Have these Things Always in Remembrance (2 Peter 1:15)

January 2019

Dear Christian Friends

I trust that you proved God’s mercies over the Christmas period (however you did, or did not, celebrate it), and hope that He will give you health and happiness in 2019, as you enjoy Christian fellowship.

As we start a new year, I thought it might be a good idea to remind one another of those things which motivated Darby and others in the early 1800’s, and their relevance to us now.

  1. A reminder that the Lord’s coming even closer now.  Paul wrote, ‘It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light’ (Rom 13:11-12).  Paul was, I believe, looking forward to the rapture – the salvation of our bodies which will be changed.  As we look around we see the darkness of the world, getting even darker as God’s honoured relationships are discounted.  At the same time the public sphere is becoming more and more confused – in the UK, USA and in the Rome-backed EU, with oppressive regimes and wars elsewhere). The love of the many may have grown cold, but the light shines even brighter amongst Christians who have the hope of our Lord’s coming, and amongst those enduring persecution.

 

  1. A reminder that the calling of the church’s mission is heavenly.  It’s sad: so often we hear that striving to be better Christians we can make this world a better place.  We cannot; we never will.  Jesus said, ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world’ (John 17:14), while Paul wrote, ‘For our conversation [or ‘commonwealth’ – Darby or ‘citizenship’ – NIV, ASV etc.] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself’ (Phil 3:21) .

 

  1. A reminder that Christians are called to be apart from religious organisations which are based on the principles of the world – human organisation with one person in charge of an assembly be it a pastor, vicar, priest or whatever, and human performances with beautiful music and liturgical rituals on one hand emotional excitement on the other, all pandering to the flesh.

 

So, what do we see?  Small Christian companies which are unattractive outwardly, and if we are honest somewhat struggling.  You ask  ‘How will they grow and spread, and what is the future?’  If the Lord’s coming is just round the corner, why be worried about the future?  Maybe our faith is being tested – meanwhile let’s just obey the Lord  – ‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you’ (John 15:12).  ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:35).

 

God’s blessings in 2019.

 

Sosthenes

 

 PS – A thought about Corinth

Thinking about the above, last week we had a meeting for ministry meeting and I was moved to give a word on what constitutes a good local assembly:

Not Corinth – Good numbers, gifted speakers but factions and politics

Not Ephesus – Absolutely correct teaching and well ordered – but no love

Just ’the poor of the flock’ – like Philadelphia – just a little power but as the city’s name implies – brotherly love

A brother followed speaking about Corinth and orderly meetings (1 Cor 14).  You could imagine a large hall: I guess they didn’t have seats, but a several (men and women?) speaking simultaneously  People gathered round the speaker they liked.

 

 

 

What is the Heavenly Vision or Call of the Church?

Recently a brother wrote to me needing to answer the following question:
What is the heavenly vision or call of the church?   People I speak to want to know what is the purpose of the church?  I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about this question, but what is the best approach or angle to take when answering?  I believe it’s a very important question that I should be able to answer when I’m asked.
This question affects a lot of things. What should be our focus as a local church? The gospel, soup kitchens, ending poverty (social gospel), trying to change culture, etc.

My answer: The true Church – and what it is in the Sight of Men

I have been giving more thought to this question.  We need to see what the church is in the sight of Christ – which is the true Church – and what it is in the sight of men – a religion here.
Before starting, Christians must realise that their calling is a heavenly one.  ‘Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus’ (Heb 3:1).
The Greek word ἐκκλησίᾳ /ekklēsia/Strong 1577 .  The word implies people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church or assembly comprised of all believers formed into one by the Holy Spirit. It is viewed as the body of Christ and also the habitation of God.  In a more general sense. it meant simply assembly – e.g. calling together for a civil function.  Incidentally, the English word ‘church’ or German ‘Kirche’ comes from the Greek word κυριακός/kyriakos/Strong 2960, ‘belonging to the Lord’ (kyrios), the French ‘église’ from ‘ekklēsia’.  The Hebrew word ‘קָהָל/qahal/Strong H6951’ has a similar meaning.
We must recognise the direct role of the Spirit of God.  It has been said that the Holy Spirit ‘is here; but He has taken a lowly place, . . .and has been here on earth for over 1,900 years in that lowliness. He maintains what is due to God according to what God is in heaven; there is a perfect answer to that in the presence of the Spirit down here, and the Spirit is here in the assembly; and that brings out the greatness of the assembly’s place too, but nevertheless the assembly is never part of the Deity.’  and ‘The assembly is nearest to Deity in the whole realm. What is sovereign is seen in the assembly.’ [*]  That being the case what has the assembly to do with the things of this world?

The Church in the Sight of Christ

The church is a perfect vessel (for the want of a better word), formed exclusively of saints worked on by the Spirit of God, apart from sin.  It has been said that it is of heaven in origin and destiny.  It is here in the body of Christ and its hope is totally towards Jesus – as a bride is towards her bridegroom.  Her desire is to be with Him – and therefore has no part here.  But she does care for His interests here.  His interests are what is for Him, His glory and to worship the Father, and for the members of His body to point to Him.  The church’s view is God-ward, not man-ward.
Ministry is for those of the church universally (as there is only one church) – ‘we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness’. (Romans 12:5-7)
The fact that it is ‘called out’ is important.  If it is ‘called out’ it cannot be ‘part of’.  Over the centuries Christians have been called out of every other religious organisation – in the earliest days Judaism and paganism, later Catholicism, later nationally established churches, later clericalism, and more recently social liberalism, charismatic Christendom or systematic legalism.  Importantly, if we are called out of something, we cannot reform it.  It is in the attempt to reform the old lump that Christians have become unstuck.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 makes this clear ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.’
This brings me to:

The Church in the Sight of Man

This is something different, and different people will have different ideas.
1.     A group of disparate organisations with common central beliefs and many interpretations, grouped together loosely for example in the World Council of Churches – sometimes preaching the gospel.
2 A humanitarian force for good, seeking to make the world a better place, while preaching a gospel, but not always the gospel.
3.     A place of religious exhilaration and excitement with rousing music – usually with the gospel but this is sometimes distorted – or a liberal ‘inclusive’ community – no matter what the bible says.
4.     Beautiful buildings, ornate robes and trained choirs, with or without the gospel
5.     A system of contention and oppression, having a form of piety but denying the power of it.
Many Christians see their role and that of their ‘local church’ in terms of no 2 above, preaching the gospel, having a good church community engaged in the support of local and other needs.  But think of it – it is an earthly Christianity.  Whilst there are many genuine believers, sorry to say that in some places the gospel has been corrupted to salvation (if such a thought exists) through works and presenting Jesus just a Model.  This is hardly Christian. I see it differently, as should all true lovers of our Lord Jesus.

