"I Am Coming"

By James H. Brookes

Chapter 2



It is worthy of notice that the chapter in which our Lord first announces His purpose to build His Church also contains his first distinct promise to return to earth. “The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works,” Matt. xvi. 27. Not even by the wildest flight of the imagination can these words be made to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, to death, or to any providential event whatever, because at none of these times has He come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, to reward every man according to his works. Whatever meaning, therefore, may be attached to His second coming in certain other passages, no one will pretend that in His earliest testimony upon this great subject He taught other than His literal and personal advent.

The same thing is true of His next positive teaching with regard: to His second advent. The apostles, who had forsaken all to follow Him, wished to know what reward they should receive; “and Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye shall also sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” Matt. xix. 28. Surely no one will claim that this promise was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem, or 0: the day of Pentecost, or at the death of the apostles, or at any time in the past, because the apostles have not yet sat on twelve thrones, judzing the twelve tribes of Israel, nor has the regeneration, the renovation of the world, yet occurred. It looks forward to a glorious change on the earth, for the twelve tribes of Israel are found only on the earth, a change so splendid it is called the regeneration, or new birth, which occurs at “the times of restitution of all things,” when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, and associate the apostles as princes with Himself in the administration of His Kingdom.

Nor can His next allusion to His coming be perverted to mean anything else than His literal and personal return. He answers the question of His disciples concerning the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age, by telling them that during the interval of His absence, “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” There is the most striking parallel between the testimony of our Lord in His Olivet discourse and the testimony of the Spirit at the opening of the seals. (1). “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many,” Matt. xxiv. 5. “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow, and a crown was given unto him [the stephanos of man, not the diadems of Christ in Rev. xix. 12]: and he went forth conquering and to conquer,” the Antichrist, Rev. vi. 2. (2). “And ye shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet,” Matt. xxiv. 6. “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword,” Rev. vi. 4. (3). “And there shall be famines,” Matt xxiv. 7. “And I beheld, and lo, a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand, and I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, A measure of wheat for a penny, _and three measures of barley for a penny,” Rev. vi. 6. (4). ‘And pestilences and earthquakes in divers places,” Matt. xxiv. 7. Of the rider on the ghastly horse, whose name is Death, followed by Hell, it is said, “Power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth,” Rev. vi. 8. (5). “Then they shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you,” Matt. xxiv. 9. “And when he had opened the Fifth Seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held,” Rev. vi. 9. (6). “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven,” Matt. xxiv. 29. And I beheld when He had opened the Sixth Seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth,” Rev. vi. 12. (7). “And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” Matt. xxiv. 31. “And He cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them that were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel,’ Rev. vii. 2-8. Truly, “all these are the beginning of sorrows.” The word for sorrows here means travailing pangs, issuing at last in the regeneration or new birth, but meanwhile going on to a “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days’”— not two thousand nor one thousand years after, but immediately after—“shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” Matt. xxiv. 29-31. Since it is certain that none of these events occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, nor on the day of Pentecost, nor at the death of Christians, it is equally certain that when our Lord says all the tribes of the earth shall see Him coming in the clouds of heaven, He refers to His literal, personal and visible advent.

In like manner He says, “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations,’ Matt. xxv. 31. It may be objected that it is a waste of time to quote passages, that are so obvious in their bearing upon His literal coming no one disputes their teaching for a moment. But the question is, why accept these as literal, and put a figurative meaning upon passages that are equally explicit in teaching His personal advent? For example, we constantly hear at funerals, or read in funeral discourses, the admonition of our Saviour, “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not,” Luke xii. 40. Nine Christians out of ten have no thought connected with. these words beyond the necessity of readiness for death, because they have been so instructed. But why associate them with death any more than in other passages that, confessedly, contain no allusion to death? The Lord is not here referring to death, even in the most distant way, but to His personal return, which formed the most prominent theme of His meditation and discourse. If the verses, that contain allusion to it in the four gospels are counted, it will be found that it occupied His attention more than any other one subject; and surely we should give to His language-its natural and obvious meaning.

It would be well to remember this when we read the familiar words, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and receive you unto Ğmyself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” John xiv. 3. In the first place, Jesus frequently mentions His own death, and distinctly speaks of the death of Peter; and hence if death had been the thought in His mind, He would have mentioned it here. In the second place it was as easy for Him to say, “you shall die,” as it was to say, “I am coming again;” and hence the latter, not the former, was the subject of His promise. In the third place, it was a deception if He said “I will come again,” and meant, “you must die.” If a beloved friend makes makes us sad by the announcement of his departure, and then cheers our sorrowful hearts by the promise, “I will come again,” leaving us to. discover after his departure that he took that method of informing us that we must die, we could not think well of his candour. In the fourth place, Jesus does not come again at our death, but the uniform mode of the New Testament in describing the death of the believer is to say we go to be with Him. In the fifth place He is spiritually present with His people all the time, and hence doe: not come to them spiritually at death. In the sixth place, His coming after the resurrection, or on the day of Pentecost, or at the destruction of Jerusalem, did not fulfil the promise, “I will receive you unto myself.” In the seventh place, He nowhere else speaks of His coming as death, but the opposite of death. The Saviour was in heaven, not on earth, when Stephen died, and the martyr looked up steadfastly with the joyful cry, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” Acts viii. 59. “Willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” by going to Him, not by His coming to us, 2 Cor. v. 8. ‘Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ,” not by His coming but by our departure. Peter speaks of putting off this tabernacle, and of his “exodus” out of the world, but neither he nor any other New Testament writer represents death as the coming of Christ. It is strange, therefore, that a vast majority of Christians, without much thought, it is presumed, regard the promise of the Lord, “If I go, I will come,” as only meaning, now that He is gone they must die. If it be said that the promise, taken literally, has not been fulfilled to the apostles, it is true. Their bodies are still waiting in hope of the resurrection.

