"I Am Coming"

By James H. Brookes

Chapter 9

 

THE RAPTURE,

The question now to be discussed touches vitally the entire subject of our Lord’s second advent. Many beloved and excellent brethren hold that there is no perceptible interval between His coming for His people and His appearing with them. They believe, therefore, that the Church, the true Church, the regenerated ones who are seeking to walk in fellowship with Christ, and in separation from evil, must pass through the. terrible tribulation under the Antichrist in the last days, before they are caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air. But there is strong ground for very serious objections to this theory, whatever affection and respect may be due to those by whom it is advanced.

In the first place, it renders null and void all the commands of the Saviour and of His Apostles, to look for His coming as possible any day. It cannot be denied that we are to be watching for His return at even, at midnight, at the cock crowing, in the morning, Mark xiii. 36, 37. It cannot be denied that every real believer is to be like a faithful servant standing at the hall door with girded loins and burning lights, peering through the outer darkness for the first gleam of His advancing glory, and listening with attentive ear for the faintest echo of His approaching steps, Luke xii. 35, 36. It cannot be denied that the Christians of the Apostles’ times were taught to wait for God’s Son from heaven, 1 Thess. i. 10, and were found “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Cor. i. 7. But if He cannot come until the restoration of the Jews in large numbers to Jerusalem, until the division of the old Roman empire into ten kingdoms, to be followed by the appearing of the Antichrist, it is useless to be looking for Him now. Beyond question, according to the teachings of the New Testament from Matthew to the close of Revelation, it is the very posture of the soul to be expecting Him every hour, as we need Him “every hour,” and that cannot be a true doctrine which disturbs this beautiful posture, and makes it impossible.

In the second place, it will not be denied that when our Lord appears on this earth, His saints shall appear with Him. ‘The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Him,” Zech. xiv. 5. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear then shall ye also appear with Him in glory,” Col. iii. 4. “At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints,” 1 Thess. iii. 13. “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him,” 1 Thess. iv. 14. “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints,” Jude 14. “The armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean,” and ‘the fine linen is the righteousness of saints,” and “they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful,” identifying them with saved men from the earth, Rev. xix. 14, 8; xvii. 14. Such passages teach beyond doubt that those who are manifested with Him at His advent must have been previously caught up unto Him; and a sufficient length of time must have elapsed to reckon with His servants, according to their faithfulness, Matt. xxv. 14-24; Luke xix. 12-19, and to be judged according to the deeds done in the body, 2 Cor. v. 10; because when He finally appears they shall be associated with Him in the administration of His kingdom. ‘Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” 1 Cor. vi. 2.

In the third place, our Lord plainly promises to keep His watchful ones out of the tribulation. Speaking of that tribulation, when there shall be “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,” He says to His disciples, ‘Take heed to yourselves, lest AT ANY TIME your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell [are settled down] on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man,” Luke xxi. 26-36. Again He promises still more explicitly, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from [out of] the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth,” Rev. iii. 10. Here, then, is the positive assurance that the faithful shall be kept, not by His power through the tribulation, but out of the hour, elsewhere rendered “time” and “season,” of the tribulation, that shall burst like a storm upon all the world.

In the fourth place, after the Laodicean or last state of professing Christendom, when Lukewarm indifference and pride and boasting prevail, and Christ is excluded from His own house, Rev. iii., the Church is seen no more upon the earth, until she appears in the 19th chapter, following her Bridegroom from heaven. On the other hand, the representatives of the redeemed are in heaven. The entire interval between the close of the Church age and the marriage supper of the Lamb is filled with appalling judgments, and the whole scene is intensely Jewish, as shown in the sealing of “an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the children of Israel,” the temple, the court of the Gentiles, the testimony of the two witnesses, who like the Old Testament prophets, devour their enemies with fire, and have power to shut heaven, that it rain not, and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues. There is not a hint that the Church is here during the period of awful tribulation; and even the Holy Spirit is not viewed as officially upon the earth, but takes His place before the throne, Rev. i. 4; iv. 5; v. 6.:

“In the fifth place, we are distinctly taught that when our Lord leaves the right hand of the throne of God, He pauses long enough in the air to gather His risen and translated saints around Himself. ‘The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,. . . . 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,” 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17. Apart from the fact that the word “shout” is, as Canon Fausset renders it, “a signal shout,” a military call and command to His own, with which others have no concern, and apart from the fact that the word “meet,” wherever else it occurs in the New Testament, implies a meeting so as to return with the person met, it is certain that there are two stages in our Lord’s second advent. He comes into the air, and there summons His own to meet Him, and then He comes with them to the earth. There are not two comings, but two steps of one coming, as there were two steps of His first coming, the one at Bethlehem and the other at Calvary. It is not stated in so many words how long the pause in the air will be, nor why it occurs, but it may be inferred from many Scriptures that it will continue for seven years, during the manifestation of the Antichrist’s power.

In the sixth place, the analogy of Scriptures favours the two-fold aspect in which the second advent is to be viewed. There is a personal and invisible relation of truth to God, and an open and outward manifestation of it to the world. We are justified before God without works of any kind, Romans iv. 5; but we are justified before men by our works, James ii. 24. We are sanctified before God now, 1 Cor. vi. 11; but we are sanctified before men progressively, 1 Thess. iv. 3; v. 23. The Holy Spirit always dwells in the believer as he stands before God, John xiv. 17; but the Holy Spirit comes upon him for service and testimony before men, Acts 1.8. The believer shall not come into judgment as to his sins, John v. 24; but the believer must appear before the judgment seat of Christ as to his works, 2 Cor. v. 10. There is to be a resurrection of the just in glorified bodies, and hence Paul’s earnest desire, ‘if by any means I might attain unto the outresurrection, that one from among the dead,” Phil. iii. 11; but there is to be a resurrection of the unjust a thousand years afterwards, Rev. xx. 5. We might expect, therefore, to find that there is to be a coming of the Lord for His people, and then, whether the delay is long or short, His appearing with them, thus bringing the two phases of the second advent into harmony with other great doctrines.

In the seventh place, He has shown us that the rapture or translation is to be secret and unknown to the world, and that His summons to His own will not be heard, or at least not understood, by the unbelieving mass. ‘Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him,” Gen. v. 24, and no man saw him ascend; but he was kept out of the hour of temptation, while Noah passed safely through the tribulation. When Elijah was caught away in a chariot of fire, only Elisha saw it, and the sons of the prophets searched in vain for the missing messenger of Jehovah. Jesus on His way to the cross cried, “Father, glorify Thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” This was distinct enough to His ear, but the people that stood by said “that it thundered,” John xii. 28, 29. Paul on his way to Damascus heard the words of our risen and ascended Lord, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest. . . . Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man,” Acts ix. 4-7. Afterward Paul said, “They that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me,” Acts xxii. 9.

Is there then a contradiction here, as infidels in and out of the church have been saying for centuries? No greater contradiction than when persons, listening to a speaker in a large audience, assert that they do not hear him, although his voice fills the building. It needs a circumcised ear and a circumcised heart to hear the words of the Lord, since “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Cor. ii. 14. Even if the shout of our descending Lord is heard by the unbelieving world, it will not be heard in the scriptural sense of the word; and no doubt many a jest and scientific guess will appear in the newspapers about the strange sound in the sky, none but the elect knowing that it called His waiting and watching ones to meet Him in the air.