So where does that leave true Christians?

Christians should do good works – towards the Lord, towards each other and towards their fellow human beings.  They do this because they love their Lord and that is what He would have them to do.  They are not interested in politics – national politics, charity politics or church politics. They do what the Lord gives them to do:  However, they don’t do this as part of the Church, they do it as individuals.
Admittedly, Christians can work with others (informally or in registered charities) to humanitarian ends – the relief of poverty, helping those who are sick or mentally unstable, being of support to victims of crime or raising funds for such activities.  Some of those with whom they might co-operate with may not be believers – so this cannot be part of the Church activity.  Some might be shocked at the thought, but if it is the function of a church community, it might be a misguided one or not even a Christian one.  It is not a function of the body of Christ.
Of course, it is better if those who are working together have confidence in one another.  If they gather regularly from the same Christian assembly, they will no doubt know one another well and be able to work together better.  They may even use their meeting hall (what is a building anyway? – a person or a trust has provided a place for saints to gather)– but this is not the local assembly doing it, and should never be thought of as such,
I could go further, and this might be a bit difficult to grasp. When it comes to testimony the church’s service is heavenward, not earthward (indeed if we look at the testimony of the public church it is ruin and confusion).  Paul wrote ’in order that now to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies might be made known through the assembly the all-various wisdom of God’ (Ephesians 3:10 Darby).  It follows that preaching the gospel, or teaching (indeed what I am doing now) comes into the individual service – the Lord commissioned His disciples to out individually.  As they did the church grew.
The church doesn’t preach; the church doesn’t teach.  Christians do both.
I trust this helps.  I am conscious that not all will agree totally with what I have written.  However I do believe sincerely that it is accordance with scripture (which is infallible), and also the teachings of that servant of God, John Nelson Darby (not infallible) please feel free to write your comments below (or email me directly if you prefer). sosthenes@adayofsmallthings.com  or my personal email.

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Dear Christian Friend
I really would like to get A Day of Small Things out to a wider audience.  Please feel free to pass this on – better still give me a name and email address and I will write to them and invite them to be on our emailing list.  Tell me if you want me to mention your name (and give any background that you feel would be of use in writing individually).
In our Lord’s service
Sosthenes
November 2018
[*] Quotations from the Ministry of James Taylor (1870-1953) Volume 36 page 409 and Volume 61 page 176

The Lord’s Coming – Is that REALLY our Expectation?

How much does the hope of the Lord’s return (the rapture) feature in our Christian meetings – an expectation – a hope.  Is it the hope of troubles being ended, of divisions being over, of our poor old bodies being changed  – or the hope of seeing our Saviour whom we love, and being with Him?  Is it also the joy of knowing that at that time, Jesus will have His bride (us!) united to Him in glory.   Is the degree of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return, the thermometer measuring our company’s spiritual warmth?

A few weeks ago, I was at a meeting for fellowship and ministry in the pleasant town of Malvern in Worcestershire England.    The brother serving gave an address on the Lord’s coming. He started with a story:

An elderly sister had spoken to him recently, and said how she woke up during the night with troubles on her mind, especially those amongst the Christian group she was with.  But there were others – the world, her family, herself – particularly her health.  Then she said “Wouldn’t it be great if I woke up thinking, ‘This is the day the Lord is going to come!’  Wouldn’t that make a great difference to the day – and to me?”

The brother serving read from:

  • Luke 12:45That bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays to come’
  • 1 Peter 5:1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am their fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of the Christ, who also am partaker of the glory about to be revealed’
  • 1 Thess 4:17We, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we shall be always with the Lord’

This raises questions:

–           Am I really looking forward for Him to come?

–           Is there anything I ought to put right before He comes?

–           Is what I plan to do today according to the Lord’s will?

He quoted J N Darby: ‘The expectation of the return of Christ is the exact measure (the thermometer, so to speak) of the life of the church’ (Collected Writings vol 2 – Prophetic 1 p 292 – Lecture 3 of 11 on ; The Hopes of the Church of God) – See also A Day of Small Things summary – The Second Coming of Christ [*]

This made me think of our Christian gatherings.  How much does the hope of the Lord’s return (the rapture) feature in our meetings – an expectation – a hope.  Is it the hope of troubles being ended, of divisions being over, of our poor old bodies being changed  – or the hope of seeing our Saviour whom we love, and being with Him?  Is it also the joy of knowing that at that time, Jesus will have His bride (us!) united to Him in glory.   Is the degree of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return, the thermometer measuring our company’s spiritual warmth?

Darby wrote his poem ‘Hope’ in 1881, shortly before he was taken.  Unlike many of his poems, it was written in the plural – the company rather than the individual.

And shall we see Thy face,
And hear Thy heavenly voice,
Well known to us in present grace!
Well may our hearts rejoice.
 
We wait to see Thee, Lord!
Yet now within our hearts
Thou dwell’st in love, that doth afford
The joy that love imparts.
 
Yet still we wait for Thee,
To see Thee as Thou art,
Be with Thee, like Thee, Lord, and free
To love with all our heart.
 

Hope by J N Darby (1800-82)

Little Flock 1962/1973 editions – Hymn no 270

Many of the churches in our area have websites.  I have been looking at these, sometimes with blogs, or reproduced sermons, and often with a ‘Statement of Faith’ (either their own or that of the Evangelical Alliance, or in some cases the Nicene Creed[†].

There were traditional churches – Church of England, Baptist, Methodist

There were evangelical churches – Missions, FIEC affiliates, former Open Brethren

Many were charismatic and Pentecostal Churches with names such as: Kings Church , The Word House, King’s Treasure, New Life, Elim Pentecostal, the Incorruptible Word Ministries, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Redeemed Evangelical Church of Christ, Jesus Revival Ministries, Beulah Christian Fellowship, House of Favour, Peace & Love Assembly

What saddened me was that not a single one of these seemed to have any appreciation of the present living hope of the church – His imminent coming and the joy of being with Him.  Their outlook appeared totally earth-bound – helping less fortunate people, enjoying exhilarating services, music with choirs and bands, youth outreach (now using social media) etc.  I do not doubt that there are many real lovers of the Lord Jesus in those gatherings, with the full knowledge of their eternal salvation, and who have received and have the knowledge of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  They have light of the Lord’s coming to take up His glorious kingdom on earth, but it is based on a ministry that is wholly earthly.