It is well to look a little more closely at the view, that when the Lord said, “I am coming again,” he really meant that His disciples, including all His followers, must die. It will be seen that the two events are sharply contrasted all through the Word of God, and never can one be put in the place of the other, without doing violence to the significance of language.

1. Death comes to all, saint and sinner, Christian and heathen, old and young, alike; and if it sets forth the second advent of ‘ie Lord Jesus Christ, does He not come at the decease of the unbeliever as well as at the departure of the believer? If he comes at death, it is certain that he returns to earth 100,000 times every day.

2. Death cannot make good all the words of our Lord to all who die. The promise, “I am coming again,” is accompanied by the promise, “and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Surely He does not receive infidels, atheists, and other vile wretches who die in the perpetration of some horrible crime, unto Himself, and yet, why not, if death is His coming?

3. Death lays the body in the dust. ‘All go into one place: all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again,” Eccles. iii. 20. But at the coming of Christ His people arise from the dust. “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, these [that awake] to everlasting life, and those [that awake not] to shame and everlasting contempt,” Dan. xii, Tregelles’ rendering, supported by learned Jewish Rabbis.

4. Death is the opposite of resurrection. The body is dismantled of its beauty and glory, and put out of sight by those who loved it best. But the coming of Christ changes all this. ‘Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall transfigure the body of our humiliation, 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. iii. 20, 21.

5. Death makes the body the prey of worms. “I have said to corruption, Thou art my father; to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister;” and “They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them,” Job xvii. 4; xxi. 26. But at the coming of Christ, He fulfills His promise, “I will ransom them from the hand of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction,” Hosea xiii. 14.

6. Death sows the body in corruption, in dishonour, in weakness. “It is sown in corruption . . . ; it is sown in dishonour . . . ; it is sown in weakness.” But at the coming of Christ, “It is raised in incorruption . . . . ; it is raised in glory . . . ; it is raised in power,” 1 Cor. xv. 42, 43. ‘Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming,” 1 Cor. xv. 23.

7. Death keeps its hold on the body during this entire age. “Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling,” Psalm xlix. 14. But at the coming of Christ, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” 1 Cor. xv. 54, 55.

8. Death is an enemy. ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” 1 Cor. xv. 26. But at the coming of Christ, He frees us for ever from the oppression of the enemy. Hence “We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body,” Rom. viii. 23. He is coming to “deiver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” Heb. ii. 15. “He will swallow up death in victory,” Isaiah xxv. 8.

9. Death was once in the power of the devil. “Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil,” Heb. ii. 14. But now the ascended Christ says, “I am the living One, who became dead; and, behold, I am living unto the ages of ages, Amen; and have the keys of hades and of death,” Rev. i. 18; and at the coming of Christ, an angel “laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,” Rev. xx. 2.

10. Death is the king of terrors. Of the unbeliever it is said, “His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle; and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.; He shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world,” Job xviii. 14, 16. At the second advent, “The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works. Verily, I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,” a promise fulfilled in the next chapter, where they caught a glimpse of the kingdom, Matt. xvi. 27, 28, xvii. 1-5.

11. Death is a sorrowful experience. ‘The sorrows of death compassed me . . . the sorrows of death compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me,” Psalm xvill. 4, 5. The coming of Christ is a happy and glorious event. “Looking for that blessed Hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” Titus ii. 13.

12. Death severs the ties that bind us to our dear ones. Many a father all over the earth has entered into the deep grief of David, who wept, and cried out, in his distress, ““O my son, Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son,” 2 Sam. xviii. 33. But the coming of Christ will re-unite those who are in Him; for ‘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. iv. 17.

13. Death, like some hideous ogre, has robbed countless millions of mothers of their little ones, for “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” Rom. v. 14, making in every place a Rama, where a voice was heard, ‘Lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not,” Matt. ii. 18; At the coming of the Lord the little ones shall be given back, “for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep through Jesus [like a loving mother rocking her tired baby to slumber], will God bring with Him,” 1 Thess. iv. 14.

14. Death has lorded it over successive generations since Adam’s day. “By one offence death became king through the one,” Rom. v. 17. At the coming of Christ, “The Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one,” Zech. xiv. 9.

15. Death is the result and token of God’s wrath. “Tn the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” Gen. iii. 19. But God’s people are taught to wait for His own Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thess. i. 17.

