I have not issued anything from A Day of Small Things since May 2020. A few short articles have been added to the website, thanks to our brother Edwin Mutton’s ‘Golden Nuggets’ but there has not been any new summary of J N Darby’s papers or ministry. A few reasons:
1. My neuropathic pain has been very trying. It has limited the number of hours I can work at a time. Thank God for the Great High Priest who sympathises with our infirmities.
2. We have been clearing out and selling the house of a local sister who has had to go into a care home.
3. In some ways, I am not sure of what to add. Most articles I read cover the same ground as summaries already published. Nonetheless, I am always open to suggestions.
But the main reason is that I have been writing a book: ‘After These Things – Summaries of John Nelson Darby’s Papers on Prophecy for Christians waiting to see the Lord of Glory when he Raptures his Church’. When finished it will be about 300 pages long, much of it being revisions of articles I had summarised over the past six years, supplemented with chapters on subjects which Christians often confuse, and which Darby strove tirelessly to clarify. Doctrine is unashamedly premillennial, based on scripture and showing clearly what pertains to the heavenly Church and earthly Israel.
Most of the book has now been written and reviewed. Five brothers, in particular Jim Hibbert of Calgary, have provided invaluable input and helpful comments. A challenging task has been a ‘Timeline’ covering events in heaven or on the earth between the Rapture and the Appearing drawing on scriptures in Matthew, Mark, Luke, Revelation, 1&2 Thessalonians, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and others.
If you reply to this email, I will send you pre-publication PDF copies of the Timeline, the Table of Contents and a summary of one of Darby’s 1840 Geneva addresses. There is still time to make minor additions or changes, so if you ask questions such as ‘Have you covered/explained . . .?’ or ‘Have you distinguished between X and Y?’ I will certainly take these into account.
It has been quite a mammoth undertaking and I feel the more cast on God for help in this holy subject. I have learned a lot while doing it, but become increasingly conscious of there being so much more to learn. Even Paul said, ‘We see now through a dim window obscurely, but then face to face’ 1 Cor 13:12 Darby). That is why I feel so dependent on the Lord, the Holy Spirit, reliable publications (rejecting what is unsound) and many dear brethren from several countries and denominations.
I hope, if the Lord will, to have it published by November. It will be available on-line at cost in hard copy and Kindle and ebook electronic formats.
2020 has been such an unusual year. Whether you are gathering physically – with restrictions, or on-line – I trust you are feeling blessed and encouraged. As a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19 now appears inevitable, people – some believers even – are fearful. May we all seize the opportunity to point persons to the One on whom we can cast all our cares. We need not fear.
The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:6) with a summons designed only for the ears and hearts of His own. Not one uncircumcised ear shall hear—not one un-renewed heart be moved. The dead in Christ, including, as we believe, the Old Testament saints, as well as those of the New, who shall have departed in the faith of Christ—all those shall hear that blessed sound, and come forth from their sleeping places. All the living saints shall hear it and be changed in a moment. And oh! What a change! The poor crumbling tabernacle of clay exchanged for a glorified body, like unto the body of Jesus.
Look at yonder bent and withered frame—that body racked with pain, and worn out with years of acute suffering. It is the body of a saint. How humiliating to see it like that! Yes, but wait a little. Let but the trumpet sound, and in one moment that poor crushed and withered frame shall be changed, and made like to the glorified body of the descending Lord.
And there, in yonder mental hospital is a poor patient. He has been there for years. He is a saint of God. How mysterious! True; we cannot fathom the mystery; it lies beyond our present narrow range. But so it is; that poor patient is a saint of God, an heir of glory. He too shall hear the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, and leave his illness behind him forever, while he mounts into the heavens, in his glorified body, to meet his descending Lord.
Oh! What a brilliant moment! How many sick beds will be vacant then! What marvellous changes shall then take place! How the heart bounds at the thought, and longs to sing, in full chorus, that lovely hymn,
Christ, the Lord, will come again, None shall wait for Him in vain: I shall then His glory see: Christ will come and call for me. Amen and Amen!
A Lecture by J N Darby on the Second Coming of Christ
A summary by Sosthenes
Back in 2014 I produced a summary of JN Darby’s series of lectures in 1840 on‘The Present Hopes of the Church’. One lecture was on the Second Coming of Christ.Later Darby gave a series of lectures on the same subject in Toronto- this is a summary of the first lecture’.The Original is ‘Lectures on the Second Coming of Christ, delivered in 1863 at Toronto, Canada. (Collected Writings Vol 11 (Prophetic 4) page 206).He outlines the way in which Christ’s second coming is presented in the New Testament.
