Thessalonians - Glorification by Faith in Christ

By E. S. (Emanuel Sprankel) Young



The Church's Motive for Service

(The following material is selected from the book, “Ten Sermons on the Second Advent,” by the Rev. E. W. Bullinger, D. D. Published by E. & J. B. Young & Co., New York.)

“The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” (Is, 11:9).

“As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be,” (Matt. 24:37).

It is a fundamental article of the Christian Faith, that Jesus who was conceived of a Virgin, born in Bethlehem, Suffered and died for the sins of His people, Rose again from the dead, and Ascended up into Heaven, shall in due time come again with power and great glory. Whatever. views individuals may hold concerning this event, all creeds, and confessions of faith, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Western, and Oriental, bear their witness to it.

All are agreed that the Scriptures reveal a time of universal blessedness as being in store for this work, and the world itself looks forward to “a good time coming.” All are agreed that it will be characterized by a universal knowledge of Divine Truth; universal subjection to Divine Rule; universal peace amongst all nations, and blessing for “all Israel.” This happy period of the world is commonly spoken of by the word “millennium.”

Now while all Christians are agreed as to these two great facts, viz.:—(1) That Christ is coming, and (2) That this time of universal blessedness is also coming, yet all are not agreed as to the relation of these two events, the one to the other. The simple question is this, which of these two events will take place first.

The question is not whether Christ is coming: and it is not whether a millennium of peace is coming, but which of these events precedes the other.

All other questions in connection with the Second Advent are subordinate to this, because if Christ is to come first, then there can be no hope of improvement in, or blessing for the world till Christ comes; and it is both foolish and vain to look and labor for it. And, if the millennium is to come first, then it is equally vain to be constantly “looking for that blessed hope,” and waiting and watching for Christ.

The early Christians looked for Christ. They “waited for God's Son from Heaven.” They looked for a person, and not for a millennium without Him. It has been reserved for a later generation to place the millennium before the Church, as its hope.

Pre-millennialists believe that the world will grow worse and worse; post-millennialists believe that it will grow better and better. Between these two views there is no room for compromise, there can be no concession. It is entirely, and only, and wholly, a question of Revelation. Let us beware of speaking of what God is or is not likely to do. For it is written, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). The Premillennial Advent of Christ is the truth of the Bible.

Let us look at a few Scriptures of the Prophets and “believe all.”

I, Isa. 11:9. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” But note how this scene of blessedness is ushered in with judgment and Christ's coming, in Ver. 4, “With Righteousness shall he JUDGE the poor and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked” (i. e. at the coming of Christ, see 2 Thess. 2:8).

II. Isa. 2:2, 3. “And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord's House shall be established in the top of the mountains . . . and all nations shall flow unto it, and many people shall go and say, Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths, etc.” Now note the context in which this prophecy occurs. The words immediately preceding, declare that it is “concerning Judah and Jerusalem,” and the words that immediately follow tell us that this shall be when “He shall JUDGE among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Thus we learn that this time of universal peace is ushered in by judgment, and not by the increase of Gospel light.

III, Isa. 25:6, 7. “And in this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined; and He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations, etc.” From the preceding context we learn (24:23) that “this mountain” is Mount Zion on which “the Lord of Hosts shall reign . . . before His ancients gloriously,” and from the context immediately succeeding (Ver. 9, 10, 12) “It shall be said in that day, Lo this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation. For in this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under Him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill . . . and the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down; lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.”, So that the spreading of the feast (which is no feast of gospel fat things), and this removing of the vail of error, will not take place till Christ, the One “waited for,” shall come.

IV. Is. 35:1, 2, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. . . . They shall see the glory of the Lord and the excellency of our God.” But notice how this time of blessing and fruitfulness is introduced in Ver. 4, “Say to them that are of a fearful heart be strong, fear not, behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you.” “Then (not before) the eyes of the blind shall be opened,” etc., and all the scenes of millennial glory be revealed.

V. Is. 40:5, “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” But read on, and note Ver. 10, “Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him, behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.”

VI. Is. 66:10, “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her . . . 12, For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. 13, As one whom his mother comforteth so will I comfort you, etc. Ver. 14, And when ye see this your heart shall rejoice,” etc. But now note the next verse 15, “For behold the Lord will come with fire and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire. 16, For by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many.” This does not look like gradual improvement and progress, resulting and ending in blessing and peace!

