The Second Advent
Mr. Andrew Borland, M.A., is the Editor of The Believer’s Magazine, published by John Ritchie Company, Kilmarnock, Scotland. We strongly recommend that you give earnest attention to this article, the fifth of a series by this capable writer on the Second Advent of Christ.
What we have read in previous papers has much interest for us, but perhaps of even more interest are those passages in the Epistle to Ephesians which deal with the time now present. Consideration of such passages touches us most intimately because they reveal the purpose of God as it affects men and women living in the gospel dispensation. That dispensation was ushered in by the revelation given in the Son of God.
It should be of interest to notice the two distinct uses of the word “now” in this Epistle. Two different expressions are used in the original, one signifying the “deductive now,” the other the “dispensational now.” The former of these words is used when a logical conclusion is reached in the argument. One good example is as follows. In chapter two the Apostle has been at pains to describe to his Gentile readers the hopeless plight that they had been in before the grace of God transferred them from the place of distance to the near place in Christ. He concludes as he reaches the climax of his argument, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). That introductory word is a “deductive now,” leading to the statement which was to follow. The “dispensational now” is meant to indicate the contrast which exists between the present dispensation and the “other ages” which preceded.
The following are three occurences of that “now.” “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). In the present dispensation, Gentiles, as well as Jews, who believe, are reconciled to God by the sacrifice of Christ. The enmity has been slain, and both may sing:
“So near, so very near to God,
Nearer I cannot be,
For in the person of the Son
I am as near as He.”
To use words from Ephesians 1:7, they have both been made “accepted in the Beloved.” It is one of the surpassing glories of the gospel of this dispensation that it has a message which takes no cognizance of racial barriers or national aspirations. All who believe are “one in Christ Jesus.” That is the true ecumenical declaration, and it does not need a World Council of Churches to make an organizational attempt to prove its significance. Were the truth recognized, and simply followed, as in New Testament times, the need for human attempts to convince the world of unity would not be needed. Those of us who profess to have abandoned a denominational outlook, should be concerned lest we deny that unity of spirit by developing a sectarian attitude towards others and toward one another.
In Ephesians 3:5, Paul had written about his “knowledge in the mystery of Christ which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men,” and he asserts that “it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” It has been noted in a previous paper that “the mystery of Christ” refers to the nature of the Church into which have been incorporated Gentiles who believe. That is a truth which in other ages was not revealed, and we look in vain for it in the Old Testament.
The understanding of the mystery is attributed to the revelation which has been brought to men by the Holy Spirit. It is frequently asserted that it was to Paul exclusively that the revelation was given. He himself admits that the truth was made known to “holy apostles and prophets.” The apostles were the divinely appointed few who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection, and Paul as one “born out of due time,” was included in that number. The prophets were those men in the early Church, before the completion of the Canon of Scripture, who were capable of receiving from God and communicating to men, truths which had not been previously revealed in their finality.
Paul is the only writer of the New Testament who deals with the mystery of Christ, but the understanding of it was not limited to him. When the Canon of Scripture was completed, there was no need for prophets as media of communication. When they cease to function, their place was taken by “teachers” who were to be able to instruct others.
Paul, as the teacher of the unsearchable riches of Christ, states that it was his calling “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God who created all things by Christ Jesus, to the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:9-10).
How little do we realize how great is the interest of the invisible world in the progress which the gospel makes upon the earth! Principalities and powers from the vantage point of heavenly places witness more than dwellers on earth are aware. They see outworking itself among the nations “the manifold wisdom of God.” The word translated “manifold” has been variously rendered “many-hued,” “multi-coloured,” “variegated.” These words attempt to describe the magnificent display of the grace of God in redeeming out of “every kindred and tongue, and people, and nation” men and women who will in the ages yet to come fulfil the purpose of the divine programme. The New Society of redeemed men and women is the most wonderful exhibition of the beneficence of our God this Universe has witnessed.
That dispensational “now” covers all the present era of grace. Already it has run on uninterrupted until now since its inception on the day of Pentecost. How long it will continue has not been disclosed, and it is unwise to attempt to predict. It will terminate at the rapture when the united and completed Church will be presented before the presence of divine glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24).
What an honour it is to be living on the earth now, living in the middle one of the five great periods! For two thousand years the period has continued, and the instructed believers know the truth of the hymn:
“In Him it is ordained to raise
A temple to Jehovah’s praise,
Composed of all the saints who own
No Saviour, but the Living Stone.
“View the vast building, see it rise;
The work how great, the plan how wise!
O wondrous fabric, power unknown
That rests up on the Living Stone.”
There are evident practical issues for those who are blessed of God in the present dispensation. In the first place, the Epistle to the Ephesians insists that every individual in the New Society is part of the divine workmanship, and should show that he has been “created unto good works” (Chap. 2:10). In the second place, the individual is reminded that he is part of a community, “an holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22), and that he should walk worthy of the calling by which he has been called (Eph. 4:1).