The Second Advent
Mr. Andrew Borland, M.A., is the Editor of The Believer’s Magazine, published by John Ritchie Company, Kilmarnock, Scotland. This is the sixth and final article in the series. “The Second Advent.” We appreciate this excellent ministry and hope for further contributions by our brother.
It cannot be too frequently repeated that all God’s purposes centre on the Son. Before the incarnation, men instructed of God looked forward wistfully for the arrival of “the Seed of the Woman.” Abraham rejoiced to see His day, Moses wrote of Him, and to Him all the prophets gave witness. Since the incarnation and the return to Heaven of the risen Saviour, men have been looking forward to the establishment of the kingdom of God when “a king shall reign in righteousness.” but the hope is vague, and only partly comprehended, where there is no understanding of the declarations of the Bible.
The Epistle to Ephesians has a most explicit statement about God’s intention for the future. God has made known the mystery of His will … “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven and which are on earth, even in Him” (1:10). A corresponding statement is made in the end of chapter one. God raised Christ from the dead and “set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come, and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church” (Vs. 20-25).
Those statements should fill the believer’s mind with confidence and assurance. However perplexing and depressing passing events may appear, however chaotic men and nations seem to be, God cannot be diverted from His predetermined purpose. He has set His Son “Head over all things,” and He is working out His plan not in accordance with human conceptions of progress, but according to His own infinite wisdom and by His own infinite power. The universe is not drifting like a rudderless vessel in an uncharted sea; it has the divine Master in control, and will ultimately reach its destined goal. That will be at “the fulness of times.”
That God is working according to a definite time-plan is evident from a variety of expressions in the Bible.
“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son” (Gal. 4:4). History had been preparing for such an event, but it was history the events of which were under God’s control. It was “in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Christ “gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:6). It was in the end of the age that Christ appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:26). The advent and death of Christ were pre-arranged in the divine counsels, at “the fulness of the time.”
When our Lord was predicting the occupation of Jerusalem by alien forces, He determined the time-extent in these words: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). Backwards the times of the Gentiles take us to Nebuchadnezzar’s occupation of the city, and Jerusalem has been “trodden down” ever since. One foreign power after another has raised its flag over Mount Zion, and only within recent years has there been any semblance of Jewish rule again. Some think the occupancy of the whole city by Israeli forces is a presage of the end of the times of the Gentiles, and an indication that the present dispensation is running out toward its close.
“The fulness of the time” of which the text speaks projects us into the far distant future, how far it is impossible to tell. It relates to the purpose of God when Christ, the Son, who has been appointed Heir of all things comes into His own. “The kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ” (Rev. 11:15). God is the greater dispenser of events, and He will see to it that His plan for the honour of His Christ is worked out to its predetermined end. That “fulness of the times” takes us beyond the rapture of the Church, beyond the millennium and into the ages to come of which the Bible says little and about which it is unwise to speculate.
It is the divine intention that all things in Heaven and on Earth should be headed up in Christ. This ultimate totality is to be brought under Christ as Head … Thus will be brought to an end the discordances and confusions of earth … The broken unity is to be at last restored, and its restoration is to be effected through Christ — Even “the Saviour of the world” is not a great enough designation for Him: He is Saviour of the Universe. Thus the Heir of all things will enter into His heritage. Jews and Gentiles saved by grace are part of that heritage, “His inheritance of the saints” (Eph. 1:18). The Holy Spirit is the Guarantor of such blessing, for all who believe are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13).
Beyond the “fulness of the time” there lie “the ages to come,” for we read “that in the ages to come He (God) might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7). The extent of that limitless future baffles imagination. During those coming ages there will be displayed the exceeding riches of God’s grace in associating redeemed sinners with the glorified Heir of all things.
“Joyful now the new creation
Rests in undisturbed repose;
Blest in Jesus full salvation,
Sorrow now nor thraldom knows.”
Even beyond “the ages to come” the inspired Apostle carries the bewildered mind, for he writes, “Unto Him (God) be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21). The Revised Version renders those last words, “Unto all generations, for ever and ever.” Beyond that the mind cannot penetrate.
What a panoramic view the Epistle to Ephesians gives, from before the foundation of the world, through the other ages of past dispensations, into the present reign of grace, on to the fulness of the time, into ages to come which merge with all generations for ever and ever!
“This is our God forever and ever” (Psa. 48:14).