He comes into the air as the Bridegroom, Matt. xxv. 6; He comes to the earth as the Nobleman who “went into a far country to receive for Himself a Kingdom, and to return,” Luke xix. 12. He comes into the air as “The Morning Star,” Rev. xxii. 16; He comes to the earth as ‘The Sun of Righteousness,” Mal. iv. 2. He comes into the air to present the Church to Himself, all glorious, Eph. v. 27; He comes to the earth to overthrow the armies of all nations gathered against Jerusalem to battle, Zech. xiv. 2, 3. He comes into the air in blessed fulfillment of the promise, I will ‘receive you unto Myself,” John xiv. 3. He comes to the earth as KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, Rev. xix. 16. He comes into. the air to celebrate ‘the marriage supper of the Lamb,” Rev. xix. 9; He comes to the earth to prepare “the supper of the great God,” Rev. xix. 17. He comes into the air to bring His faithful ones to the banqueting house, where’ His banner over them is love, Song ii. 4; He comes to the earth to give them power over the nations, and they shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, Rev. iii. 26. He comes into the air for the joy of His followers, John xvi. 22; He comes to the earth to judge the nations, Matt. xxv. 31; Acts xvii. 31.

There is no predicted event between this passing moment and His coming into the air, but much remains to be fulfilled before He comes to the earth. It would be scriptural to say, the Lord may come to-day, or to-morrow, or next week, or next month, or next year; it would be unscriptural to say, the Lord will not come to-day, nor to-morrow, nor next. week, nor next month, nor next year. If to the statement it is objected that He Himself tells us, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come,” Matt. xxiv. 14, it is a sufficient answer to reply that the Father alone has authority to determine when this testimony to His Son shall have been sufficiently borne, Acts i. 7 3 and since it is revealed that after our Lord’s coming to the earth, the saved of Israel shall rush as His ambassadors to the isles that are afar off, that have not heard His fame, nor seen His glory, Isaiah lxvi. 19, it is certain that the gospel will not have been preached to every creature before His coming into the air.

The fact is that we of this church dispensation have nothing to do with signs and dates, and it is dangerous and delusive to get our thoughts fixed upon these. It is most important to remember that the Holy Spirit takes notice of “times and seasons” only with respect to Israel. Those who form the body of the risen Christ, and are “partakers of the heavenly calling,” are timeless people, and need not study history. We are like an army when the general issues his orders, ‘Be ready to move at a moment’s notice.” Every inferior officer, and every soldier must be instantly prepared, and continue in a state of preparation, no matter how long the notice may be deferred, until the order to march is received. The Captain of our salvation has commanded us to wait and to watch, and it is not for us to be interposing certain events nor to be looking around for fulfilled prophecy, before expecting to hear His order bidding us mount up in clouds to meet Him in the air. Nay, our rapture may be quicker than the twinkling of an eye, 1 Cor. xv. 22, for that means the closing and uplifting of the eyelid, but the Greek word may imply a single movement. O sweet thought! here one moment, and the next, like a flash, with the Lord. “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not,” Luke xii. 40.

“I’m waiting for Thee, Lord,
Thy beauty to see, Lord,
     I’m waiting for Thee,
          For Thy coming again.
Thow’rt gone over there, Lord,
A place to prepare, Lord;
     Thy home I shall share,
          At Thy coming again.

Mid danger and fear, Lord,
I’m oft weary here, Lord;
     The day must be near
          Of Thy coming again.
Tis all sunshine there, Lord,
No sighing nor care, Lord,
     But glory so fair
          At Thy coming again.

Whilst Thou art away, Lord,
I stumble and stray, Lord;
     Oh, hasten the day
          Of Thy coming again.
This is not my rest, Lord,
A pilgrim confest, Lord,
     I wait to be blest
          At thy coming again.

Our loved ones before, Lord,
Their troubles are o’er, Lord,
     I'll meet them once more
          At Thy coming again.
The blood was the sign, Lord,
That marked them as Thine, Lord,
     And brightly they'll shine
          At Thy coming again.

E’en now let my ways, Lord,
Be bright with Thy praise, Lord,
     For brief are the days
          Ere Thy coming again.
I’m waiting for Thee, Lord,
Thy beauty to see, Lord,
     No triumph for me
          Like Thy coming again.”