Advent Testimony Address
Address by Preb. H. E. Fox, M.A.
“That all human schemes of reconstruction must be subsidiary to the Second Coming of the Lord, because all nations will then be subject to His rule.”
In dealing with the subject entrusted to me I shall assume that the Second Coming of the Lord is that which He promised in His last discourse with His disciples: “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 ” (St. John 14 v 3). I shall also assume that the primary incident of this Coming is described in 1 Thess. 4 v 16, where it is said that” The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and 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.” This is also mentioned in 1 Cor. 15 v 52.
The False Messiah
So the epoch of the Church on earth will come to an end. A false Christendom will enthrall the world. There will be reconstructions, but of a terrible kind. A confederacy of the nations will be ruled by an autocrat endowed with Satanic powers, who will seek to extinguish every trace of the worship of the true God and will put himself in the place of Christ. Descriptions of these dark days and this fearful being are given in 2 Thess. 2 and in the 13th and following chapters of the Revelation. The tyrant will be the bitter foe of the Hebrew people, who will then have returned wholly or in part, but still in unbelief, to occupy the land given by God to Abram and his race by a covenant which has never been revoked and the title deeds of which are in every Bible. The Jews will have re-occupied Jerusalem and rebuilt their temple. The false Messiah will have gathered the armies of the world against the Holy City. But in Israel’s extremity the Redeemer will come to Zion, as both Isaiah and St. Paul foretold. The enemy will be overwhelmed in the greatest battle which has ever been known, and then will be fulfilled to the minutest detail that wonderful scene of recognition, repentance, and restoration foretold by Zechariah.
The Son of David will reign in David's City over the world. Jerusalem will be the centre of government and worship.
There will be reconstructions, but by other hands and on other lines than the world has ever dreamed. Evil will not be extinct, but good will prevail. Even the warfare of nature will cease, and the very beasts of prey will be tamed. It will be a reign of righteousness and piety which will draw men together in drawing them to God. And so the old covenant promise will have its complete fulfilment, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” But even this sublime reconstruction will come to an end, and for the last time mankind will be tested and found wanting. Though for a thousand years “the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ,” human nature will be the same. No sooner is Satan loosed than the nations are again deceived by him, and again are, gathered to besiege “the beloved city” (Rev. 20 v 7-12). But again they will be destroyed. Reconstructions will then be over. The great Judgment will be held, and “before the face of Him that sat on the throne the earth and the heaven fled away.” It will be over “a new heaven and a new earth” that the Lord shall reign for ever and ever. Yet how naturally in this our age, where Satan is still a “prince,” rises the human cry for reconstruction. The past three and a-half years have shaken the nations as never before. The unsettlement at the time of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars in our fathers’ days seems small indeed beside that of the present time. With startling swiftness the old order is changing, and everywhere men are clamouring for the new, forgetful, too often, of the sublime word of Him Who says, “ I am the Lord, I change not - therefore ye ... are not consumed” (Mal. 3 v 6). From the days of Babel men have been constantly reconstructing, and because they have done this mostly for their own objects and in their own ways, without giving heed to God’s purposes and plans, the history of the human race is strewn with ruined reconstructions, and all the more as advancing knowledge of the material, but ever-changing things of this world, obscures the vision of the eternal things which are only seen by the eye of faith.
Apostasy of the Last Days
The prophetic glimpses of the last days given both by our Lord and His apostles seem to point to conditions in which restless anxiety seeks relief from some man-made remedy. We are told that the faith of many will be shaken and their love grow cold. The Kingdom of Heaven will seem so far away as to have become almost a name that has no meaning. Teachers of spurious religions or of a diluted Christianity will attract by novelty and skill too many willing followers. Formalities of the old faith may exist and even be multiplied, but they will have no sanctifying power. Science and scholarship which have abolished Jonah and Daniel will listen to no New Testament warnings of a coming crisis. The very suggestion of such a break of continuity in the course of nature will be met, as St. Peter tells us, by unbelief and scorn. Let me recall very briefly two of these graphic forecasts. The first is in 2 Tim. 4. It describes Christians who have grown impatient with old and, wholesome truth, “piling up” (to use the Apostle’s vigorous word) teacher on teacher, who will gratify their morbid imaginations and pander to their credulity with pleasant fictions. We recognise some of these forgeries under modern names. Theosophy (which belies its name), Christian Science (which is neither of Christ nor true Science), Spiritualism (for which St. Paul used a much severer term — 1 Tim. 4 v 1), and other delusions, the common characteristic of all being the rejection of Christ, sent from God as recorded in the Scriptures, and foretold as coming again to receive His redeemed and to judge the world. No servant of the Lord instructed in the Word can think for a moment of the possibility of reconstruction, having the smallest value from a Christianity which is practically denuded of Christ.