Christ’s second coming Is the proper hope of the church. The Holy Spirit constantly brings this before us in the New Testament.It is not some vague speculation, it is a foundational truth keeping our hearts full of the love of God as we wait patiently for our Saviour to return.We are to be raised, our bodies changed, and we will be with Him. Having been quickened and justified, there will be no resurrection of judgment for us. We do not have long to wait, and it is a wait worth being patient for.
Sadly, many Christians overlook the rapture and think only in terms of the resurrection in the last day, a resurrection for judgement.They confuse what Paul said in 1 Thess 5:3 with what is in the previous chapter. The first scripture says, ‘The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them’ and ‘the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’.This is not what we are looking for.Our expectation is, ‘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’ (1 Thess 4:16-17).Those who await the final judgment, hoping that all will be well, are mistaken.
If I was comforting someone who had just lost a dear one, who had put their trust in the blood, and was therefore forgiven, cleansed and justified, and told them that their loved one would return with Jesus, they might think that think I was mad. But that is exactly the comfort that Paul gave to the Thessalonians.
So, in 1 Thes 5:23 it says, ‘I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.The world rejects His coming, and the worldly church dismisses and devalues it.But it dominated the lives of the early disciples.It should dominate ours.
Let us look at scriptures on the Lords coming:
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Matt 25:1-6
There is the essence of the church’s calling. The virgins had lost the expectation of Christ,and sank down into the comfort, pleasures and the hierarchical structure of the world.The Bridegroom tarried and they had given up watching.They had to be aroused; Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him” (v.6).Those with the Holy Spirit were able to go in.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
Waiting for the coming of Christ characterises the Christian. Men speak of death, but death is not ‘my lord.’
And as in the days of Noah and of Lot, they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, planted and builded, even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. Luke 17:25-27
This passage does not warn people as to sin, but as to the unholy notion that the world will go on indefinitely. As soon as Noah entered into the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. As soon as the church is taken up, Satan will fill men’s hearts with lies.Judgment follows.
Note: This does not apply this to the Great White Throne. When Christs sits on that, the heavens and the earth flee away; there is a total destruction of everything.
And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains. . .
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.Luke 21:20-21,25-28
V. 20-21 refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.
The rest is much later – the time of the Gentiles will have been fulfilled.The last beast’s – the Antichrist’s wickedness will be exposed.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. 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 14:1-3
Such is the promise: the comfort Christ gave to His disciples when He was leaving them.He comes to receive them to Himself.
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:10, 11.
This too is not the end of time. The the angels comforted them, indicating that Jesus would come again.Scripture points to His return.
It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
When the church is complete, and its last member will have been brought in, Israel will be saved as a nation. Christ will appear for their deliverance.
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 1:7-8
All the promises of the prophets will be fulfilled at that coming.
He now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world (i.e., this habitable earth) in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.
The distinctive resurrection of the saints will be at His coming.
Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our conversation is in heaven, from when 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.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
The apostle exhorts Timothy to go on diligently and faithfully looking for the appearing. When the word of God speaks of joy to the saints, it is referring to the rapture; when God speaks of responsibility to the world or to the saints, it always refers to His appearing.
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Love! – Do you love, can you love, that which will put a stop to everything that is pleasant in the world?
For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?” Hebrews 2:5, 6
The world to come is the habitable earth here. Christ is now at God’s right hand till God puts all things under His feet.
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.Hebrews 9:24
Man was tried up to the death of Christ, by the law the prophets, or finally the mission of God’s Son, but in vain. Man finds out that he is lost, and that redemption is by the cross. When sin was complete Christ appeared to put away sin by His sacrifice. Now that that work is complete, those who through grace believe await the same Saviour to come again for their final deliverance.
Be ye also patient: stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh
We are to be patient in our daily life as yet knowing what will change the whole state of the world.
Jesus Christ: whom, having not seen, ye love; on whom [though] not now looking, but believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with [the] glory, receiving the end of your faith, [the] salvation of [your] souls Concerning which salvation prophets, who have prophesied of the grace towards you, sought out and searched out; searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which [was] in them pointed out, testifying before of the sufferings which [belonged] to Christ, and the glories after these. To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves but to you they ministered those things, which have now been announced to you by those who have declared to you the glad tidings by [the] Holy Spirit, sent from heaven, which angels desire to look into.
It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is: and everyone that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
His appearing rejoices the heart and affects walk of the saints. Our blessed and assured hope is to be like Christ Himself. The present effect of this special hope is that the saint purifies himself even as He is pure, and seeks to be like Him now.
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints
The epistle looked at the decline of the professing church – the false brethren coming in unawares.It would be the object of the judgment of the Lord when He would appear.
God’s moral glory was seen at the first coming: it surpassed everything before it.But only at His second coming will the actual result be realised.Jesus will come to receive the church to Himself, a witness of sovereign grace, and then to appear setting the world in blessing subject to Him in the power of His kingdom.
