THE FUTURIST VIEW
presented by the Rev. T.M. BAMBER
( from The Life of Faith magazine, 23rd May 1957 )
INTELLECTUAL climates change continually. Why they have such authority while they last, it is difficult to understand. Certainly in recent decades the religious outlook on our Lord’s return has changed. It is only fair to tell the present generation of younger believers that at the end of the first world war some religious leaders were affirming confidently that that war would be the end of all war. The people had seen the horror of what was then described as “modern weapons,” and never again would they consent to such butchery. On the contrary, we were facing the era of the brotherhood of man, and the League of Nations was the one hope of peace in the world.
Facile Optimism Exposed
Since then we have had another war much more terrifying than the previous one. Now we stand on the brink of a holocaust in which we are assured that Britain could be blotted out. At least we can thank God that the facile optimism broadcast to the people, without divine authority, has been exposed for the falsity that it was; for hope for the world remaining in its sin has never been declared with divine authority.
Had these people seriously studied the prophetic word of Scripture they would never have been lured to assume that sincere desires were necessarily the reflection of the divine purpose. There have been, and are, extravagant interpretations of the prophetic Scriptures: but that fact must not influence our attitude. There are equally extravagant interpretations of the ministry and the ordinances, but that obliges every true disciple of the Lord to a closer and more spiritual study of the Word of God.
When the matter is fairly examined, however, it is clear that no Christian can face the challenge of today and the forebodings concerning tomorrow with any vital confidence unless he study the prophetic word.
The religious world of today is in the hopeless condition of Shiloh in the days of Eli. There is no word from God. We are as pitiable as Eli when he realized that ‘God was passing him by and disclosing His mind to a mere youth. It is the word from God we need today.
It seems incredible that Christians should assume that Britain must be governed by the Conservatives, Labour or, if they can save their deposits, the Liberals. Has God no policy of His own? Was the blood of Christ shed without relation to a policy and a purpose? Of course God has a policy, and every true servant of God is to expound that policy, and none other. In the light of the historic fact of redemption, the mystical experience of his own heart and the unveiling of the purpose of God through all eternity, he is to know and proclaim the day of the Lord!
Amos laid down a basic principle when he declared: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). God’s method, therefore, is first the revelation to His people, and then the action and the event. The man of the world and the carnal Christian are governed by events as they happen. Their minds are retarded by the newspapers. God does not intend that any day shall overtake the believer as it overtakes the world in its darkness. The two on the road to Emmaus were looking at events without looking at their Bibles, and in consequence the Cross and the resurrection were occasions of grief and perplexity. They did not realize that the method of God is revelation, first to prepare the mind to focus prayer and determine conduct before the event comes to manifestation. Even so our Lord had no hesitation in telling them what they were foolish and slow of heart. What He would say to the present generation of official Christendom must be left to the imagination!
Having reproved the two travellers, He proceeded to open the Scriptures in relation to Himself. He placed Himself in the centre of prophecy, and by the end of the journey their hearts were burning, their tears and sorrow were gone, and with extra ordinary zeal they returned to Jerusalem to arouse their friends. The prophetic understanding of the Scriptures transformed them. It is not a question of whether our Lord believed He would return. He never believed; He always knew! The many mansions are there, and He says so because He knows. Therefore it is not an opinion or a pious belief but a categorical revelation of the inescapable event when He declares, “I will come again.”
When our Lord will come we do not know. We believe there are “the signs of the times,” but their relative and ultimate significance cannot be precisely determined by one who is in the midst of them. We have His promise, “Behold I come quickly,” and therefore whatever may be the interpretation of the word “ quickly ” we understand that we are to be as those who wait for their Lord: for He may come at any moment. The generation that sees His glorious appearing will no doubt see how precisely and exactly it merges with all other circumstances, but in the mean time we are to be ever watchful.
Signs of the Times
Of the signs of the times relative to His appearing there is indication of grievous distress. Jeremiah calls it the time of Jacob’s trouble. Daniel declares it to be a time of trial such as never was nor ever again shall be. Our Lord calls it the tribulation, the great. It is equally certain that it has not yet happened, because it is an experience for the Jew out of which he will be saved. This fact is a pointer of considerable importance. It indicates that world affairs, as the time of the coming draws near, will find their centre of interest in Palestine; that God’s ancient people in their own land will suffer grievous persecution and trial, and their extermination as a people will seem to be inevitable until the situation is transformed by their being saved out of it.
This time of tribulation for the Jew will also be a time of trial, not possibly so intense but nevertheless serious, for the whole world. In the letter to the church at Philadelphia the promise is given to the overcomer of being kept from “ the hour’ of trial which shall come upon all the earth.” This trial therefore will be a bitter experience for all except those who are “kept.” How will the watchful believer be kept? He could be kept as Noah was in the flood, or as Abraham was preserved in the destruction of Sodom, or as “ righteous Lot” when he was pulled out! He could be kept as Elijah was in the time of scarcity. He could also be kept, as the Man-child is kept in Revelation from the fury of the dragon, by being raptured to heaven. The horizon of the believer is the hope of rapture, or resurrection to meet the Lord in the air.