Even those citing the Lord’s return might be hazy doctrinally.  The ‘Statements of Faith’ below†, seem not to distinguish between the rapture and the appearing and the millennium and eternity.  I guess if these things are viewed as generations in the future, they do not appear important.   Or are the church leaders wanting to avoid contention?

This does not just apply to the churches.  There are many books on prophecy which accurately portray the future, based on the Bible.  But they concentrate on events and judgments.  The joy of our Saviour’s return is often lacking.

Of course, I may be mistaken, in some ways I would like to think that I was, and if there were more who had the light, joy and hope of the rapture, I would be immensely happy.   I have not been to any services in these churches.  I have not read every book on prophecy.

We can thank God there are some places which are different.  I am aware of a couple of places who do not, nor would not, have websites, and where there is a true expectation of the Lord’s return – the meeting where we were till recently, and a nearby Gospel Hall where we know several who go there.  Maybe there are other small companies of believers meeting separately, enjoying the Lord’s support and awaiting His return.  But all this is very few in a conurbation of a quarter-million people.

May the Lord’s return be ever brighter in our hearts – and may the hope of it, and our desire to be with Him, affect our lives individually, and may it enliven our gatherings too.

May God bless you in 2018.

Sosthanes

 

[*] In ‘A Day of Small Things’, I have several articles on the rapture (mainly in summaries of J N Darby’ works – especially ‘The Present Hope of the Church’.  These cover the dispensational teaching, and the reality of the rapture, which could happen at any time, since no prophecies have to be fulfilled first.  More importantly, they also help us see the real hope – the real joy – our Lord and Saviour’s return, and our being with Him.

Some of these are:

 

 

 

[†] The new UK Evangelical Alliance’ New Statement of Faith states, ‘The personal and visible return of Jesus Christ to fulfil the purposes of God, who will raise all people to judgement, bring eternal life to the redeemed and eternal condemnation to the lost, and establish a new heaven and new earth’.  The older Worldwide Statement reads, ‘The expectation of the personal, visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory’.   Also the ancient Nicine Creed (referenced by the Methodists) states, ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come’.

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The Thessalonians – Fresh in their Faith

We love His appearing, but we love Himself better. Therefore we wait for Him to take us to Himself. If our hearts have known what Himself is, we cannot confound His taking us to Himself, with His appearing. We are ‘members of his body’ (Eph 5:30). ‘Your life is hid with Christ’ (Col 3:3). He is to take us up to the Father’s house, the fullness of His own blessedness – with Christ; the blessed outshining of His Father’s love connects itself with the church’s position. All through there is an identity of blessedness with Christ in life, hope, object, all. If this hope is let into the heart, there must be a break with the world. I cannot be waiting for God’s Son from heaven if I am expecting wrath; and I cannot be waiting for God’s Son from heaven

 

 1 Thessalonians 1

When Paul wr0te to the Thessalonians who had ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven’(1 Thes 1:9-10),  he amplified each statement:

  • A work of faith (v. 3)
  • A labour of love (v. 3)
  • Patience of hope (v. 3)
  • A word in power and the Holy Ghost (v. 5)
  • Received the word with affliction (v. 6)
  • Joy in the Holy Ghost (v. 6)
  • Serving the living God (v. 9)

The Thessalonians were newly converted.  They had not received much teaching, but their lives had been totally changed. No doubt they had not been satisfied with those idols from which they had turned, but now they had a hope and were happy.  They knew that wrath was to come on the earth, but they were assured that the Lord had delivered them from it.  They were really free.

 

What it means to us:

There are three ways in which scripture shows how our souls are affected by Christ’s return:

  1. As a fulfilment of our hope. Our bodies will be raised and we will be changed to be like Him.  Christ will have the church with Himself and His government will later be set up.
  2. As having the Holy Spirit. Gifts have been given now, but the result of God’s work will be seen in display.
  3. As enjoying the embrace of His love – not His outward government, but His intimate presence. See John 14:3I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’. 

We are caught up into the Father’s house, and bear the image of the Heavenly One.   We come into the Father’s delight – loved as His Son is loved .  We enjoy His presence: ‘ever be with the Lord’ (1 Thes 4:17).

When He comes forth, the church, armies in heaven come with Him (see Rev 19:14).  They must have been raised first in order to be with Him.  It will be a display in power, and everything will be set in order.

Darby said: We love His appearing, but we love Himself better. Therefore we wait for Him to take us to Himself. If our hearts have known what Himself is, we cannot confound His taking us to Himself, with His appearing. We are ‘members of his body’ (Eph 5:30).   ‘Your life is hid with Christ’ (Col 3:3).  He is to take us up to the Father’s house, the fullness of His own blessedness – with Christ; the blessed outshining of His Father’s love connects itself with the church’s position. All through there is an identity of blessedness with Christ in life, hope, object, all. If this hope is let into the heart, there must be a break with the world. I cannot be waiting for God’s Son from heaven if I am expecting wrath; and I cannot be waiting for God’s Son from heaven if I am linked up with the world. If this world is the scene where my heart is building itself up, if I have an object in this world, Christ will spoil it all.

If He came tonight, would this be what we wanted?

 

This is a summary of paper written by John Nelson Darby.  It is entitled The Freshness of Faith 1 Thessalonians 1 published in Collected Writings Volume 21 (Evangelic 2) page 358.

Sosthenes

February 2017

 

The Things which shall be Hereafter (Rev 1:19)  – The Marriage of the Lamb

7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb

The Marriage of the Lamb

The third in our series of forthcoming events is the marriage of the Lamb. Chronologically the Antichrist and the great tribulation probably come first, but I would like to concentrate first on the events which affect the church and the saints of our dispensation:

  1. The Rapture
  2. The Judgment Seat of Christ
  3. The Marriage of the Lamb (this note)
  4. The Millennium (to be written)

 

Revelation 19:6-9

King James Version Darby Version
6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 8And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. 9And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. 6And I heard as a voice of a great crowd, and as a voice of many waters, and as a voice of strong thunders, saying, Hallelujah, for [the] Lord our God the Almighty has taken to himself kingly power.7Let us rejoice and exult, and give him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. 8And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright [and] pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.

