Advent Testimony Address
Queen’s Hall London, Thursday Morning,
December 13th, 1917
The Rev. Preb. H.W. Webb-Peploe, M.A. (Presiding):
Fellow-members of the Body and, I trust, of the Bride of Christ:- It is indeed a matter for rejoicing to realise: that so many as are now gathered here before God are interested in the special subject now to be considered, and to think with holy hope and expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ may soon be among us, taking to Himself His Bride to be for ever with Him as her Lord, and that then, in the mercy and goodness of God, any that are really ready to welcome the Lord Jesus as their Bridegroom and their Master shall be “like Him,” because they “shall see Him as He is.”
Our One Great, Ceaseless Hope. This is the one great hope in which, I trust, everyone of us is now taking part in this Advent Movement. Once the question of our own salvation be settled in such a way that we can speak with holy confidence to God as our Father in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, and speak of the Saviour as our true Redeemer, Master, Friend, Keeper and Lord, and speak of the Holy Ghost as our true Comforter and Guide; then there is no one question, no one subject, no one thought, no one prospect or hope that can be so all-engaging and so all-satisfying to the soul as the thought which has brought us together now, viz., that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming to take unto Himself His own as His Bride, and it becomes all that “name the Name of Christ,” not only “to depart from iniquity,” but to be so ready to greet their lord that the one ceaseless hope and desire of their souls is this: “Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus; come quickly.”
It is an astounding fact, and would be incomprehensible, I think, were it not for the stubbornness of human nature under the power of Satan, that there have been in all my lifetime, at least, so very many who profess and call themselves by the Name of Christ, but yet never think practically, or with earnestness, of the fact that men are to expect the Lord Jesus Christ to return in the flesh, even according to the solemn words of the Angel recorded in Acts 1v11: “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” How any human being who professes to accept the Bible as a revelation from God Almighty can question the fact that the Lord is to return in human form, and to take His own to Himself that they may reign with Him in this world; or how there can be any who question whether the details of that fact and the surrounding circumstances put before us in God’s Word are to be studied, to be thought over, and to be accepted in every possible way that the Holy Ghost will enable us to apprehend them, one cannot understand. During a lifetime like my own I have known very few either of our own beloved Church or of the other Churches round about us, and so welcomed now as our brethren in Christ, who have really given themselves to the study of this subject, and who have come to a definite, solemn conclusion as to the things detailed in God’s Book concerning it.
The Bible as the Word of God.
We are here this morning — all of us, I hope - to affirm that we accept this blessed Book as the Word of God, from Gen. 1 to Rev. 22, and to affirm, that being a fact, that Almighty God, the God, the Fountain Head of creation, the God of wisdom and of knowledge and of everlasting glory, has Himself made this revelation to the children of men; and that He who came to be “God manifest in the flesh” has definitely said to all of us, in St. John 5 v 39, “Search the Scriptures: for in them ye think ye have eternal life.” How anybody who can study this Book and say it comes from God can ever have neglected this solemn subject, and not have desired, first, to speak of it, and, secondly, to look for the events that are foretold, I cannot apprehend. From my soul, after having had the privilege of sixty or more years’ study of the Bible, owing to the fact of being blessed with parents who thought it their delight to await the coming of the Lord. I can say here with humble gratitude that I have never been allowed to neglect or lay this subject aside, but have taken it, after my own salvation was secured, as the one hope, the joy of one’s heart, the great prospect that lies before us, to be perpetually looking up and saying, “Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus; come quickly,” and to hear Him saying, in reply, “Awake, watch, be ready; for ye know not in what hour the Son of Man shall come.” Let any man study the Saviour’s words, “Watch, and be ready,” and then ask himself, “For what?” Here is the answer: For the return of the Lord as the King of Glory, and as the Husband or Bridegroom of His beloved Church. Let any man study these things and then look up and say, “What does it mean for me?” The answer is clear: “Be ye holy, for I am holy; and be ye also ready at any moment, to rise and meet your Lord when He comes for His Bride.”
Those who have framed our syllabus have wisely, I think, in many ways given us separate headings as subjects for definite consideration, not only for this public gathering, but for private pondering as well, and for after-prayer and after-discussion, and for after-reception and action, if you find them to be according to God’s Holy Word. This morning we are called to consider the first three heads given to us in this syllabus. Very definite indeed are the statements made in them, one by one; and I ask, as chairman, that our brethren who speak will endeavour to keep to the points to which their special attention is called, and that we, looking together, in a prayerful spirit, into the first three of these heads this morning, may realise
- That the times of the Gentiles may indeed be considered to be now fulfilled;
- That our Lord’s coming may be expected humbly, hopefully, and earnestly at any moment; and
- That the completed Church, as it is called - some would differ as to the exact use of the word, whether we should say "the elect” or “select’” or “the Church as a whole” - are to be expecting the return of the Lord, and to be translated to be for ever with Him.
