Issue No 3
Address by Philip Mason at Malvern, 2 December 2017
And Peter said to him, Lord, sayest thou this parable to us, or also to all? And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and prudent steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give the measure of corn in season? Blessed is that bondman whom his lord [on] coming shall find doing thus; verily I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he has. But if that bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays to come, and begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken, the lord of that bondman shall come in a day when he does not expect it, and in an hour he knows not of, and shall cut him in two and appoint his portion with the unbelievers.
The 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:shepherd the flock of God which [is] among you, exercising oversight, not by necessity, but willingly; not for base gain, but readily; not as lording it over your possessions, but being models for the flock. And when the chief shepherd is manifested ye shall receive the unfading crown of glory.
But we do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are fallen asleep, to the end that ye be not grieved even as also the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus has died and has risen again, so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. (For this we say to you in [the] word of [the] Lord, that we, the living, who remain to the coming of the Lord, are in no way to anticipate those who have fallen asleep; for the Lord himself, with an assembling shout, with archangel’s voice and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them in [the] clouds, to meet the Lord in [the] air; and thus weshall be always with [the] Lord. So encourage one another with these words.)
I want to say a few words, dear brethren,about the coming of the Lord Jesus.
I said to a young brother recently, ‘The Lord’s coming can’t be long now’. That challenged me: do I really believe that the Lord’s coming is imminent? And if I believe it, what difference is it making to my life? Not long ago, I was speaking to an elderly sister who said she lay awake in the night worrying about the troubles amongst the brethren, and wondering what was going to happen. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice instead, if we woke up in the morning thinking, ‘The Lord is coming today!’. If I knew that somebody important was going to visit, I would want to be ready. Now, what if that important Person was the Lord? Would I have to change my plans for the day? Would I have to change my occupation even? I might think there was no point in going to work, but that would just be lazy. I think if I knew the Lord was coming today, I would want the Lord to find me doing what I ought to be doing to fulfil my responsibilities here. But it would be the busiest day of my life. For a start, to be ready, there is quite a lot I would have to set right in myself.
We read in Luke 12 of the bondman who said in his heart, ‘My lord delays to come’(v. 45). J N Darby wrote[‡], ‘The expectation of the return of Christ is the exact measure (the thermometer, so to speak) of the life of the church.’ If we thought that His return was imminent, our hearts would be burning within us. But if we lose sight of His return, we grow cold, and our spiritual state declines. This bondman didn’t say out loud that his lord delayed; he said it in his heart. Then he started ‘to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken’ (v. 45). I know personally what it is to lose sight of the Lord’s coming, and to treat those around me in a way in which they should not be treated. May we all be assured that the Lord is coming soon: it will change our behaviour; it will change us.
In 1 Peter 5:1, we read of ‘the glory about to be revealed’. The Lord’s second coming, as we have been taught, has two parts. First of all there is the rapture, and then there is the appearing when the Lord Jesus comes to establish His millennial kingdom upon this earth. The glory will be revealed then. This world has not yet seen the glory of the Lord Jesus. When the Lord Jesus was here, His pathway was a pathway of humiliation, a pathway in which He glorified His Father. Few like John apprehended it. He could write, ‘We have contemplated his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a father’ (John 1:14). Those on the mount of transfiguration saw something of the glory of Christ as He was transfigured before them. But that was not public. The full glory of our Lord and Saviour will be seen when He comes to reign, and establish His kingdom in righteousness upon this earth. He will take up what was denied Him when He was here. What a time it will be when the Lord Jesus takes His rights, and reigns from shore to shore, the whole earth in subjection to Him. The physical change here will be dramatic. We are told in scripture, ‘The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as a rose’(Isaiah 35:1). There will be moral changes too: ‘The earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah’ (Isaiah 11:9). Revelation 20starts, ‘And I saw an angel descending from the heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent who is [the] devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut [it] and sealed [it] over him, that he should not any more deceive the nations until the thousand years were completed’ (v. 1-3).
Christ will rule directly upon this earth, centred in Jerusalem as scripture tells us, and we will reign with Him. ‘ifwe endure, we shall also reign together’(2 Timothy 2:12). We have our part in testimony now; in that future day, we will have our part with the Lord Jesus in His glory. We will be ‘partakers of the glory about to be revealed(1 Peter 5:1)’. We do not know when this will be, God only knows that, but I believe it will not be too long now, before the Lord takes up His rights and establishes His rule over the earth.
