generations of the sons of Noah”; “the generations of Terah” (Abraham) etc. but only that of Adam is spoken of as “the book of the generation.” Adam is the federal head of the old; our Lord Jesus is the federal Head of the new creation. He is then called “the son of David” and, in all, is so called nine times in the book. He is also called, on this one occasion only in Matthew, “Son of Abraham.” Immediately following the genealogy the record states, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise” 1.18 and it is to this event the apostle Paul refers, “… the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” 2 Tim.1.10. At the very beginning of the N.T. the first ‘appearing’ of the Lord Jesus is seen to be that of the promised Sovereign (Son of David) and universal Saviour (Son of Abraham).
The qualifications of the promised Messiah must be both adequate and unmistakable. The gospel writer without hesitation or conditions presents these. To begin with, the Lord is seen legally qualified in that he is “Son of David.” Born of Mary, through the royal line, the man who was his “supposed” father may well have been the crown prince had the kingly line of Judah continued. Scholars came from far-off countries to pay the newly born king homage indicating that His kingship would spread beyond the narrow confines of Israel. In chapter 3, an opened heaven bears witness to His complete fitness and in chapter 4 His moral and sinless perfection is seen in the wilderness where the prince of this world could find nothing in Him to respond to the blandishments offered. This One, and this One alone, shows Himself in His first appearing, to be legally, humanly, Divinely and morally qualified and capable to occupy the throne of the universe, just as God had planned.
Further, His authority is evident as He enunciates the principles governing His kingdom, chapters 5-7. In chapters 8-12 the Lord’s power is made known in various spheres by the many miraculous works wrought and in the sending forth of the disciples. This emphasises the claim that He would make later, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” 28.18. It is when His rejection by the leaders of the nation becomes fact that He is able to show the character of the age which will be marked by His absence. He does so in seven parables that trace a prophetic outline reaching right until the time His kingdom will be set up, chapter 13.
In due course, according to Matthew, the Lord takes things right to the end times. In the Olivet Discourse He describes conditions prevailing in the short period immediately prior to His revelation in glory. The things mentioned in the writings of the prophets are reiterated. A time of great tribulation; massive disruptions in and around Israel; the Jewish people once again in apparent danger of annihilation; a time of separating the wicked from the just and the time of judgment. These things will literally take place according to chapters 24 and 25, “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” 24.30.
The ‘appearing’ is not so much emphasized in either Mark or Luke but, wherever the subject of the Lord’s return is spoken of it is in complete harmony with the other Scriptures. Examples of this are found in Mk.8.38, “the Son of Man … when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” and in Lk.9.26, “the Son of Man … shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” The glorious manner of the Lord’s appearing is made clear, as is also the need for watchfulness on the part of those who stand on the threshold of this great happening. The ominous possibility of being found asleep in rank unbelief is the point of the parable in Mark ch.13. The Householder has taken a far journey leaving “the porter” a command to “watch”. The grave danger is that, should the householder appear suddenly the servants could be found asleep. This is also the thrust of the parable of the ten virgins in Matt.25.1-13, for in spite of all that the Lord does for Israel during the time of their severe trial many among them will still be unwilling to acknowledge the King. There will also be many among the Gentile nations who take the side of evil against those who are awake and wait the coming of the true King. So arises the need for the separating of the sheep from the goats at the time of the Lord’s appearing. Both Israel and the living nations will be included in that separating process. The righteous of the living nations and the raised saints of O.T. times will then enter into the kingdom with their Lord, Matt.25.34.
John, who wrote long after the Synoptics were available to the people of God has the purity of the Gospel in mind. He does not deal with the ‘appearing’ as such but records the Lord’s words concerning His coming for His own, chapter 14, and mentions this too, in passing, in 21.22.
The Acts of the Apostles is transitional, forming a link between the Gospels and the Epistles. It also shows how the gospel travelled from Jerusalem, where the Lord of Glory was put to death, to Rome where, at the time, Paul was “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus with all confidence, no man forbidding him” 28.31. Not only has the locality changed but so has the emphasis in the message. The N.T. commenced with John the Baptist appealing to the people to “repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” Matt.3.2. The King had appeared and, with Him, the kingdom of heaven, with all its temporal and earthly limitations. A genuine offer was made to the Nation and rejected. Now God has turned to the Gentiles with participation in the kingdom of God being offered to all men. Going beyond what the kingdom of heaven is in its basic and earthly perspectives the kingdom of God is universal in scope and is what God purposed from eternal ages. It will be introduced without restrictions and finally be consummated by the ‘appearing’ of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the months immediately following the death of the Lord Jesus, God was still reaching out to the Jewish people in mercy. The resurrected Lord moved among His disciples for forty days speaking to them “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”, and such was the impression gained by the Twelve that they asked “wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1.3,6. Even after the Lord’s Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit, God was still, through His servants, offering “times of refreshing” and “times of the restitution of all things” 3.19-21. However it became evident that, “before that great and notable Day of the Lord come” when “it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”, as promised by the prophet Joel, signs and wonders would precede it. Such signs had been given in confirmation during the days of the Lord’s first appearing but await a complete fulfilment for the future time of His shining forth in glory, 2 Thess.2.8.