The “air” is the region of the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now dominates the children of disobedience. The meeting of the redeemed with their Lord in the air will mean, among other things, the casting down of Satan to the earth, This casting down of Satan will have grievous results for the earth dwellers. Their picture of transient events will have been different. The Beast of Revelation 13 will have emerged as a world ruler of remarkable personality, solving the problems of men politically, economically and religiously. He will deal with the position of the Jew in Palestine, and negotiate a treaty which will seem to solve the middle-east problem.
If the “week” in Daniel 9 is, as many think, a period of seven years, then after three and a half years the treaty which protects Israel will be broken. No longer protected by treaty, Israel will be engulfed in the Great Tribulation. This struggle of blood involving many nations, if not all, will mean the decimation of the Jew: but the days will be shortened in mercy by the appearing of our Blessed Lord, whose feet shall stand on Mount Olivet. How easily then human power, even though it is reinforced by Satanic power, will be overcome, for our Lord will have come to present Himself to His people as their Messiah, to destroy the world dictator with the breath of His mouth, and to cast Satan into the abyss.
In one dramatic appearing the truth will be revealed that man in his sin is incapable of solving the problems of his sin; and that there is no hope of peace in the world while Satan, the prince of the power of the air, dominates the human race. Both of these truths are obscured by Christendom today.
This opens the way for the millennial reign of our Lord. From Revelation 20:2-3 it is usually assumed that there is to be a period of one thousand years in which the Lord shall reign over the earth. For our purpose the exact time is not so important as the fact itself. God has committed Himself by many promises to Abraham that have not yet been fulfilled. God has definitely committed Himself to the land, to the borders of it, and to the Ruler in righteousness whose identity with our Blessed Lord cannot be mistaken.
A passage such as the opening verse of Isaiah 2 or its parallel in Micah 4 cannot be misunderstood. If this is a picture for the imagination never intended to be real, then indeed we are faced with a problem. If it means that because of its sin Israel has forfeited for ever the enjoyment of these blessings, then how shall Christians stand in these days when, with far greater light, we are turning from the Word of God?
Our Lord declared that Jerusalem should not see Him again until the people should exclaim, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.” Did He mean they should never so see Him? On the day of Pentecost Peter declared that the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled. Peter was wrong by his own words, for there were and are predictions in that passage of Joel that were not fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. If, however, Pentecost was not intended to be the complete fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy, then Peter was right in drawing attention to it, thereby indicating that since that part of it was then being fulfilled we could with confidence anticipate the ultimate fulfilment of every word.
Our Lord, after His temptation in the wilderness, came to Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah. With infallible knowledge He read as far as “the acceptable year of the Lord,” which was then in His Person and Presence being fulfilled as He declared; but the rest of the prophecy concerning the day of vengeance belonged to a time we are yet to see.
When Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15, they declared to James and the others the things of God they had experienced. James recognized the spiritual authority of their word, and consented to it as being the fulfilment of the prophetic word. Some are of opinion that in so doing, quoting for example, Amos 9v11, James was declaring that the promises given to Israel were in actual fact being fulfilled in the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. The argument then appears to be, that because of unbelief Israel has been broken off, and God’s purpose is now realized in the calling of the Church from among the Gentiles; and that there is no place for any period which might be called millennial.
If this be a sound and right conclusion, then it does not seem that Paul agreed with it. Certainly there is nothing in Romans 11 to indicate that Paul shared the supposed view of James. In that chapter Paul teaches that because of their unbelief the natural branches of the olive were broken off, and the Gentile believers grafted in. He adds that if the natural branches were so dealt with, then the grafted branches should take heed. It is a solemn warning indeed, about which the average church member knows very little.
But Paul has a great word for Israel. The casting away of them did bring the wealth of the Gospel message to the Gentiles; and he argues that if their casting away should mean so much for the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead! If words mean anything, Paul believed that wonderful as had been the effect of the Gospel upon the Gentiles it will not compare with the blessing to the world when Israel is restored and reconciled to God and His Beloved Son, the Messiah. Blindness has happened to Israel, but not for ever. It is “until.”
“Fulness of the Gentiles”
Until when? Until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. The fulness of the Gentiles is the called-out elect company redeemed out of every nation and tongue, raptured and raised to its Lord. It is when the fulness of the Gentiles is come in that Israel shall see its Redeemer-Messiah at Olivet and shall exclaim, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord”; and it will then be that weapons of war shall be transformed, and the world will enter on its millennial bliss.
With such a glorious revelation the child of God may look with confidence beyond the limited purview of political speculation. As the days get darker the hope glows brighter. We can see man’s mismanagement of man writ large over human affairs today. It is clear that basically in our attitude to God we exalt the will and purpose of man without regard to the will and purpose of God. The only use for religion that the world has today is to accept the prayers of religious people for any plans and solutions of men whenever the world is in a difficult position.
Nobody would expect the Labour party to be praying for the Conservative Government, or vice versa, because each sincerely believes the policy of the other is fundamentally wrong. The enlightened Christian takes the same position, with added emphasis. He is sure that both are wrong! Man will never be right with man until man is right with God, and no man can be right with God until he is reconciled to God by the blood of His Son. It is the joy and privilege of all who look for the coming of the Lord, however much they may differ in their interpretation of the Word, to hail the day of His coming as the one and only hope for the universe. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!