Now we enjoy the full revelation of Him from whom all that blessing flows, and enjoy it here in a nature suited to it and flowing from it; but we wait for the results for ourselves and for this burdened world.We love His appearing.How is it with you?Are you linked with the world He subverts when He comes, or with Him who brings the fulness of blessing, though with judgment on what hindered it? Were He to come now, would it be your awaited joy and delight, or does it alarm and try your hearts? The Lord give you to answer before His face!
Branch of Theology Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics – concerning the Biblical text Qualified-literal – Passages are literal, figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such. Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood. Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Should there be an Introduction to a Little Basic Theology?
At a discussion about ‘A Day of Small Things’ with a few friends, the suggestion was made that there should be an introduction to a little basic theology. This is a subject many like myself have steered clear of, even regarding the term as a dirty word, and for very good reason.
– We read the scriptures, we have bible readings and other occasions, and we pray with a view to ‘knowing God’ and in an assembly setting it can be said that we are ‘taught of God’ and guided by the Holy Spirit.
– On the other hand, theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. (Wikipedia) – Trying to mentally encompass the inscrutable God is futile, even profane!
However, there are times when we desire to help fellow Christians who have been subjected to a different system of teaching. It is then useful to understand lines of thought, which we might feel are not fully in accord with, or a misinterpretation of scripture, even when they are held by seriously devout godly believers.
So recently I have been seeking to produce a short guide to some of the theological terms that we might encounter – not to make theologians of us, wasting time on ‘foolish and unlearned questions (2 Tim 2:23)’. But it is useful to know what is meant, for example, by the difference between Calvinism (and its five points) and Arminianism, pre-, post- and a-millennial eschatology etc. Through this we can see how we might relate to those from Baptist (Calvinist), Wesleyan/Methodist/Pentecostal (Arminian), and other backgrounds, and to be able to bring in what is positive in a meek way without giving offence. We are exhorted: ‘In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth’ (2 Tim 2:25) – a scripture which follows the instruction as to separating from iniquity.
Love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. He that loves not has not known God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 Darby)
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent(John 17:3)
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (Phil 3:10)
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth(2 Tim 3:7)
Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Eccl 12:12)
A Call for Help
I am no theologian – I studied economics and statistics, not theology. So I would like to invite several to review my draft when I have done my bit. There are two or three persons I have already contacted, but if you feel you could help please let me know.
John Nelson Darby
Meanwhile, for a start, here is what might be written about Darby theology
Branch of Theology
Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics – concerning the Biblical text
Qualified-literal – Passages are literal, figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such. Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation
Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood. Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Eschatology – concerning prophecy
‘The Father of Premillennial Dispensationalism’ – The pre-tribulation secret rapture with the Church returning with Christ at the start of the millennium
Ecclesiology – concerning the church and church form
The true church is heavenly, unified and perfect – publicly it is in ruins – the call is to depart from iniquity and gather to the Lord’s name – without form, organisation or ordained leadership.
Christology – concerning the Person of Christ
None! – How can the blessed Object of our worship be studied academically?
This is no substitute for:
Reading, remembering the Holy Scriptures (see 2 Tim 3:15)
Knowing that your sins are forgiven and rejoicing in the Saviour (see 1 John 2:12)
Awaiting our Lord’s return with a heart aglow (see 2 Peter 1:19)
Enjoying a wonderful relationship with one another, with he Lord’s presence when two or three are gathered to His Name (see Matt 18:20)
Worshipping our great ‘God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13 Darby and others)
‘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!
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, and at ‘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.
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 12:45 ‘That bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays to come’
1 Peter 5:1 ‘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’
1 Thess 4:17 ‘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’
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?
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.
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.
[*] 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.
[†] 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’.
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
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:
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.
As having the Holy Spirit. Gifts have been given now, but the result of God’s work will be seen in display.
As enjoying the embrace of His love – not His outward government, but His intimate presence. See John 14:3 ‘I 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.
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:
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. 7) would 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 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
Starting with the Spirit’s coming, complete at the rapture
Before Christ’s appearing and during the tribulation
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.
Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand,
With Him look back on all the way;
To learn the meaning, at His hand,
Of every deed in every day!
What will it be with God to dwell, And there to gaze on Jesus’ face! To meet the One we’ve known so well As Priest and Saviour – in that place! Before Christ’s judgment seat to stand, With Him look back on all the way; To learn the meaning, at His hand, Of every deed in every day! Clearer than ever shall we see The grace which God our Saviour showed, The love that led so faithfully Along the pathless desert road. How blessed when this time is o’er, To find that love had all-sufficed, As there upon the heav’nly shore We reach the day of Jesus Christ!
Maria Carlsson-Carren (circa 1865-1955)