9And he says to me, Write, Blessed [are] they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true words of God.

 

The marriage is described in this passage.  I have shown the Darby version as there are expressions which he, and several modern translators, believe that the KJV rendering is inaccurate.  These are highlighted.

The Current Relationship between Christ and His Church

The church came into existence when the Holy Spirit filled the 120 or so persons who were gathered in the upper room in Acts 2:2, a number that soon grew to 5000.   From the start, she was united to Christ, and even at this early date fully capable of fulfilling her function as the wife of Christ.

The epistles often refer to the church as Christ’s body.  The body comprises only those who are alive now, not to all who will form the bride.  Nevertheless, the relationship between Christ and His assembly is clear: ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church’ (Eph 5:31-32.

It is not until Revelation that we have the Church described as a bride.  His wife had made herself ready, so she was a wife before she was a bride.  The church is now the wife looking after her Husband’s affairs in His absence.  She is His trustworthy confidante. Although the marriage ceremony has not yet taken place, the relationship already exists.  There is perfect unity between Christ and His church.  Christendom publicly is something else.

When is The Marriage of the Lamb?

Before the marriage celebration of the Lamb, Babylon – the rival – will have been overthrown and judged..  It says, ‘[the] Lord our God the Almighty has taken to himself kingly power’  (v. 6 Darby).  He had taken the power, and was about to reign, but He was not actually reigning.  Hence we can say that this event would take place between the great tribulation and the millennium

The judgment seat of Christ, must precede the marriage.  No doubt ‘his wife hath made herself ready’ (v. 7would refer in part to that.  What remains is the bride’s bright clothing – the righteousnesses of the saints (v. 8 Darby).  – things that they had done which had met with God’s approval. (Note KJV appears wrong again here – most modern translations say ‘righteous deeds or acts’, which is correct – Greek δικαιώματα/dikaiōmata/Strong 1345).  What qualifications the bride has!

 

The Marriage Celebration

When a couple gets married, the persons will not have been united beforehand (at least if they have been conducting themselves according to God’s clear ordering).  Traditions might vary, but in any marriage there is generally a legal act and a celebration.  The bride is the centre of attention, beautifully dressed (hopefully comelily), and looking her best.  A new household is established, the man and the woman having both left their parental homes (see Gen 2:24 and Psalm 45:10).  The fact that the Holy Spirit introduced this concept so early in Genesis shows that the marriage relationship was always in God’s mind and purpose.

From what we have seen this will be no ordinary marriage.  We might say that legal side has already taken place.  Now it is time for a celebration of an existing relationship.  Until Satan had been overcome publicly it was not yet the time for her to be seen publicly in her beautiful radiance

It says ‘Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ v. 9.  Abraham and other Old Testament saints will be there as guests. They are children of the bridechamber, but they are not united to Christ as the church is (see Minstry of James Butler Stoney vol 6 page 116).  It has been suggested that the invitees include the king’s daughters and the daughters of Tyre in Psalm 45: 9 & 12.

  

Jerusalem as the Bride

The bride is described as a city because of her function of rule.  ‘Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.  And he [the angel] carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…’ (Rev 21:9-11).  However, this will be seen in the millennium – the bride (or wife) of Christ, already married.

The holy Jerusalem is, of course, totally different from the millennial Jerusalem on earth, described in Ezekiel 40-44 and many other scriptures.  The city we are referring to will not be physically on the earth – indeed its foundations will be visible. Rev 21:6 describes the city as a cube 12,000 cubits (approx. 1380 miles or 2200km) in each dimension.

 

What is the difference between Christ’s heavenly and earthly bride?

The following table shows the difference between the two:

The Heavenly Bride The Earthly Bride
What The Church or Assembly Israel
Key Scriptures Rev 19:6-9 Psalm 45
Where In heaven – or at least over the earth On earth (see Ezek 40:2)
Jerusalem The holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev 21:2) I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain (Zech 8:3)
Relation to Christ She adores her Head She worships her Lord
When formed Starting with the Spirit’s coming, complete at the rapture Before Christ’s appearing and during the tribulation

 

Conclusion

We should guard ourselves from applying too much human logic and chronology to these holy matters.   I have not wanted to be technical, but have been feeling my way prayerfully through this holy subject.   I trust I have covered the matter justly.  If any reader feels that I have erred, please write immediately.

But it is wonderful that we are part of this beautiful bride!  Magazines are full of pictures of very beautiful women – pictures often enhanced digitally.  No such outward improvement will be required for the bride of Christ.  She will be just how Jesus wants it.

And we will be part!

God’s blessings

Sosthenes

February 2017

J N Darby – The Upward Way – Sing without ceasing, sing

SING without ceasing, sing
The Saviour’s present grace;
How all things shine
In light divine
For those who’ve seen His face.

J N Darby
SING without ceasing, sing
The Saviour’s present grace;
How all things shine
In light divine
For those who’ve seen His face.

He’s gone within the veil,
For us that place He’s won;
In Him we stand,
A heavenly band,
Where He Himself is gone.

There all’s unsullied light;
My heart lets in its rays,
And heavenly light
Makes all things bright,
Seen in that blissful gaze.

Such here on earth I am,
Though I in weakness roam;
My place on high,
God’s Self so nigh,
His presence is my home.

My heart is filled with bliss –
Heaven’s own eternal joys;
My soul at rest,
Of peace possessed,

That world its strength employs.
Thus, in divine delight
Of love so richly known,
God’s works below
With beauty glow;

His hand, His grace, I own.
And stayed by joy divine,
As hireling fills his day,
Through scenes of strife
And desert life
I tread in peace my way.

“All is a vain show around us; but that which is inside abides. When the heart gets hold of this fact, it becomes like one taken into the house to work for the day; performs the duties well, but passes through, instead of living in the circumstances . . . . The Lord keep us going on in simplicity, fulfilling as a hireling our day, till Christ shall come, and then shall every man have praise of God.”
J.N.D.

That way is upward still,
Where life and glory are;
My rest’s above,
In perfect love
The glory I shall share –

For ever with the Lord,
For ever like Him then –
And see His face
In that blest place,
My Father’s house in heaven.

