JN Darby on the Lord’s Return – Lecture 3 on The Hopes of the Church of God
The Second Coming of Christ – Summary by Sosthenes
In Acts 1, The promise of the Lord’s return is set forth as the only hope of the church. The disciples desired to know when and how God would restore the kingdom of Israel, but the answer was going to be hidden in God, as times and seasons belonged to the Father who had put them in His own power.
Additionally, the Holy Spirit was about to come, and because of that, they were to expect the return of Christ. So Christ’s return ruled the intelligence, sustained the hope and inspired the conduct, of the apostles.
However, during the history of the church, the Saviour’s return has been lost sight of.
The Lord will Return to the Earth.
The Lord’s coming is not the judgment of the dead, or the great white throne; it is the return of Jesus Christ in Person, when He will come from heaven.
In Matthew 25, all the virgins were found in the same state; the wise ones (the true saints) as well as the foolish ones, who lacked the oil of the Holy Spirit, slept and forgot the immediate return of Christ. What wakes them all up is the cry at midnight that He is coming. That is the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
The State of the Church
The faithfulness of the church is made to hinge on its watchfulness as regards the truth of the Lord’s coming. The expectation of the return of Christ is the exact measure (the thermometer, so to speak) of the life of the church.
Christendom is in a state worse than that of the Jews or pagans, in that it has had more advantages. The evil which Satan has caused by heresies, false doctrines and false religions, continues to increase, and ripen.
The Joy of the departed Soul
This is seen in four scriptures:
- To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
- “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”; (Acts 7:59)
- “To be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8);
- “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better,” (Phil. 1:22, 23)
We are out of the reach of sin, and we enjoy the Lord apart from it, in a state of expectation.
The Lord says, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself.” He, Himself will come for His church, in order that the church may be there, where He is.
The First Preaching
In Acts 3 Peter preaches of to the Jews: Repent, and Jesus will return. You have killed the Prince of life; you have denied the Holy One and the Just; God has raised Him from the dead. Repent, be converted, and He will return. But they would not repent.
But he said that they did it through ignorance . “Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
However we know they continued to resist the Holy Spirit; See Acts 7:51.
God will gather together all things in Christ
It says, “He may send Jesus.” (Acts 3:20) The Holy Spirit will be shed abroad, that is true, but the event is to take place by the presence of Jesus. There cannot be a revelation more explicit, than the sending of Jesus. The things spoken of by the prophets will be accomplished. How can the force and simplicity of such a declaration be evaded?
The work of the Holy Spirit is not to re-establish all things here below, but to announce the return of Jesus.
When He appears in His glory, the world will behold Him, but it will not be able to see the Holy Spirit. Then: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” (Philippians 2:10) All we have to do is to believe.
The coming of the Lord is the constant and Living expectation of the church
“For our conversation (citizenship) 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.” (Philippians 3:20, 21)
“When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4.)
The two epistles to the Thessalonians turn entirely on this subject. The coming of Christ fills the first epistle. It is remarkable that this church, one of the most flourishing of those to which the apostles have written, should be precisely that one to which the Lord chose to reveal, with most detail, the circumstances of His coming. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” (Psalm 25:14)
They expected the Lord from heaven. May we have this same faith that the Thessalonians had! We ought, like them, to be expecting the Lord before the thousand years.
If Paul had expected a millennium of the Holy Spirit before the coming of Jesus, how could he ever have said, “We who remain until the coming of Christ”? There was, then, in his soul, a continual expectation of the coming of Christ. He did not know the moment, but he expected it imminently.
The believers in Thessalonica had the hope of the return of Christ to such a degree, that they did not think of dying before that event; and when one of them departed, his friends were afraid that he would not be present at that happy moment. Paul reassures them by asserting that those who sleep in Jesus, Christ will bring back with Him.
Now – An Intermediate State of Happiness
“Therefore we are always confident; knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6) . I have already the life of Christ: if I depart, I shall be with Him. Paul will enjoy the fruits of his waiting.
The Mystery of Iniquity
For the mystery of iniquity, which was already working in the time of Paul, was to go on until the manifestation of the man of sin. He will be destroyed by the glorious appearing of Christ Himself. Now, in such a state of things where is the place for such a post-tribulation millennium?
The appearing of Christ is not at the end, for at the end, He will have delivered up the kingdom. In reality, the kingdom takes place at His appearing.
We shall only be like Him when He appears, not before. “But we know that when he [the Son of God] shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as be is pure.“ (1 John 3:2) A heart that is full of this hope conducts himself accordingly – he purifies himself. Knowing that when Jesus appears, I shall be like Him, I ought to be, even now, like Jesus.
May the Lord apply these truths to our hearts, on one side, to detach us from the things of the world, and, on the other, to attach us to His coming – to Himself in Person; and we shall purify ourselves even as He is pure. There is nothing more practical, nothing more powerful to disentangle us from a world that is to be judged, and to knit us to the One who will come to judge it.
Certainly, there is nothing that can serve better to show us where our purification comes from. There is nothing which can console us, invigorate us, and identify us more with the One who has suffered, so that we might reign with Him, co-heirs in glory. Surely, if we were expecting the Lord any day, there would be seen in us a self-renunciation rarely seen among the Christians of the present age. May none of us be found saying, “My Lord delayeth his coming”! (Matthew 24:48)