The Times of the Gentiles.
Taking head No.1, I ask whether all present have realised - without venturing to find particular dates or stating definitely what the words “months,” “weeks,” “day,” or “hour” may mean — that because times are found in God’s Word they must have some definite meaning for every one of us. If this is taken into consideration, I think we may easily agree that the times of the Gentiles must be almost, if not entirely, fulfilled. What, then, do we mean by "the times of the Gentiles”? Our answer is perfectly clear and simple. They are our Lord's own words, and you find them in St. Luke 21 v 24: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Now, putting the question in the simplest form, when can we commence the times of the Gentiles without entering too definitely upon the days and hours mentioned in Scripture? I think there is almost universal agreement that we are to look back and think of that time when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were both of them practically and entirely overthrown, and when the Gentiles took possession of Palestine and of the royal house of Jehoiakim. You are aware that from the year B.C. 599, or 598, or 597 there never has been a king of Israel and there never has been a king of Judah. When Nebuchadnezzar, in the reign of Jehoiakim — probably the third year — took Palestine entirely from the Jews, and Jerusalem as the capital thereof, he definitely broke to pieces the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Whatever we may think of other times and seasons, we cannot doubt that then there began what may be definitely called “the times of the Gentiles,” when they took real national power away from God's own people, Israel and Judah. From that time we think that we are to count onwards, so far as we may clearly gather from Scripture, as to the looked-for return of our Lord, and as to the coming of the glory of His kingdom. I speak tenderly and carefully about times and seasons, because I do not wish to dictate at all. But those who have most closely studied this subject are strongly of opinion that the “weeks” of Daniel must be taken as meaning years, which, added together, bring us through 2,520 years — up to when? To just about the decade or the year in which we are gathered together here in Queen’s Hall. It may be ten, or twenty, or forty years ahead, for the question is whether we are to think of what are known as solar years, with 3651/4 days in each; or of calendar years, with 360 days for a year; or of lunar years, with 354 days in each year. But whichever we take we cannot fail to come to this conclusion that if the times of the Gentiles were to be for the “seventy weeks,” and if we must take years for days, then we are brought to this — that somewhere about the present time the times of the Gentiles are indeed to be fulfilled. If that be so, then the question arises, Have we any right to believe that our Blessed Lord and Master is indeed coming ere long, and it might be today, or tomorrow, or any day soon? Think of all that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has said, and how He has told us,
“When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
In other places He says, solemnly, “Watch! If the goodman had known when the thief would come, he would have been on the watch-tower looking for him, and would not have admitted him into his home.” So He also says “Be ye ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”
The Signs of His Approach
Let us ask, then, what does He give us as signs of His approach? My time is short, and I am only speaking very briefly. But I ask you, if you have not done so, humbly and carefully to study St. Matt. 24 and 25, St. Mark 13, and St. Luke 21, and I defy any man who is honest and careful in such a research as this to lay aside the charge that our Lord Jesus Christ has given us to be ready about this very particular moment. I am quite aware that in Daniel 12 v 4, 9 we find definite orders to “seal up and close the book until the time of the end.” I am also quite aware that in Rev. 22 v 10 we are distinctly told, through St. John, not to seal or to close that book, for that “the time is at hand.” Putting the two together, we must come to this conclusion — that for a certain time from the days of Daniel things were to be hidden, and were kept secret by the will and determination of Almighty God. And I am equally justified in saying that from the time of the apostle St. John, with the revelation given to him in Patmos, we are told to think that “the time is at hand,” and that every day and hour men may lift up their heads and hopefully say, if they live to a certain particular time, “This is nigh unto the time mentioned by our Lord.” Take one by one the signs that our Saviour has given, and I ask whether you see them being fulfilled at the present moment? I am aware that each one alone might be said to have always been taking place, more or less. Again and again in my humble experience I have been scoffed at and mocked at for saying that this or that sign is worthy of note as being fulfilled. Many people have said, “You're a fool; these things have been always going on - wars, and rumours of wars, etc., etc.” Of course they have. But have they ever been such as they are today — together with, and besides novel heresies, the advance of the science and thought of man as against the power and the revealed Word of God? Of course there have always been some such things on the earth; but what of today as compared with the past? Other signs the Saviour mentions, such as earthquakes. I remember well Mr. Gladstone, a man of authority on many subjects, being reported as saying shortly before he was taken away — I do not give the exact words, but recall what I read in a paper: “More earthquakes have taken place; in the last twenty years of my life more earthquakes have been recorded than in all the registered history of the world preceding these years.” As you are aware, earthquakes have abounded in a remarkable way in our time. Other signs like those which the Saviour announced have surely been piled together as never before were thought of or seemed possible.
