THE PASSING OF APOCALYPTICISM
the title of The
Blessed Hope, The Christian (
been fulfilled, so it is now, inevitably having the same result upon unfulfilled prophecy.
THE BLESSED HOPE
According to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, the Blessed Hope consists of the Glorious Appearing of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2: 13). Though the Hope may be regarded from various points of view, and though its development may involve several stages, yet the Apostle is careful, in the passage just quoted, to occupy us with the whole rather then with the part, with the mighty consummation rather than with individual or passing features.
Thus, when we speak of the Blessed Hope, we engage our hearts and minds upon the return of the Lord FROM HEAVEN and His coming again TO EARTH - a completed and triumphant act, wherein the glorified Christ assumes authority and power over a race which, in a spirit of rebellion, rejected Him well-nigh two thousand years ago - when, in a gracious humiliation, in the form of a servant. He was manifested, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Based on Divine promises, the Hope has not hurried of realisation. It being the purpose of God, in a fashion high above all our thought to gather together in one all things in Christ, it follows that such majestic consummation, being the outstanding characteristic of the Return, must take place at the end of the dispensation [of this evil age]. Then, and not before, will our Heavenly Father complete in glory that which He has begun in grace. Meantime, we do well to remember that the Almighty is not petulant and impatient, as is too, frequently the case with men. He has plenty of time - time after the Divine measure, a thousand years as one day! Hence it were folly to suggest that there has been delay, or to think that the blessed promise will fail of fulfilment. Yet, sad to say, this has been done, and is being done to-day. Men have said, and they still say, that God is slack concerning His promises; while the truth is, as was declared long ago, He is long suffering to usward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3: 8, 9).
THE PASSING OF APOCALYPTICISM
What was once said in a spirit of unbelief, and with vulgar contempt of God, is now affirmed by professing Christians in the name of dispassionate Criticism: it is confidently declared that the Blessed Hope will not be realised! Having attacked the basis of Faith, the spirit of the age boldly disposes of the grounds of Christian Hope. A good while ago, miracles were declared to be discredited; now, with a like denunciation, it is maintained that the things hoped for, as they relate to the Second Advent and its glorious issues, are illusory, and should no longer be expected! Criticism takes this form: The Early Church expected the Return of Christ. He did not come when looked for. The Apocalyptic hopes were never fulfilled: and history has disproved them. The process of reasoning is as fallacious as the conclusion is assuredly absurd. History might, indeed, disprove mistaken expectations given forth by men in reference to particular times; but it cannot disprove the great and inspiring hope of the return of Christ at the end of the Present dispensation, in connection with times and seasons which the father hath set within his own power, and therefore has not laid bare to the mind of man. Nevertheless, it is thus that some are now reasoning; and a well-known American monthly, assuming this point of view, recently illustrated the distressful fact in an article entitled The Passing of Apocalypticism.
DISPARAGEMENT OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
This sad development of unbelief
involves very serious consequences. On
the surface, there is a repudiation of primitive Christianity. Then, what is more astounding, there is a
setting aside of the words of Christ, and a contemptuous disregard of the
teaching of the Apostles whom He sent forth.
More than that, by this development the entire volume of Holy Scripture
is disparaged; for the Apocalyptic element is found in
the Old Testament as well as in the New.
In the former, there is the Book of Daniel, in the
latter the Book of Revelation; and in addition to these there
is our Lords
Are we surprised? Hardly so! The age which has confounded God with Nature; which confuses Christ with the Better Self of sinful man; which classes the Holy Scriptures with Sacred Books of the East; and relegates Christianity to a place of comparative importance among the religions of the world - such an age doubtless finds peculiar satisfaction in the statement that the Blessed Hope, and all that belongs thereto, cannot be realised - simply because in the wisdom of God the appointed hour for the august event has not yet come! After this, who will deny that unbelief is without outlook, either for the earth or man? Verily its horizon is bounded by the things which are!
REVIVAL OF ANCIENT UNBELIEF
Those who speak of the Passing of Apocalypticism cannot have reckoned upon the full meaning of their words. Like men who, in the early Church, declared that the resurrection was past already, these will doubtless overthrow the faith of some. In spirit, they say that the coming victory of Christ must be on a scale such as human agency, with its weakness and failure, will bring about. Where Scripture speaks of the destruction of the devil and his works, of Christ coming to be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe, there speculators can but see the outcome of Evolution - an outcome which, though without authority, they are careful to invest with glories such as the Holy Spirit applies to an altogether different line of events! Having dispensed with the old story of Eden, such men naturally have their difficulties with the prospect of Paradise restored, and thus are compelled to view the Lord Jesus Christ in a light altogether distinct from that presented in the Holy Scriptures.
