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THE UNSEEN FUTURE : OR THE ISSUES OF LIFE
PRESENT conduct and character lead on to corresponding future results, as sowing determines the quantity and kind of reaping
Section 1. Death may be viewed both as a natural event and as a part of God's moral dealing with mankind.
We have a twofold nature, physical and spiritual. Both life and death mean more to men than to animals, because of our higher endowments. The separation of soul from body is not unnatural. When fruit is ripe it falls off easily from the bough and needs not to be wrenched away by violence. When the soul lives in God death is an episode in an infinite career. Paul thought that to depart and be with Christ was better for him than to remain (Phil 1 : 23). That which makes death death is the pain which attends it, the parting from friends and earthly joys, the doubt about the future life, and the fear of retribution which is awakened by sin. • The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15 : 56). Bees that would make honey and have no stings, roses without thorns, would help us understand what death would be without sin. In the degree that knowledge, faith, virtue, and holiness increase, the terrors of death relax their grasp. “ As through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin ; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned” (Rom. 5: 12). Christ by delivering men from the power of the devil, delivered them who “ through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2 : 15). His miracles of healing were a prophecy of the modern victories of medical science and art over pain, while his death and resurrection opened to humanity a
path of victory over the fears of a future misery. So all things are made to work together for good to those who love God.
Section 2. As to outward condition and occupation of those who “ die in the Lord,” and the “ intermediate state," the Epistles suggest much but say little.
Those who loved Christ have “fallen asleep." This does not mean that they are unconscious, practically extinct; it is simply a beautiful, tender, and poetic way of avoiding the harsh words that grate on human ears. Jesus had said to the dying penitent thief : “To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Both those who watch for his coming and those who “sleep" “live together with him" (1 Thess. 4:13, 15; 5: 10). Of the unrighteous it is said, they are kept under punishment unto the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2 :9).
Section 3. The “appearing" or “coming” of Jesus Christ. On this subject the Epistles dwell in the most earnest manner.
The “manifestation" of Christ in power and honor was the hope which cheered the struggling infant church. It was taught and preached as a warning against sin and folly, and as a comfort to those who were persecuted and troubled, oppressed, insulted, and humiliated.
As to time, Jesus had taught that “of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only” (Matt. 24 : 36 ; Acts 1 : 7). The apostles never pretended to know what was concealed from the earthly knowledge of the Great Master. They never juggled with ciphers, dates, and plausible fancies. But they lived by expectation. Jesus had said : “This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. Watch therefore : for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh” (Matt. 24 : 34, 42). The early disciples were always looking for some glorious manifestation of their Lord. - The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5;
1 Cor. 16 : 22 ; 10:11). They waited for a Saviour from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3 : 20 ; 1 Cor. 1:7; 1Thess. 4:15; Heb. 10 : 25; 1 John 2 : 18).
The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4 : 7).
It is to be noted that the place of the glorious appearing of Christ our Lord is this earth, and that the result of his coming will be transformation. John saw the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God (Rev. 21 : 2).
The preparation for the appearing of the Lord was marked by signs. We are helped to realize how the early Christians pictured to themselves the last times.” They often mixed up fancies and errors of their own with the doctrine of the Lord, as we see in 2 Thess., where Paul rebukes them. Late in the career of the aged John, when the “generation” about Jesus was almost gone, and the destruction of Jerusalem already lay in the past, the venerable apostle wrote : Little children, it is the last hour : and as ye have heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2 : 18). Long before Paul had written : “Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him ; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is now present ; let no man beguile you in any wise: for [it will not be] except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped ; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God” (2 Thess. 2:1-4).
Some think that this refers to the Roman emperors who were then asserting themselves to be divine beings and were persecuting the believers. But they never doubted the final issue. “ The Lord Jesus will prevail in that
day.” The lawless one shall be slain by the breath of his mouth.
The manner of Christ's appearing is set forth in images of great sublimity. Jesus had led his disciples to expect a glorious display of his power quite in contrast with his state of apparent weakness and humiliation. Paul declared that the Lord would be attended by all his saints (1 Thess. 3:13). “ The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air ; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17). Peter repeats Old Testament images; • The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3 : 10). . Figures of bold metaphor like blood, fire, darkness, trumpets, and shouts must not be changed into bald material facts. The essential truth of Christ's coming glory is the main matter. John expressly says that we cannot make a picture of that splendid hope : “It is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is” (1 John 3 : 2).
Fanatical and crazed persons have perverted these metaphors and made religion ridiculous by waiting in long white robes for the sound of some brass trumpet. All such freaks of unbridled fancy are vain.
The appearing will be, to many, sudden and unexpected. “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren. The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. W en they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them” (1 Thess. 5:1-3; Acts 1 :
7; Matt. 25 : 13; 2 Peter 3 : 10). The very fact that the time and manner of the appearing are unknown urges to constant watchfulness of conduct, and the fact that preparation for it can be made only in a quiet, orderly, holy life, causes wicked and blinded men to mock at it (2 Peter 3 : 4-14).
The results of the appearing of Christ in glory. The enemies of the gospel will be put to shame; instead of prosperity they will find defeat; their mockery and persecution of Christians will come to an end. On the other hand the faith and waiting of Christians will be triumphantly vindicated; fidelity will be rewarded; even the inanimate creation will, in some yet unknown way, be transfigured by the coming of Christ (Rom. 8 : 18–25; 2 Peter 3 : 12, 13; cf. Acts 3 : 21; Rev. 21; Isa. 11:6, 10). "Behold the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” The faithful are to be “set before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy" (Jude 14, 24). “If so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ : who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed (2 Thess. 1 : 6-10; 1 Peter 1 : 7; 1 John 3 : 2; 1 Cor. 4: 5).
The moral uses of the doctrine.