Turn now to the
Declarations and Teachings of St. Paul.
In the Epistles to the Thessalonians and to Timothy does he not in the most remarkable way bring out things to be expected, such as heresies, selfassertions, mental seditions, the unlifting of man as against God, novelties in regard to so-called religion, and in a way that cannot possibly be mistaken, as signs which would show that the Lord is at hand, and which are being strikingly fulfilled at the time in which we live? These prophecies were never so fulfilled as now. Pack them altogether, then, and, further, take such a text as St. Matt. 24 v 14: “The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” It has been my humble privilege to study the times we live in, and I think I may safely affirm that in the last eight or ten years the Gospel has been carried into the only nations that lay in utter darkness” without any knowledge of the Word of God. I may be slightly exaggerating; I do not think I am. I well remember when, a few years ago, the Llama of Thibet came from his stronghold and stayed for a time in Calcutta, and was so struck with what he saw of modern life that he welcomed business people into Thibet; and with them has gone the Gospel, and Thibet has in the last few years received the Gospel as never before. One other part of the world, and only one, I know that lay in darkness and the shadow of death, of heathenism, and barbarism, is the Sudan. Ten years ago Karl Kumm walked from Lagos to Khartum, a distance of 3,000 miles, and immediately afterwards I and a few others had the privilege of starting the Sudan United Mission, and have now sent in sixty to seventy © missionaries from the west side and eight or ten from the east side of Australian friends, and thus we are taking the Gospel across the 3,000 miles of the untouched Sudan. Where will you find any actual “nation” now in which the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has not been lifted up as a “witness“?
“Then shall the end come,”
and we are to be ready in a moment - for what? I care not whether your study has led you to take up what is known as the Preterist theory, which declares that everything in the book of the Revelation of St. John was fulfilled by A.D. 100; or whether you take up the Historicist point of view, and say that all through the ages, from the time of St. John, history has been unveiling the pages of the Revelation from chapter 4 to chapter 19; or whether you take the Futurist view, and say that by the removal of the Bride the Lord Jesus shall prepare for the world the awful details that we find in Rev. 4 to 19. Take which you will. I humbly think there is a shade of truth in them all. To make a play upon words, I have ventured to say that the Preterist view is “ment” (meant), the Historicist view “filment,” and the Futurist view “fulfilment.” If all these three views have some basis of truth in them, then what do representatives of each, as well-recognised students of Prophecy, tell us? They all agree that the time is at hand, that the Lord is coming, and that St. John, when he heard the Angel, i.e., the Saviour, say, “Behold, I come quickly,” was able to answer, as we should be ready to do, and say; “Amen! Even so, come, Lord Jesus; come quickly.”
It is to be
In a Single Moment
Take 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4 and put them together, and then let each of us say to himself, “ We shall not all sleep, but we shall hear the trump of the archangel. That voice shall be heard, and in a moment, the twinkling of an eye, our eternal future shall be fixed.” You may laugh if you think fit but I have dared to stand for a time before the looking-glass to see how long it really takes one to wink; and with a realisation of the instantaneous meaning of the words, and the pious and humble hope that one should indeed be ready, one can say that what the apostle means must be very wonderful. “In a moment; in the twinkling of an eye; at the last trump.” I would to God I had time to dwell upon “the last trump.” But whatever that may mean, we now know and should realise that in a moment the heavens shall be opened, and the Lord shall appear for His beloved, His own, His elect, His Bride, and shall lift her up to meet Him in the air. Then comes their glorious retirement for a little time, and the awful tribulation of those who are meantime upon the earth. Then the Lord descends, with His Bride at His side, to “take to Himself His great power and reign” over the earth. Are we ready? For at this very moment the Master might appear. Oh! to be able to say, “Thanks be unto God, I am with my Lord for ever! Pardon me if I have intruded too long or too much in detail, but I am here simply to say how I thank God for the holy privilege of being a partner in this work of preparing for Christ's Advent, a work than which none can be more blessed or holy; and for all who will join in it, we shall thank God most heartily; and rejoice to know that more and more of the Lord’s servants are really preparing for the coming of their Saviour.