Among the earliest of Paul’s epistles are the two written to the young believers in Thessalonica. During his short time among them the apostle had apparently spoken much about end times and the coming of the Lord. Somehow the believers had misunderstood his teaching so that they were apprehensive about some of the details, and letters purportedly from Paul, which had not helped the situation. Their anxiety stemmed from their inability to distinguish between “the Day of Christ” Phil.2.16, and “the Day of the Lord” 1 Thess.5.2. “The Day of Christ” is expressed in different ways. It is spoken of as “the Day of the Lord Jesus”; “the day of Jesus Christ”; “the Day of the Lord Jesus Christ” all having to do with the Lord coming for His Own and for some of the events that will follow. These include the Judgment seat of Christ, 2 Cor.5.10, and the marriage supper of the Lamb, Rev.19.9. Paul assuages the fears of these young believers with regard to those who “sleep in Jesus.” He does this by quoting the revelatory word given him directly by the Lord, 1 Thess.4.13–18. As far as the “Day of the Lord” was concerned no such word was necessary since it was the subject of many prophetical Scriptures and of Paul’s own teaching. He assures the Thessalonians that the “Day” cannot come without some prior happenings taking place, 2 Thess.2.1-5. He begs them not to be shaken in mind as though that “day of darkness” was already upon them. He calls upon two things to help alleviate their worries; first of all, the coming (parousia) of the Lord and secondly, our gathering together unto Him (the Rapture). These are two of the ‘prior happenings’ to occur before the Day of the Lord takes place. He already had shown that it is a righteous judgment on God’s part to render tribulation to those who were troubling the believers and, at the same time, when the Lord’s appearing occurs, to grant rest and repose to the saints, 2 Thess.1.6-7. As he encourages these young converts to “increase and abound in love one toward another” he does so in view of the fact that the Lord will “stablish their hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all His saints” 1 Thess.3.12-13.
Paul writes in a similar vein, to the Corinthian Christians. He speaks of them as “waiting for the coming (unveiling) of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end … blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Cor.1.7. As they wait expectantly for the “appearing” of the Lord Jesus they are also reminded that being found blameless will have its time of review (and reward) “in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”, pointing on to the day of heavenly assessment.
In like manner Peter also shows his desire that the victorious faith of the believers in Asia Minor to whom he writes will, even in the midst of “manifold temptations … be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Pet.1.6,7. The overcoming faith of the believer, even in the midst of severe testing and trial is much more precious than perishable gold. It brings praise and honour unto God and this will be made manifest in the day of the Lord’s unveiling. John also wrote, “when He shall appear (be manifested), we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in (set upon) Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” 1 Jn.3.2,3. The doctrine of the ‘appearing’ is clearly defined and its demands are specific.
No writing is more full of the wonder of the appearing of Christ than the last book of our Bible, the Revelation, or the Apocalypse. This latter title is completely appropriate since it is the first word of the book itself, an unveiling of Jesus Christ. The first vision given to John is that of the glorified Christ walking in the midst of seven representative assemblies, and further unfoldings continue to trace apocalyptic happenings until “the voice of mighty thunderings” says, “alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” 19.6. At this moment, the heavens are opened and the One “whose name is called The Word of God” comes forth sitting on a white horse with the armies of heaven following in His train as He “in righteousness doth judge and make war” 19.11. The mighty Veteran of all the conflicts with evil from the time of Lucifer’s revolt appears, His vesture dipped in blood since He treads “the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God.” His name is given as “King of kings and Lord of lords” Rev.19.15,16. Among the many prophetic utterances concerning this momentous event none is more meaningful than Isa.63.1-4. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness, Mighty to save. Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the wine press alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come.” Is it a thing to be marvelled at, that for the first time in the N.T., the word “allelulia” appears and is used 4 times in this context? To quote the words of the Lord Himself, “if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” Lk.19.4.
That the Book of Revelation is climactic in nature is self-evident. So many of the truths introduced in Genesis and developed in other parts of Scripture, are brought to their complete fulfilment here. This is especially true of things concerning the King and His appearing in glory. The word ‘kingdom’ itself is found only 6 times in Revelation, but the first 19 chapters are introductory to the literal advent of the King to earth to set up His kingdom in keeping with all that has been predicted. He is first of all presented in the glory of His person as He moves among the saints of this age. He does so in a judicial capacity, chapter 1. By describing conditions prevailing in seven local churches of the first century, the Holy Spirit has given clear indications of how things would develop in the church age, chapters 2 and 3. The rapture of the church is at least hinted at in 4.1, where John as representative, is called to “come up hither”, where he would be shown things which would occur “after these.” It is most interesting and instructive to see that this exact phrase is used in Acts chapter 15 where it is “declared how God would visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name (the church) … after which He would return and build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down” vv.14,15. The order in the book of Revelation follows these words exactly, since it is only after a people is taken out for His name that the work to restore the city and house of David is commenced. Once that work is begun ‘the Church’ is no longer mentioned nor seen on earth. Having been ‘raptured’ to be with her Lord she has taken on a heavenly character.