John Nelson Darby (1800-82)

Written 1856
Most of the above are in Hymns for the  Little Flock 1962 and 1973 – No 12
S.M. (6.6.8.6)

The Things which shall be Hereafter (Rev 1:19)  –  The Rapture

The next event for us is the rapture. It could be at any time – today even – and applies only to the church. Because of that, there is no reference to it in the Old Testament. In scripture, the in Greek word ἁρπαγησόμεθα/harpagēsometha/Strong 726 in 1Thess 4:17. Is translated ‘caught up’. The word ‘rapture’ is a noun with the same meaning.

We should ask why is the rapture so little understood, or even accepted amongst many sincere Christians? This scripture in 1 Thess 14:13-18 is very clear:

A few weeks ago I was talking to some of my younger Christian friends regarding the various things which had happened and were yet to happen.  They had little problem with the history – creation, the fall, the flood, the Exodus, Moses receiving the law,  David, the captivity, the birth of Christ, His death and resurrection, Pentecost etc., but they had real problems with what is to come.  I thought therefore in this and a few coming letters to look at these future events so that we might be sure where we are in relation to them.

 

The Rapture

new-jerusalem-2sThe next event for us is the rapture.  It could be at any time – today even – and applies only to the church.  Because of that, there is no reference to it in the Old Testament.  In scripture, the in Greek word ἁρπαγησόμεθα/harpagēsometha/Strong 726 in 1Thess 4:17. Is translated  ‘caught up’.  The word ‘rapture’ is a noun with the same meaning.

We should ask why is the rapture so little understood, or even accepted amongst many sincere Christians?  This scripture in 1 Thess 14:13-18 is very clear: ‘But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them [Darby – are in no way to anticipate those] which are asleep. For 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 which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words’.  Look at a few phrases ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first’ – that encompasses all those who have been ransomed by His blood from creation onwards.  Whether we who are alive now will be taken before the rapture, none of us knows.  Paul referred to ‘we, the living’, as if he thought it would be within his lifetime.  Of course we know it was not, but he was looking forward to the Lord’s coming – we should be too.[1]

Paul also says, ‘we shall ever be with the Lord’ (v.17), and ‘them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him’.  Now when Jesus comes (the public second coming, often referred to in scripture as ‘the appearing’) the dead in Christ will be with Him – and so will be those lovers of the Lord who were alive at the rapture.  Also, ‘When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory’ (Col 3:4).  Clearly, we could not come with Him, if we were still on the earth.

The church is heavenly entity: she belongs to Christ in heaven, and her hope and glory is Christ Himself.  She looks forward to and His return to take up His rights.   Therefore the church has nothing to do with the course of events of the earth.  This makes its rapture and return with Christ so simple and clear, as we see from Col 3:4, ‘When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.’ [2]

1 Cor 15:51-52 is another scripture which describes the rapture: ‘We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. ’  From this we can deduce that there will be a rallying trumpet, the whole event will be very quick, and our bodies will be changed.  The latter is also referred to in  Rom 8:23waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body’.

When the Lord was discoursing with his disciples immediately prior to the crucifixion, He tells them that a place was being prepared for the saints to be with Him, where He is.  ‘I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’ (John 14:2-3).

Therefore:

  • The rapture will be sudden
  • No one knows when the rapture will be
  • The rapture will be private
  • At the rapture there will be a voice (or trumpet sound) which only Christians will hear
  • At the rapture the Lord will not come quite to the earth – just to the air
  • The rapture will affect people, whether raptured or left here: the world carries on
  • At the rapture bodies will be changed

The question often arises as to what the effect of the saints being taken will be.  Suddenly millions of people will just vanish!  Hal Lindsey, who awakened many Christians to the rapture in the 1970’s in a popular book ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’, said that there would be confusion.  I doubt it.   Christians who are ‘not of the world’ will not be missed.  Writing about future events in his second epistle to the Thessalonians Paul said, ‘God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie’ (2 Thess 2:11).  The Antichrist will conjure up a satisfactory credible explanation which will be accepted universally.

 

The Rapture and the Appearing

We must not confuse the second coming with the rapture.  At the rapture the Lord comes to the atmosphere immediately above the earth.  At the appearing He comes to the earth. Here are some differences between the rapture and the appearing:

 

RAPTURE APPEARING
No one knows when it will be It will be 7 years after the rapture
It will be private It will be very public
The Lord comes to the air The Lord comes to the earth
He comes FOR His saints He comes WITH His saints
It is followed by the great tribulation[3] It is followed by the millennium
He is the Bridegroom He is the King
He is the Morning Star He is the Sun of Righteousness
It is for the Church It is not for the Church
There is little in prophecy There is much in prophecy
The world will carry on Christ will reign
The man of sin will be revealed Satan will be bound
There will be the judgment seat of Christ[3] The world will be judged
People will be translated Nobody will be translated
People will believe a lie The truth will be acknowledged

 

Two Resurrections

Something else many Christians do not realise is the fact there will be two resurrections.  The Old Testament did not distinguish between the two.  John made the distinction very clear.  When the Lord was here, He said ‘all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation’ (John 5:28-29).   Also in Revelation, ‘Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power’ (Rev 20:6).  The second death is to the Great White Throne – the resurrection of the dead for judgment[3].

The first resurrection (the resurrection of the just) is primarily at the rapture.  J N Darby says that it will be the consummation of our happiness[4].  Having given life to our souls, He will give life to our glorified bodies.

Satan is the author of this confusion.  He does not want Christians to burn with anticipation of the Lord’s immediate coming.  He certainly does not want us saying ‘Come Lord Jesus’ (Rev 22:20).

Dear Christian friends, may we keep near Him, and be assured as to the immediacy of His return.

 

 

Sosthenes

December 2016

 

[1] See ‘ADOSS – The Lord is Coming Very Soon’

[2] Note that this is distinct from the individuals who, though not of this world have to do with things here.

[3] This will be addressed in a later note, God willing.

[4] Lecture 4 on ‘The Hopes of the Church of God’, summarised by ADOSS asThe First Resurrection – or The Resurrection of the Just’

 

See other references in ADOSS:

 

What will it be when all life’s toil is finished, And we have entered our eternal rest

What will it be when all the strife is over,
And all Thy saints, now scattered far and wide,
Shall be without one shade of variation,
All like Thee, Lord, united by Thy side!

1 What will it be when all life’s toil is finished,
And we have entered our eternal rest;
When past for ever is the night of weeping,
And with Thee, Lord, we are for ever blest!