The Thessalonian saints were concerned about what was to come. The Lord’s coming is mentioned in both Thessalonian epistles in all but one chapter. It says of these Thessalonian saints that they had ‘turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,and to await his Son from the heavens, whom he raised from among the dead, Jesus, our deliverer from the coming wrath’ (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). They were reminded of the coming wrath. When the Lord Jesus comes and takes up His rights on this earth, there will be dreadful judgment upon those who have rejected the glad tidings – those who have risen up against Him under the power of Satan. But we, like the Thessalonians, have put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, and have been delivered from the coming wrath. The knowledge of this should make us urgent to present the glad tidings, warning people of the peril that theyare in if they reject God’s free offer of salvation.
These brethren were in some consternation about those that had died (or fallen asleep). Paul didn’t say, ‘You don’t need to worry about those that have died because they are in heaven’. He uses the words ‘with Him’(ch. 4:14). Elsewhere Paul tells the saints that the dead in Christ are ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord.’(2 Corinthians 5:8), in a state that is ‘very much better’(Philippians 1:23). Those that have died are free from the effects of sin. They are in the presence of Jesus, but, being asleep, are not responsive to Him at the present time, though they will certainly be in a coming day. He says, ‘God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus” v 14. They will come out with Him when He comes in to reign, they will be with Him: ‘the armies which are in the heaven’(Revelation 19:14).
Whilst we look forward to that second coming, this is not our present hope. Our hope is in the coming of our Lord Jesus to take us to be with Himself, what we call the rapture. After talking of those who fall asleep, the apostle goes on, ‘(For this we say to you in [the] word of [the] Lord, that we, the living, who remain to the coming of the Lord, are in no way to anticipate those who have fallen asleep; for the Lord himself, with an assembling shout, with archangel’s voice and with trump of God, shall descend from heaven; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, 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.So encourage one another with these words.)’(1 Thessalonians 4:15-18). The Lord is waiting, at the present time, for the Father’s word to come out to gather up all of His own to be with Himself. Then He will come Himself: He is not going to send anyone else. The two men in white clothing said to those who were watching the Lord Jesus go up into heaven, ‘This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come in the manner in which ye have beheld him going into heaven’ (Acts 1:11).
We have a three-fold cord:
- The assembling shout, a shout that will gather all of the Lord’s people together.
- The Archangel’s voice, which will be unmistakeable, and
- The trump of God, which will be heard by everyone who is meant to hear it – none will miss it.
This shows the value of every blood bought saint, none of whom will be left,because each has a place in the divine plan. All are precious on the sight of God, His work, having begun in each, will have been completed unto Jesus Christ’s day (See Philippians 1:6).
The rapture will be a witness to the resurrecting power of the Lord Jesus, for allthose who have been laid in the grave, committed to His keeping until His return will be gathered up. He will raise them. We ‘shall be caught up together with them in the clouds’, (or ‘on the clouds’as in Matthew 26:64). The Lord Jesus will come as close as He can to this earth, without touching it, orbeing seen by those who had rejected Him. Then He will ‘transform our body of humiliation into conformity to his body of glory’ (Philippians 3:21). That will be wonderful, dear friends.
What a scene it will be! The differences amongst Christians, the breakdown that has existed down through the years of this present dispensation, difficulties that have taken years to sort out, if they have been sorted out at all, will be settled in the twinkling of an eye. Why? Because every eye will be looking at Jesus. Surely, if we all were currently looking at our Saviour, waiting for that assembling shout, taking our direction from Him, would not these intransigent differences fall away now?
‘And thus we shall be always with the Lord’. Oh, dear brethren, to be in the presence of the Lord Jesus, to be like Him, to have a body of glory like unto His body of glory and to be with Him, no more to go at all out, forever with the Lord! That is our portion; that is our hope. Let us lift our eyes, dear brethren, and look to the Lord Jesus. Let us follow Him. Let us seek to be here for Him, and witness to His return. The Lord will have His rightful place; His glory will be revealed; His rights will be acknowledged, and His name will be honoured. Then all will see Him, andat ‘the name of Jesus every knee should bow, … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord to God [the] Father’s glory’ (Philippians 2:10-11). Let us bow to Him now!
‘So encourage one another with these words’. Let us be encouraged, and may the word be blessed for His name’s sake.
Edited by: Daniel Roberts, Strood, Kent (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Revised by Philip Mason and checked by others
[†]All scripture quotations are from the Darby translation