VII. Ps. 2:8, is another verse which one hears constantly quoted on the platforms of missionary meetings, “Ask of Me and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.” But we never hear the next words of Ver. 9 quoted in connection with Ver. 8, yet there they stand, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron. Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel!” But if the heathen are to be given to Christ by the preaching of the gospel as the result of missionary effort, why are these converted nations to be broken and dashed in pieces in judgment. Even if it be said that the language is figurative “a rod of iron” can surely be no figure of a message of peace; nor can a “dashing in pieces” be a figure of the Gospel of Grace!

VIII. Zech. 12:10, “I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplications.” When? The verse before tells us “in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem,” and the same verse (10) tells us that it shall be, when “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Not therefore by the spread of gospel light but by the seeing of the pierced-one coming in judgment.

IX. Zech. 14:9, “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord and His name one.” What day? Verse 1 tells us “The day of the Lord,” when (Ver. 3) “the Lord shall go forth and fight . . . and His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives.” And so the succeeding context goes on to speak (Ver. 12) of “the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem,” etc. This is what shall usher in that reign of peace.

Turn now to Dan. 7, and there you will find three verses often wrested from their context.

X. Dan. 7:14, “And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Is this universal dominion given to Christ in connection with the spread of the Gospel? No, but at His coming. Look at the preceding verse (13) “I saw in the night visions and behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven.” THEN “there was given HIM,” (not peace and righteousness but) “Dominion and glory that all nations... should serve Him.”

XI. Dan. 7:22, “The time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” When did the time come? When “the ancient of days came!” And does He come at the conclusion of a millennium of peace? No! The previous verse says “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them UNTIL the ancient of days came and (then, not till then) judgment was given to the saints of the Most High and the time came that the saints possessed the Kingdom.” It is clear therefore that Christ must come before there can be an end of war, and the Kingdom be possessed.

XII. Dan. 7:27, “And the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High.” When? The verses immediately preceding (25, 26) tell us of a power that “shall speak great words against the most High and shall wear out the Saints of the most High . . . But the judgment shall sit and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.” Then follows the statement of Ver 27.

It is in fact impossible to produce a Scripture which speaks of Millennial blessing, where the immediate context does not connect it with preceding judgment, or with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In every instance the bright picture of rest and glory for “the Jew, the Gentile and the Church of God,” rests on the dark background of tribulation and judgment.

The New Testament is full of predictions of increasing and abounding evil; and side by side with these are “exceeding great and precious promises” for the poor and afflicted the suffering and the sorrowful, the hated and persecuted; and this during the continuance of the present dispensation.

Time will not permit us to go through all the Scriptures which refer to this subject. We can only remind you of certain great classes of passages:

I. The class which speaks directly of the object of the Gospel “to take out of the nations a people for His name” (Acts 15:14-17, Matt. 24:14, John 1:17), etc.

II. The class that describes the suffering condition of the Church as “a little flock,” and utterly precludes all idea of her increase and absorption of a converted world: Matt. 5:10, 11, 44; 7:13-22; 9:15; Luke 18:8, John 15:18-21; 16:33; 17:14-16; Acts 14:22; 20:29, 30; Rom. 8:17-24; Phil. 3:18-21; 1 Thess. 5:1-8; 2 Tim. 2:12, Heb. 10:30-37; 1 Pet. 4:12-18.

III. The class which speaks of the condition of the world, immediately before our Lord's return, comparing those days to the days before the flood: Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-30; 2 Pet. 3:3,4; 2 Thess, 2:3-12; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:3, 4; 2 Pet. 2 and 3:3; Jude 17, 18, etc.

IV. Another class which consists of warnings for the saints in view of increasing iniquity. “This know” (2 Tim. 3),

“I charge Thee” (2 Tim. 4:1).

“The Spirit speaketh expressly” (1 Tim. 4:1)

“I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance” (2 Pet.3:1);


“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and 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 every one that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2, 3.

Our text lays down this great principle, that the coming of Christ in glory is not a mere doctrine to be preached; not a mere theory to be held; not a mere dogma to be believed, but it is the mighty motive for all true Christian service. It is a hope that is bound up inseparably with all doctrines, alt ordinances, all precepts, and all practice.

For example, we desire to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called:we desire to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing;” to be “fruitful in every good work;” diligent in all service. Then the question is, How shall we accomplish this? “What must we do” in order to attain this desired end?

Man, of course (even the spiritual man), is ready with his various rules for holy living! for he is by nature a Pharisee, and is always ready “to do” something. Even when he confesses that he has been “justified by grace” he would like to be sanctified by works! He forgets that God has “made Him (Jesus) to be unto us, justification and sanctification,” and that we are not justified in Christ by grace without an effort, and then left to be sanctified in ourselves by our own effort.