2 What will it be when all the strife is over,
And all Thy saints, now scattered far and wide,
Shall be without one shade of variation,
All like Thee, Lord, united by Thy side!

3 What will it be when sorrow’s day is ended,
And pain and grief for ever pass away;
When with Thee, Lord, we share the bright forever,
In perfect peace throughout the perfect day!

4 What will it be? – In blest anticipation
E’en now our hearts outpour in praise to Thee;
But when we see Thee face to face in glory,
Then purer, sweeter, shall our praises be.

Anne Ross

Little Flock Hymn Book (1962/1973) No 421.

 

 

The Lord’s Second Coming and the Church’s Witness

The Lord’s first coming: He came in flesh, but only those who received Him knew Him, and that through the Spirit.
His second coming: He is seen by all.
Hence His first coming was really a spiritual one; the true coming will be the second.

‘After These Things’ Chapter 5.5 – The Lord’s Second Coming and the Church’s Witness

From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE

 

 

Click on icon to download PDF

 

Based on J. N. Darby: The Lord’s Coming and the Church – Notes and Comments Vol. 2, p 275.

Two comings:

  1. The Lord’s first coming: He came in flesh, but only those who received Him knew Him, and that through the Spirit.
  2. His second coming: He is seen by all.

Hence His first coming was really a spiritual one; the true coming will be the second.

Although in His first coming He came in the flesh, He was only known spiritually.   No man could come to Him, except the Father who had sent Him draw him (See John 6:44).   He said to them,  ‘The words that I speak unto you they are Spirit and they are Life’ (John 6:63).  So those who heard, believed and kept His word had everlasting life: their eyes were opened by to see Him through the Father’s grace.  They were taught of God and knew who He was – the Son.  Others saw His miracles, but He would not commit Himself to them – He spoke in parables.

The real personal coming of the Lord Jesus is His second coming.  It will not be merely a revelation to believers, but ‘every eye shall see him, they also which pierced him’ (Rev 1:7).  His, the Son’s, glory will be known.

Christ is now in glory.  That is how the church knows Him now.  If the church denies this, it ceases to be the church: the ground of its very existence has ceased – it has ceased to exist in the sight of God.  Although salvation may be taught in a casual way, there is not faith as a church and the Spirit has no office in it, for His office is to testify of Jesus and His glory.   Even if the church suffers, that suffering is for nothing because it is joined to the world – it has ceased in its true existence.  The same applies to individuals, even evangelicals, who deny the Spirit’s voice witnessing His glory.

Nevertheless, God has not left Himself without witness.  We may be all mixed up, with our errors, weaknesses, and even unbelief.  But the witness in the true church has not ceased to exist.  Competent members of the church acknowledge of the power of reconciliation in Christ, and the testimony of the Word of God.  They believe it, submitting to God, and know the presence of the Holy Spirit, looking forward to the return of the Lord Jesus. They are they the glory and hope of the church.  Here is a church with faith – held in humility.

May God our Father keep us humble, holy in spirit and conversation giving us grace, patience, and that of faith.  May we and lean in faith upon His word in the certainty of His love, qualifying us for His glory, forgiving us our weakness for Jesus sake, our Lord, and in Him.

 

 

After the Rapture, the Jewish Remnant – Particularly from the New Testament

‘After These Things’ Chapter 5.4 – After the Rapture, the Jewish Remnant – Particularly from the New Testament

From our book ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy – and more…’ Compiled by Daniel Roberts. For more about this book click on the picture or CLICK HERE

Click on icon to download PDF

 

How does the New Testament distinguish between the earthly hopes and promises to Israel, and the heavenly hopes of the church?   It is absolutely impossible to set aside the promises to Israel – the church does not replace them [as modern ‘replacement theology’ and would suggest*].  God had made promises to His people which cannot be undone – ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ (Rom 11:29).   In speaking of Israel, ‘Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers’  (Rom 15:8).  His rejection and death did not set the promises aside. Israel is now in unbelief, but after the rapture of the church, there will be a pious godly remnant owning Christ and owned by Him.

A summary of a part of a paper by J.N. Darby entitled:  The Rapture of the Saints and the Character of the Jewish Remnant:  Published in Darby’s Collected Writings –  Volume 11 (Prophetic 4) Pages 134-142 

 

  

5.4 After the Rapture, the Jewish Remnant – Particularly from the New Testament

The Birth of Christ

Christ’s Rejection by Israel

Christ’s Teaching

Peter’s Ministry

Paul’s Ministry

The Hope of the Church

The Rapture

Thessalonians

The Tribulation

Israel and the Appearing

Conclusion

 

In reading the New Testament, we need to distinguish between the earthly hopes and promises to Israel, and the heavenly hopes of the Church.   It is impossible to set aside the promises to Israel, because the church does not replace them[1].  God’s promises to His people cannot be undone – ‘The gifts and calling of God are without repentance’ (Romans 11:29).   In speaking of Israel, ‘Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers’  (Romans 15:8).  His rejection and death did not set the promises aside. Israel is now in unbelief, but after the Rapture of the church, there will be a pious, godly remnant owning Christ and owned by Him.

The Birth of Christ

Luke commences with announcements and births of John the Baptist and then Jesus.  The angel told Zacharias that many of Israel should turn to the Lord their God, a people prepared for Him (see Luke 1:16-17).  There is a people prepared for the Lord before He comes (not sovereign grace meeting sinners in their need, as it is with us).  Mary was told that Yeshua/Jesus (Jehovah the Saviour) should be called the Son of the Highest and that He would be given the throne of His Father (see Luke 1:32).   The song of Zacharias (Luke 1:67-79) is wholly composed of the divinely-given celebration of God’s visit to His people to redeem them and to raise a horn of salvation for them in the house of His servant David (see v.69).  The Jewish shepherds received the announcement of His birth.

However, these persons were not typical of those of Israel – they were the believing, pious ‘remnant’.  Later, Anna and others were looking for redemption in Jerusalem: they evidently knew one another.  Simeon saw in ‘light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel’. (Luke 2:32).  It is therefore absolutely clear that this remnant is a people prepared for Jehovah, awaiting earthly deliverance.

The Gentiles come later in Luke.

Christ’s Rejection by Israel

Matthew’s gospel reveals how Christ was presented to the Jews and rejected by them.  Following His rejection, God’s plans for the Remnant were interrupted so as to accomplish something brighter and more blessed (viz. the church, the time of the Spirit, grace and the Christian dispensation).  But to suppose that God had invalidated His thoughts as to Israel, would be to subvert divine testimonies and undermine God’s faithfulness.