Opposed as they are to primitive Christianity, and inconsistent as they are with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles, the views against which we here raise a note of earnest warning are, as already hinted, not new. Though put forward in our day, they are in the succession of ancient doubt and hoary unbelief. There is nothing new in the question: Where is the promise of His coming? and we are all familiar with the shallow assertion that: All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (2 Peter 3: 4). Hence the question is not one of tendency merely: it is of the spirit of Anti-Christ, and involves utter contempt for things that are precious beyond calculation to instructed disciples of Christ, even things that are vital to the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.
On points of interpretation believers may not all see alike, but all should cherish the Holy Book, and receive with meekness the implanted word (James 1: 21 R.V.). As to the Books of sign and symbol - books of charm as well as mystery - if they appeal to any, it is to sincere followers of Christ, to such as acclaim Him Master and Lord, to such as have heard His words spoken to the seer of Patmos: I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades (Revelation 1: 17, 18). In other words, in these writings and in other portions of Divine revelation of a like character, we have sayings and teachings of a confidential character which the wise shall understand (Daniel 12: 10; compare verse 3). Here, likewise, we have instruction to which we do well to take heed, and in regard to which a particular blessing is pronounced: Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein (Revelation 1: 3).
VITALITY OF THE SYMBOLIC BOOKS
It is a fact beyond dispute that the Apocalyptic Books make their own appeal to those who have ears to hear. Hence it follows that it cannot be a truly spiritual criticism which judges these writings in haste, and then, on the assumption that all the great things lie in the past, and that the future will have no such Divine intervention as is act forth in symbolic prophecy, proceeds speak of the Passing of Apocalypticism. Nay, indeed! As no word of God can be without power, as his word in its entirety cannot pass away, so neither can the prophetic delineations of the Apocalyptic Books pass away, or prove lacking in living virtue. (Daniel 12: 4, 9; Revelation 22: 18, 19, compare with verse 7).
If the Book of Daniel has its wonderful visions and its mysterious war in heaven, still it concludes with an assurance personal to the faithful prophet, that he shall stand in his lot at the end of the days (12: 13). If, moreover, the Book of Revelation presents scenes of judgment, as seals are opened, trumpets are sounded, and bowls of wrath are outpoured, still there is that grand undertone of blessing, that whisper of coming [millennial and eternal] glory, so dear to the hearts of those who love Christ: Behold, I come quickly. Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this Book. Yea: I come quickly (22: 7, 20).
Like other Books of Scripture, these have been the consolation and support of the Church from the beginning; and we have ever, reason to hold that they will minister comfort and joy to the faithful unto the end. Indeed, the writings that are designated Apocalyptic, display a Divine vitality, as they continue to point successive generations to the ever-approaching apocalypse of Jesus Christ, and to the assured manifestation of the new heaven and the new earth, with the city of the eternally saved, and the river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation chapters 21 and 22).
[1. Dont let the world squeese you into its own way of thinking. We should be waiting for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
2. There is a future grace that we must continually hope for and rely on as the source of motivation in our service for the Lord. This requires a holy determination and a daily supply of patience and Divine strength to perseverance, because many times we have to tell the Lords people what they dont want to hear! We must commit ourselves to speaking the whole counsel of God, regardless of how we think regenerate believers might respond; and we must - (when the opportunity is given) - persevere in speaking the words of God over the long haul, because Men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some (2 Timothy 2: 18, R.V.)! This passage promises us that there will be many temptations to discouragement from amongst many of the Lords redeemed people.
3. The Apostle says: The time will come when they shall not endure sound teaching (4: 3). It has now arrived. Therefore, we must never compromise or give up if we want to hear these blessed words from the Lord: Well done, good and faithful servant, (Matthew 25: 21).
4. We are not to live in the past (whether it was good or bad), but we are to learn from it and for the sake of the future. God will help us to learn from the mistakes of the past; and He can turn our pains and failures of the past into fruit for the future.
5. If we really believe that God answers prayer through Christ, it should motivate us to make believing prayer one of the first priorities we do at the beginning of each day. Loyalty of heart, not elequince in prayer, is the key to success in Gods eyes.
6. Keep in mind: Circumstances do not dictate your Character; they reveal it, and they become an opportunity to refine it. When potential Bible Teachers learn that lesson, and live it, they are well on their way to being the kind of Leaders that can turn a Church around.
7. Let us Press on toward the goal unto the PRIZE of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. And if in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you: only, whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk: (Philippians 3: 14-16, R.V.).]