Man says that faith is that which will produce holiness of living; God says it is hope. Man says it is faith in Christ's power to keep me if I can only keep my own faith! but God says it is “hope” in Christ's coming for me, that will purify me, and this blessed hope He has given me as my permanent possession.

Note now, some of the practical uses which the Holy Spirit makes of this blessed hope in the Word of God.

1. It is a powerful motive with the sinner to make him turn from his evil ways. The command to repent stands frequently connected with the Lord's coming (Matt. 3:2, Acts 3:19, 20, 17:30, 31). All the passages which speak of the nearness of the day of the Lord, its suddenness, its terrors for the ungodly; all appeal powerfully to the neglector of the great salvation. If this doctrine be really true, it is evident that it is not merely a question of the uncertainty of life (which is the point of most pulpit appeals), but of the certainty of Christ's coming. “When once the Master of the House hath risen up and shut to the door,” etc. All depends on this:— the movement of Christ! while He is seated at God's right hand the door of mercy is open, when once He is risen up, it will be shut! And yet preachers neglect this powerful motive, and introduce another which the Scriptures do not urge.

2. Again, why is a man not profited if he “gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Why? Because the next verse tells us “FOR the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels and then shall He reward every man according to his works.” That is why. If aman could gain the whole world, it would be useless for the Lord is coming to judge it.

3. Why is the case of mere professors, who say “Lord, Lord,” so hopeless? (Matt. 7:21). Because the next verse tells us, that “in that day... then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from Me.” That is why!

4. How does Christ warn us not to be ashamed of Him and of His words now (Mark 8:38). By reminding us in the next verse, that “of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

5. What is the true comfort for those who are “troubled” at Christ's absence? Not, you shall die and come to me, but “T will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

6. What is true comfort in bereavement? “Comfort one another with these words.” What words? Words which tell of the reunion of those who have fallen asleep with those who are alive and remain, when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven to receive both into His presence. “So (lit., thus, in this manner) shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The Great Comforter Himself likewise connected true comfort with Resurrection. “Thy brother shall rise again” (John 11:23). But man has improved on that; and has quite a different mode of comforting bereaved ones now. He quite dispenses with the hope of the Advent and Resurrection, and bids all mourners to comfort themselves with a kind of Christian Spiritualism, which quiets everyone, good and bad alike, with the delusion of all going to heaven when they die!

7. The hope of a groaning creation is bound up with the manifestation of the saints with Christ in glory. “For the earnest expectation of the creature (creation R. V.) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God . . . Because the creature (creation, R. V.) itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty (R. V. into the liberty of the glory) of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19-23).

8. With what motive are we urged not to judge one another now, and not to be moved when others judge us? (1 Cor. 4:3, 4). Because the next verse says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

9. If we are exhorted to draw near with faith and take the bread and wine in memory of our Lord's death at His first advent, we cannot, or ought not to do it, without connecting it with His second advent (1 Cor. 11:26), “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come.”

10. Is love for the person of Christ set before us as the greatest and most important of all things? It is so in consideration of the fact that He is coming again. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ let him be Anathema (accursed), Maranatha (our Lord cometh) (1 Cor. 16:22). It is the fact of the Lord's coming which puts everything in its right place. The Apostle had much to complain of in this first epistle to the Corinthians. In chapter 1, divisions; 4, false judgments; 5, uncleanness; 6, brother going to law with brother; 10, 11, errors in ritual; 15:35, errors of doctrine; but when he comes to the last verse in that epistle; when it is a question of Maranatha; when things are weighed in the light of that all-pervading fact of the Lord's coming, then he does not say, if any man be not moral or orthodox, etc., but “if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ.” As much as to say—Nothing but love for Christ will stand us in any stead when “Our Lord cometh.” A man may be perfectly moral, orthodox, and correct in ritual, and yet have no love for Christ! This fact of the Master's coming puts all these things in their proper place, and tells us that the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day, and only those who have His love shed abroad in their hearts shall be exalted with Him.

11. Are we exhorted (Eph. 4:30) to “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God?” it is added, “whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

12. Are we exhorted to “be sober?” the exhortation is based on the same motive (1 Thess. 5:2-6).

13. Are we exhorted to forbearance and gentleness? (for this is the meaning of the word in Phil. 4:5), “Let your moderation be known unto all men?” The reason for it is “The Lord is at hand,” and He therefore will put all right that is now so wrong. And if His coming be so near, such things are not worth contending for.