The old was still in the mind of God to be fulfilled at the appropriate time.  Like the prophets, Matthew passed over the intervening church period.  He introduced Christ as the accomplishment of prophecy and promise, giving His genealogy and showing how prophecy was being fulfilled – see Matthew 1:22,  2:5 and  2:15.    ‘The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus’  (Revelation 19:10).  The church does not have any part in this, already being with Christ.

In the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) the ‘ye’ refers to the Remnant, not the self-righteous Jews – nor does it directly refer to Christians (though we can learn from the moral teaching).  They were to expect persecution and a consequent reward in heaven.   Those who were obedient to His teaching were like the man building his house on the rock see (Matthew 7:24).  On the other hand,  unbelieving Israel would be cast into prison till the uttermost farthing was paid (Matthew 5:26).

Christ’s Teaching

In Matthew 10, Christ sends out the twelve.  They were not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  They were to declare the kingdom of heaven to be at hand, and to enquire who was worthy, that is to seek the righteous remnant (not poor sinners).  Although they were to speak peace everywhere, the peace would rest only on the sons of peace.   They were to shake the dust off of their feet before those hostile Jews who did not receive them.  Verse 18 (‘Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake’ etc.) goes beyond the Lord’s lifetime and the church period.  The faithful would be brought before the Gentile enemies, and be hated of all men for Christ’s name’s sake.  This ministry was to Israel and would not be completed till the Son of man came.

In Matthew 23, the disciples and the people are on Jewish ground.  They were to be subject to the teachers who had set themselves in Moses seat, even if those teachers had rejected the ‘prophets, and wise men, and scribes’ (v. 34).  Their ancestors had stoned the prophets and killed those who had been sent, but still, Jerusalem would never listen.  Often Jesus (Jehovah) would have gathered Jerusalem’s children together: now the desolate city would not see her Lord until she repented, saying,  ‘Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord’ (v. 39).

In Matthew 24, His disciples ask about the judgment and the end of the age (not the ‘world’). This again is in line with Jewish thought.  While Herod’s temple would be destroyed in AD70, the Lord was speaking of what would happen at the end.  False Christs would come, saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and even deceive the elect. There would be many troubles, culminating in the abomination of desolation of which Daniel spoke, and those who were in Judea would flee to the mountains.  But before He comes, the gospel of the kingdom would be sent to all the Gentiles[2].  Finally, the Messiah would return and associate Himself with the godly remnant in Judea and Jerusalem.  What language could be more understandable?

The whole scene is Jewish: it could not be  Christian.  Indeed, it has no direct application whatever to true Christians, because when the Lord comes, they would already have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  The Lord will come publicly: He will be Judge, whereas when He comes to Rapture His saints, it will be secretly in perfect grace (See Chapter 1.4 – The Rapture and the Appearing).  A Christian who has been beguiled by thoughts of going through the tribulation must have renounced Christian hopes or have never understood them.

Peter’s Ministry

On the cross, the Lord interceded saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).   After the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter says, ‘And now, brethren, I know that ye did it in ignorance, as also your rulers… Repent therefore and be converted, for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. He may send Jesus Christ, who was foreordained for you, whom heaven indeed must receive till the times of the restoring of all things, of which God has spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets since time began’ (Acts 3:17-19 Darby).  Repentance was called for, but few repented.  

As far as we can see, Peter did not teach the doctrine of the church.  Christians remained strictly attached to Judaism, zealous of the law; priests were obedient to the faith, and some even continued to be priests.  Also, Peter never taught Jesus to be the Son of God, yet it had been revealed to him, and he had confessed ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ in Matthew 16:16.  Peter’s message was, ‘Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36).

Following that, Christ could then speak of the Church, for it was to be founded on Peter’s confession.  But it was still a future thing – ‘on this rock I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18).  In Christ’s death, He gathered together into one the children of God; in His resurrection, He was declared Son of God with power.  Christ’s death and resurrection laid the excellent foundation for all our blessings.  

When the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, came  the Church (or the assembly), was formed, and the Lord added daily such as should be saved (see Acts 2:47).  Those who previously composed the remnant became its nucleus.  It was a newly instituted body, formed by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and united to the Head, Christ in heaven.   

However, God’s promises to Israel were not abrogated.

Paul’s Ministry

Paul is the apostle who gives us the Assembly (or Church).  Paul is also the only apostle who speaks of the Rapture of the saints taking place before the Appearing of Christ.  This ministry changed everything: we now have a heavenly gathering on earth. Paul’s free ministry, distinct from that of the twelve, had already been started by Stephen.  He had testified to a heavenly Christ, a Man in glory, and was put to death.   Saul of Tarsus, the chief persecutor of Christians would have heard that testimony.

Later, Saul, when drawing near to Damascus, was arrested by the same Man whom Stephen saw, and from the same place too.  From the glory He said, ‘‘Why persecutest thou me?’ … I am Jesus whom thou persecutest’ (Acts 9:4-5).   The Lord told him that He, Himself, was being persecuted, although the objects of that persecution were the Christians.  From this we infer that the Lord’s body was here, identified with its glorified Head in heaven.  It became the starting point for Paul’s ministry as to the Church.  Jew and Gentile were all one as He taught, ‘God hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who filleth all in all’ (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Now God introduces the sovereign fullness of His grace, a doctrine entirely unknown in the Old Testament.  Paul speaks of the mystery, Jews and Gentiles forming one body, and says, ‘The preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest and by prophetic scriptures, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith’ (Romans 16:25-26 Darby).   Both Jews and Gentiles are consequently reconciled to God through faith and made one by the Holy Spirit.  This was the body of Christ, the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word for ‘church’ or ‘assembly’, ἐκκλησίᾳ/ekklēsia/Strong-1577, means ‘a calling out’.  We see it in ‘The Lord added daily to the assembly’ (Acts 2:27 Darby). ‘He set some in the assembly; firstly, apostles; secondly, prophets’ (1 Corinthians 12:18 Darby).  The Church is called out to participate in the sufferings of Christ, later to be presented to Himself as His bride, without spot or wrinkle (See Ephesians 5:27).  The same word is also applied to the particular churches or assemblies of Christians in different places because they formed the assembly of God in that place.  No other meaning is possible.