Let me take another picture, typical as well as prophetic, of the latter days of the Church on earth. It will be found in the concluding verses of Rev. 3. The letter to the Church of Laodicea is the last of a series where many devout students have seen the successive features of the period between the First and Second Comings. It is no strained fancy that notes resemblances which are more than coincidences, and sees warnings for the present in the story of the past. The very title claimed by Him Who sends the message is significant. “These things saith the Amen the faithful and true witness, the beguiling of the creation of God.” It recalls His name in Messianic prophecy (Isa. 65 v 16, R.V.; 2 Cor. 1 v 20), and His own constant use of the word. It asserts the absolute veracity of His witness, declares His oneness with God, and insists on the very truths which are distorted or disparaged by many to-day. The character of the Church also resembles much with which we are familiar in our modern Christianity. Its affectation of wealth, whether intellectual or potential, which conceals its fatal ignorance and poverty; its miserable excuse for a cowardly and false moderation, which is torn to shreds by the terrible words of Him Who searches the secrets of all hearts. Yet Christ has still His own in Laodicea who can hear His voice. His call to them is not for reconstruction, but for repentance, He will even be the guest and then the host of each faithful servant; and when the conflict, which must come, is won, the Lord will exalt him to more than angelic honour. So, too, in our present day Laodicea, all is not dark. There are lamps which have not “gone out.” We have much to thank God for in the many witnesses who in various ways are true to Him. Even the awful war has revealed heroes and saints we had not known before; brave sons and devoted daughters of Britain who, for righteousness sake, have stood the terrible strain in the field, on the seas, and at home. We praise God for the example of sorrows nobly borne and sufferings endured without a murmur. These are facts not to be passed over as though they had no place in making for brighter and better days. But when we say this let us make sure that the “better England” for which we long means a nation with better faith in God and His Word better devotion to Christ for His saving grace, better fruits of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in us and shaping our lives, and not least, a better hope and expectation for the Coming of the Lord. If this be not our betterment, any reconstruction, admirable as it may seem to its designers, must surely, and perhaps more quickly, find the same end as all such human schemes have had in the past. But this does not alter the duty of the Lord’s people. Fellow-Christians may decline to see what seems so clear to us. Religious workers may find no place for Advent Testimony. Ministers may leave it out of their sermons or books, but those who love and look for the Appearing dare not be silent. The world may treat our warnings as it did those of Noah; we must be as fixed in our purpose as he was in his preparation. And there are reconstructions which we need to watch. They are many and of many sorts — national and political readjustments; Leagues and Alliances; the rebuilding of commercial interests; the settlement of our Industrial difficulties; Educational developments; and, not least, standards of social morality. All these may be carried out with consummate skill, but with no hope of stability or success if the one vital factor of permanence be left out.
This is the more true in regard to our religious life. Men are talking of reconstructed Churches and a reconstructed Christianity. Some are even offering us a reconstructed Bible. All this is the product of the modern mind, with its new lights and new visions outside, and sometimes far away from, the revelation of God. Apparently these reconstuctors do not dream that all they have contrived may be swept away at any moment as surely as the sand castles of children by a swift-flowing tide. By all means let the Churches reform their constitutions. By all means let Christian work be organized for greater efficiency. By all means, and especially, let schemes for denominational fellowship be developed. But if even these are to succeed, if they are to endure, it can only be if God’s methods and God’s aims are kept in the forefront. Christ's Kingdom is not of this world; yea He prays that His disciples, while in the world, may be kept from its evil, its evil ways, and its evil ends. His purpose is to take out of it a consecrated people for Himself, who will share His throne throughout eternity. What reconstruction can have His blessing that neglects His ideals? If there are servants in His household who say, “the Lord delayeth His coming” or even forget that He is coming, this should only increase the responsibility of their fellow-servants for more earnest witness and more constant watching. Let the testimony, both by word and life, of every loyal Christian show that he is ready for his Lord, whether “at even or midnight, at the cock- crowing or in the morning.”
Some one is said to have asked John Wesley how he would wish to be found by his coming Lord; whether on his knees in prayer or in some special act of sacred service. The reply was that his only desire was to be always ready, doing whatever was his proper business, in its proper place and time, awake or asleep, at the time when it should please his Lord to come. Such a spirit is the best preparation for ourselves and the best witness to others. May our God grant that these meetings shall kindle Advent expectations, and give an Advent attitude and Advent Testimony to multitudes far beyond the number of those who have gathered here, and that the heavenly hosts, who have perhaps been nearer to us to-day than we knew, may have a multiplied joy when, with their Lord and ours, they meet His redeemed people in the air and conduct them to the eternal mansions prepared for before the foundation of the world.