14. Have we “need of patience that after we have done the will of God we may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:36)? The motive for it is found in the next verse: “For yet a little while and He that shall come will come and will not tarry.”

And again, “Be patient therefore brethren unto the coming of the Lord” (Jas. 5:7).

15. Are we exhorted to mortify the flesh? This is still the mighty motive, “When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth,” etc. (Col. 3:4, 5).

16. Does the apostle pray that his Philippian converts “may be sincere and without offence?” it is with reference to and “till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9, 10).

17. If St. John exhorts his “little children” to “abide in Him,” the exhortation is pointed with this motive “that when ' He shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).

18. If our faith be tried, it is that it “might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet 1:7);

19. We are bidden to “rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings.” Why? “that when His glory shall be revealed ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:13).

20. If we are exhorted to “watch unto prayer,” it is because “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7).

Here are twenty examples, and a hundred might easily be given. But these will be sufficient to show that the doctrine is no mere visionary enthusiasm, or fanaticism; but is one of the most practical of all the truths revealed in the Word of God.

There is nothing more urgently and frequently laid to its charge, than that this doctrine tends to paralyze missionary effort. But “the tree is known by its fruit,” and so far from this being the case, we find one among the Primitive Churches which is indeed a Model Church, the church of Thessalonica. It received abundant and almost unqualified praise; and it was emphatically a Missionary Church. “Ye were ensamples (the apostle writes 1 Thess. 1:7, 8) to all that believe, in Macedonia and Achaia, for from you sounded out the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad.” And this Church was all this because of the Christian character of its members. That character was formed on “all truth,” and hence it was not deformed. It was perfect in its threefold completeness. (1) They had “TURNED to God from idols, (2) to SERVE the living and true God, and (3) to WAIT for God's Son from Heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9, 10). Yes. They waited for God's Son from Heaven. Not for Death, or Providence, or Titus, or the World's conversion, or the Restoration of the Jews, or for the reconstruction of the Roman Earth, but for God's Son from Heaven. This one subject occupies one quarter of these two Epistles to the Thessalonians. One verse in four! a dozen passages in four or five pages which speak of the coming of God's Son from Heaven! Every chapter contains a reference to it (1 Thess. 1:10; 2:17-20; 3:11-13; 4:13-18; 5:1-6, 23; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; 2:1-12; 3:5). No wonder it was a Missionary Church! No wonder it was a Model Church!

The doctrine of the Lord's speedy coming puts all work in its right place. It tells us that the great object of the preaching of the gospel is not the conversion of the world, which would put off that coming to an indefinite day, or for a thousand years at least. The professing church has told the world that its mission is to convert it, but she deceives the world, and the world can turn round and taunt her with her failure while it can point to the awful fact that it is fast converting the professing church to its own worldliness.

It all depends, however, on what the gospel was sent and meant to do, If the gospel was meant to convert the world, it will be a failure if this is not done. But if the gospel was meant “to take out . . . a people for His name,” then it is not a failure, for this is being done. If it was sent that God might in mercy “save some,” then it is not a failure. If it was given that a company which no man can number might be saved out of every people and kindred and nation, then it is no failure, for that is being done. If it was sent that it might be “preached for a witness unto all nations,” then it is not a failure for this is being done. And these are the objects of the gospel, and therefore of Missionary labor “according to the Scriptures,”

All the Prophets and Apostles agree in testifying that the world will never know blessing without the Blesser; will never know peace till “the Prince of Peace” shall come; and will never know Righteousness until “He comes whose right it is;” until “a King shall reign in Righteousness.”

The Prophets and Apostles of old were animated by no such false hopes. One said “Lord, who hath believed our report” (John 12:38; Rom. 10:16). Another said “The love of Christ constraineth us” (not the hope of success). They strove as “Stewards” to be faithful (1 Cor. 4:1-3), and looked for the commendation “Well done good and faithful servant” —not good and successful. Yes, it is “the love of Christ,” the love of a crucified, risen, ascended, and returning Saviour which alone will enable any one to obey the last great command “GO! preach the gospel to every creature.” There our commission begins and ends. We have nothing to do with results. As stewards we must be found faithful and no apparent failure can dishearten us if we only bear in mind that “known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world;” and that His word cannot return to Him void. It must prosper in the thing whereunto He hath sent it; and that His purpose and counsel must stand forever.