As was the case at the beginning of the Lord’s earthly ministry, so now the credentials and qualifications of the Coming One, Who is able to restore and rebuild, are given and He is acclaimed as the only one “worthy to take the (seven sealed) book and open the seals thereof.” The newly slain Lamb is declared worthy “to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” 5.9,12.
The church having been caught up to be with the Lord in the air and the heavenly portrait of the worthy One drawn for the whole universe to consider, attention is now focused on the earth. Seven seals, seven trumpets and seven last plagues from bowls of wrath, portray the outpouring of Divine fury on a rebellious world. Cruel dictatorship under the “man of sin”; peace taken from the earth; famine; death in unprecedented numbers; violent earthquakes and storms together with eruptions in heavenly bodies. All of these will be of such a ferocious character that many will actively seek death but will be unable to find it. Nor will Israel escape. Her time of great tribulation, Jer.30.7; Matt.24.21, will be upon her to the extent that “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; … hated of all nations … deceived by false prophets in their midst … and the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place.” At this time there will be fearful happenings in the heavens. “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in the heaven.” “All the tribes of the earth … they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The appearing will be ubiquitous, “as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west”, and sudden, “for as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noe entered into the ark. And knew not until the flood came and took them all away” Matt.24.27,38. In brief, these are the indescribable conditions Israel will face as “all the people of the earth be gathered together against it (Jerusalem)” Zech.12.3,9. These nations will be gathered against Jerusalem by the Lord as part of the nation’s punishment for their continued unbelief. “Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations, and His feet shall stand upon the mount of Olives.” The mount will be cleft east and west with a very great valley opened up, when apparently living waters will flow in both directions, no doubt to cause great fertility in the land during the years of the kingdom. At the time of the Lord’s appearing the Lord has promised deliverance for many in the nation. He “will not make a full end of them but will of all the nations” who have had part in the scattering and punishment of Israel, Jer.30.10,11. The “man of sin” (the anti-Christ), “the beast out of the sea” and his false prophet, “the beast out of the earth”, Revelation chapter 13, both are to be “cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” where after having been bound 1,000 years, the devil will also be cast to “be tormented day and night for ever and ever” Rev.19.20; 20.10.
These are some of the happenings of monumental import to take place at the time of the Lord’s appearing. To the sound of a great trumpet, Israel as the elect will be re-gathered from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other with all her enemies defeated, Matt.24.31; Zech.12.9. The living nations will be judged and the “children of the wicked one” bound as tares and sent away into everlasting punishment, Matt.13.40; 25.46. Then the great trinity of evil, (the old dragon, the son of perdition and the false prophet) will be rendered powerless and bound in the place of torment. Nature will be pacified and in that day the Lord shall be king over all the earth, Zech.14.9, coming forth crowned with the many diadems of honour and glory to occupy the throne in perpetuity, and having the symbol of His enthronement, the sceptre of righteousness, Rev.19.11-16; Ps.45.3-7.
It may asked, how can all these great occurrences take place in what is inferred as being a short space of time at the Lord’s appearing, or His descent to earth? First of all the countless multitudes of angels are involved in both the judging of the living at the time of the Lord’s Coming and the re-gathering of the nation of Israel from the four corners of the globe, Matt.13.39; 24.31. In the second place Daniel overhears two men speaking by the riverbank when the question is asked “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?” Dan.12.6. The answer given was “from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away (the middle of Daniel’s 70th week) … there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the 1,335 days” Dan.12.11,12. The extra 75 days, extended beyond Daniel’s own prophecy of three and a half years, Daniel chapter 9, appear to be the Divine provision for the weight of the Lord’s kingly authority to reach the farthest corners of the globe. There will be not only sufficient time, but also the vast host of agents are part of the Divine provision for the accomplishment of God’s purpose.
The existence of Israel as a nation, even in unbelief; the fires of nationalism ablaze across the world; the increasing pace of rank apostasy as many turn their ears away from the truth; political instability widespread and men who are “lovers of their own selves … lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” flaunting the worst kinds of evil without fear of retribution: all these things tell us that the “perilous times” of the last days, 2 Tim.3.1, are here and that “the Judge standeth before the door” Jms.5.9. Let us give ear to the voice of the Lord when He says, “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” Rev.2.11.
As the Lord takes the rod of sovereignty when He appears to establish the kingdom and to reign, the words of David summing up his royal prayers, are intended for this very occasion. “They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth … He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth … Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him … His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed … blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen and Amen” Psalm 72.
Jesus shall reign where e’er the sun
Doth His successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
Blessings abound where’er He reigns,
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blest.
Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honours to our King;
Angels descend with songs again;
And earth repeats the loud Amen!