The Hope of the Church

The Church is heavenly in its calling and belongs to Christ in heaven.  It forms no part of the course of events of the earth.  This makes its Rapture so simple and clear as we see from   Colossians 3:4, ‘When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.’  The church’s hope and glory is Christ Himself.   He is our life; our life is hidden with Him; He is our righteousness; the glory that has been given to Him (sonship), He has given us; we are members of His body; we are of His flesh and of His bones.  We suffer with Him now but will reign with Him in a coming day, conformed to His image.

The Rapture

The Church is not connected in any way on earth with Christ’s appearing or second coming.  She is already spoken of as sitting with Him in heavenly places (see Ephesians 1:20), so she belongs elsewhere –  she only awaits being brought there bodily.  Her immediate outlook is her being taken physically to where He is. ‘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 which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:6).

This being the case, a person who maintains that he does not go to be with Christ until His Appearing, is denying the proper hope and relationship of the church.  Ignorance is one thing, but denial is another.  Grasping the fact of our being with Him at the Rapture, not the appearing, changes all our spiritual thoughts and affections.  Our hope is not even to be in glory with Him, wonderful as that is, but it is being with Him.  ‘I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also’ (John 14:3), ‘So shall we ever be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

There are several ways in which scripture presents the return of Christ: 

  • The general fact: Christ will come again, and we will be with Him. The saints of our dispensation ‘have been made to our God kings and priests; and they shall reign over the earth’ (Revelation 5:10 Darby).

 

  • The world, evil and in confusion, will ripen into rebellion. The believer knows and believes that at Christ’s Appearing and His kingdom, God will judge the living and the dead.  It will be an earthly kingdom and an earthly judgment.

 

  • The saints of our dispensation will have, through grace, a unique association with Christ. They will have met Him in the air.  They will also have been before the judgment-seat of Christ, giving an account of themselves to God, but this part of their privilege, not punitive, for they will already be like Jesus.  He will introduce them into His Father’s house, placing them in the heavenly seat of government with Himself.  This is the Rapture of the saints, and it precedes the Appearing.

Before the Appearing, the world will have become entirely apostate, and the man of sin will have been revealed.  The Church will already have been taken, not being of the world, but risen with Christ.  On the other hand, the Rapture does not depend on any earthly event. The Christian’s hope is, therefore, not a prophetic subject at all.  No one knows when the Rapture will take place.

The saints leave the world and worldly religion by going out to meet the Bridegroom. The cry ‘Behold the Bridegroom cometh!’ (Matthew 25:6). went out at midnight, but it could have been at any time.  We know that the Bridegroom did tarry, and the sense of His coming was lost.  It is the loss of the expectation of immediacy of the Lord’s coming that lays behind the public church’s departure from simplicity, and its fall into clerical authority and worldliness.   It lost its spiritual authority.  In Matthew 24, what leads the wicked servant into mischief is not the denial of the Lord’s coming, but the loss of the sense and present expectation of it.  The Christian is constantly waiting for the Lord to come.

When therefore is the Christian to expect the Lord? – Always.

Thessalonians

An example of those who were awaiting the Lord’s return were the newly converted Thessalonians.  They might not have had time to accumulate much teaching, but their expectation was a divine witness to the world.  They were not waiting for any earthly events – just waiting.  They saw themselves to amongst those who would be alive and remain at the coming of the Lord (see 1 Thessalonians 4:15).  We need to be like that.

We know that the Thessalonians were distressed about those who had perished for Jesus’ sake, that they would not be here to enjoy His coming.  They were also troubled by false teachers alleging that that day of the Lord was already present.  Paul corrected this error by showing that the dead would be raised, and then the living ones would go up to meet Christ with them.  He explained that it was an absolute moral absurdity for the Lord’s people to go through the judgment since they would already be in heaven along with the Judge.  This confirmed their expectation, enlivening their faith and brightening their hope despite the persecution.  The terrible persecution that they were enduring, was but a pledge from a righteous God that they would have rest and glory, not trouble when the kingdom came.  The Thessalonians’ minds were, therefore, re-established,  clear and peaceful.

The Tribulation

In Revelation 12:10-12, it is said, ‘And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea!’  This is not the Rapture, because that will have taken place earlier.  These happenings are in the subsequent seven years.  3½ years before the close (that is middle of the half-week of Daniel), Satan, the accuser, will be cast out of heaven.  What follows is the great wrath of Satan for those living upon the earth.  For one class, persecution and death had now ceased; for another, it was just going to begin.

As regards our passing through the tribulation (a question which often arises on this matter) the scripture makes it very simple. How do we know that there will be a tribulation?  Scripture tells us.  But equally, it makes it clear that the Jews will live in it, and the church will not be in it:

  • I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth’ (Revelation 3:10). That was to a Christian assembly, Philadelphia.
  • These [are they who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:14). This is clearly after the Rapture.
  • It is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it’ (Jeremiah 3:7). ‘He’ would refer to a faithful one of Israel.
  • ‘There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book’ (Daniel 12:1). This refers to Israel.

The time of temptation referred to above, shall come to try them who dwell on the earth.  This is more general; it is not the great tribulation of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Matthew, which is exclusively Jewish.  

 

Israel and the Appearing

In the epistle to the Romans, specifically chapter 11, we have the general doctrine as to the Remnant of Israel.   An elect believing remnant will be grafted into their own olive tree and become one nation – ‘all Israel.’   That could not be the Christian assembly, even with Jewish believers – they had never been broken out of the Jewish olive tree.

In that coming day, Israel will be blessed on earth.  ‘He shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10).   The Remnant of Israel will be blessed despite the tribulation.  They will form a separate class from unbelieving Israel and the church.  They come in after the sealing of the 144,000 – the elect of the twelve tribes of Israel (see Revelation 7:4), experiencing God’s protection, nourishment, refreshment and comfort.  Their position is different from ours.

Conclusion

We should not confuse things. The scripture is as plain as can be.  Anybody who confounds the day of Christ with His coming to receive the church does not understand the day we in, nor His coming, nor the church.  Confounding the day of the Lord and His coming to receive the church, is a subversion of the whole nature of the relationship between both Christ and the Church, and Christ and the world.   It is far more than a mistake in terms.   The denial of the Rapture brings the church down to an earthly position, destroying its whole character

[1] As modern ‘replacement theology’ or supercessionism would suggest (See Chapter 4.8 above).

[2] Note – not the gospel of the grace of God.