16. Death is the penalty of sin. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezek. xviii. 4, and hence “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment,” Heb. ix. 27. But so completely has the penalty been paid by our great Surety, that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for Him, shall He appear the second time, without sin unto salvation,” Heb. ix. 28.

17. Death is earned as the righteous wages of sin. “The wages of sin is death,” Rom. vi. 23. But it will be seen at the second coming of our Lord, that He thoroughly discharged the liability of believers, for “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory,” Col. iii. 4.

18. Death belongs essentially to the carnal mind. “The mind of the flesh is death,” Rom. viii. 8. But at the coming of the Lord the risen and raptured saints are done with the flesh for ever. ‘The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Thess. v. 23.

19. Death follows the lead of the Antichrist, who at the end of this age goes forth “conquering and to conquer.” Then came the vision of the pale horse “and his name that sat upon him was Death, and Hell followed with him,” Rev. vi. 8. But the coming of the Lord shall put an end to that wicked one. ‘Then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of His mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of His presence,” 2 Thess. ii. 8.

20. “Death and hades were cast into the lake of fire,” Rev. xx. 14. This promise looks beyond the millennial state, for death shall be known even there; but at last. the doom of the monster shall be executed, and all the righteous shall exult in the everlasting overthrow of the fiend that has wrought such desolation in the earth, and made such havoc in every home.

21. Hence death is never set before us in the Scriptures as the object of desire and hope, but as a hateful and loathsome foe; and therefore our Lord turns away our thoughts from death, and all its associations, in the last words he uttered, “Surely I come quickly; Amen.” Surely He expects every loving heart to respond, “Even. so, come, Lord Jesus,” Rev. xxii. 20.

Dr. David Brown, who is accepted by the. postmillennial brethren as the highest authority, quotes the promise, and then devotes five pages of his book.to a very successful attempt at proving that it can not refer to death except by way of analogy. “It can never be warrantable, and is often dangerous, to make that the primary and proper interpretation of a passage which is but a secondary, though it may be a very legitimate and even irresistible application of it . . . . ‘Let not your heart be troubled (said Jesus to his sorrowing disciples). In my Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go away’—what then? ‘Ye shall follow Me? Death shall shortly bring us together?’ Nay, but ‘If I go away I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also . . . . And how know we that, by putting this event out of its scriptural place in the expectations of the Church, we are not, in a great degree, destroying its character and power as a practical principle? Can we not believe, though unable to trace it, that God’s methods are ever the best; and that as in nature, so perhaps in revelation, a modification by us of the divine arrangements, apparently slight, and attended every with some seeming advantages, may be followed by a total and unexpected change of results, the opposite of what is anticipated and desired? So we fear it to be here.”

But our Lord Himself leaves no possible room for the idle conjecture that in His frequent predictions of His coming he meant the death of Christians. He plainly told Peter “by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, ‘Follow Me.” Then Peter, turning around, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following,” unbidden, but following because he loved to be with Jesus. ‘Peter, seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, if I will that He tarry till 1 come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die; yet Jesus said not unto him, he shall not die; but, if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” John xxi. 19-23.

From this it is as plain as the shining of the sun that the disciples did not understand the coming of Christ and death to mean one and the same thing, ‘They understood them to mean just the opposite of each other, believing that the coming of Christ would prevent the death of John, a conviction “into which they more easily fell,” as Dr. David Brown informs us, “from the prevalent belief that Christ’s second coming was then near at hand.” Owing to this saying of our Lord a rumour prevailed for a long time in the Church that John had not died, and could not die; and Theophylact speaks of a tradition that he is kept alive somewhere, to be slain with Elias by the Antichrist. It is certain, therefore, that the early Christians did not regard the promise, ‘I will come again,” as fulfilled in their death. It was not death, hateful and hideous death, He set before them as their hope, nor was it the destruction of Jerusalem, which Gerhard truly says “is never in one instance in Scripture called the coming of Christ,” nor is it even the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, sweet and comfortable as it is to know that He dwells with us and in us forever; but it was the return of the Lord Himself. Although death is a common theme of thought and discourse among Christians now, it is seldom mentioned in the New Testament, and in the passages that contain allusions to it, generally the word sleep is employed. “The grave is not the goal” placed — before the believer, nor the repose of the disembodied state, nor happy experiences along the way, but the Saviour’s advent to take body and soul home. “Never do we please Christ so much,” says Dr. David Brown, “as when we ‘refuse to be comforted,’ even with His own consolations, save in the prospect of “His Personal Return.” The italics are his own.

“Let not my eyes with tears be dim,
Let joy their upward glance illumc;
Look up, and watch, and wait for Him—
Soon, soon the Lord will come.

Soon will that star-paved milky way,
Soon will that beauteous azure dome,
Glories, ne’er yet conceived display—
Soon, soon the Lord will come.

Changed in the twinkling of an eye,
Invested with immortal bloom,
I shall behold Him throned on high,
And sing, ‘The Lord is come!’

One beam from His all-glorious face
These mortal garments will consume,
Each sinful blemish will efface—
Lord Jesus, quickly come!

What will it be with Thee to dwell,
Thyself my everlasting Home!
Oh bliss—Oh, joy ineffable!
Lord Jesus, quickly come!”