Preface to Fourth Edition
So rapid have been the changes, and so markedly has the way been prepared for the predicted end of the age, since this booklet was first published in 1914, that it has been thought wise to bring it more nearly up-to-date by adding considerable new matter and making a few revisions. None of the latter have in the slightest degree modified the views originally set forth, as every passing year has but convinced the writer of the certainty of the prophetic program as revealed in the Word of God and confirmed by the signs of the times.
—H. A. Ironside. June, 1928
The day has passed when writers or preachers need to tender an apology for calling attention to the supremely important subject of the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only the wilfully blind and culpably ignorant can fail to discern the signs of the times that so clearly indicate the approaching return of Him for whom saints in all ages since His ascension have earnestly yearned.
It was once the fashion to scoffingly refer to pre-millennial teachers as “visionary enthusiasts” and “rank pessimists,” when they declared that the coming of the King, and not humanitarian agencies, would alone bring in the reign of peace on earth predicted by the angel host. But the pessimists are now on the other side. The frightful European convulsion has caused a wail to rise from thousands once given to lauding the achievements of civilization and the evolutionary progress of the race. The so-called Christian nations, whether Romanist, Greek or Protestant, have proven to be only veneered barbarians, and the conditions predicted to prevail immediately before the coming of the Son of Man are rapidly being developed. The seals of the roll taken by the Lamb have not yet been broken, but little discernment is needed to see that few changes will be necessary to prepare the world for the riders on the four horses and the shaking of all things terrestrial. Therefore the need of sounding out with all faithfulness, in the little time that remains, the awakening midnight cry:
“Behold, the Bridegroom Cometh;
Go Ye Out to Meet Him!”
It is late—midnight is already past. The dark hours preceding the shining forth of the Morning Star are upon us. Lamps must be trimmed and provided with oil now, or it will shortly be too late to go in with Him to the wedding. To rouse the sleepers is the object of this paper. May God speed the message and bless the present truth!
It is late in the dispensation, so late that everything else pales into insignificance before the great blazing fact of all facts that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” To all His own the cry rings out in power:
“Awake, Thou That Sleepest!”
The Lord Jesus spoke of ten virgins who went forth to meet the Bridegroom. It depicted the early days of the Church’s history, when love was warm and saints longed to behold His face once marred for them on Calvary’s tree—now shining with a radiance brighter than the mid-day sun. Wherever apostolic preachers went they carried the good news, not alone of a Saviour who had come in grace, and in deepest humiliation had suffered and died, the Just for the unjust, to bring men to God, but they also declared in language unmistakable and with solemn assurance that the once-Crucified was coming again, coming to summon His own to Himself above, and take them in to the Father’s house; then, with all His redeemed, to appear visibly before an astonished world and, putting down all other rule, to take His great power and reign.
The Old Testament had predicted the sufferings and the following glory of Him who was to be Israel’s Messiah, and a Redeemer for the whole world. Apostolic preaching was based on these two great pillars of divine revelation. He had come to suffer. He was coming again to bring in the glory! And so, the Christian company, like virgins waiting the call to go in to the marriage-feast in the Bridegroom’s train, turned their expectant faces toward the glory-gate, longing for their Lord’s return.
But days, and months, and years slipped by. The expected One had not forgotten. He did not willingly delay His coming, but His heart yearned over others who had not yet found eternal blessing through His sufferings; and because He was “not willing that any should perish,” He waited in mercy till many more might be saved. It was right to look for Him daily; but it was wrong to assume that He must come in any particular generation. And here the virgins failed. They strained their eyes for One whose face they did not see; they yearned for One who seemed to disappoint their hopes; then they took their ease, gave up the waiting attitude and slept among the dead. And while they slept, they dreamed. The dreams were strange and wonderful, but far different from the reality their waking eyes had looked upon.
The whole professing Church seemed lulled to slumber as by the devil’s opiates. And then it was they dreamed of a converted world, and of a millennium brought in by human agencies, which drove from the mind and heart the truth that earth’s only hope was in the Coming One.
Fitful was the slumber at times; deep and heavy the sleep at others, as through the long night the professing Church dreamed on. But at the mystic midnight hour a Voice broke in upon the drowsing virgin company that roused them from their visionary deceptions, and startled them to preparation for the forgotten One they had gone out to meet. It was the cry, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!” And loud it swells, and louder, waking every sleeping saint—yea, and arousing some who only have a name, and many more who have not even that!
To-day the loudest voice on earth is that of the announcer of the coming Christ! Everywhere the midnight cry is sounding out, bringing with it solemn responsibilities, and causing many hearts to fail with fear, while others are filled with joy. It has been heard in the cannon’s roar and the rattling musketry-fire on scores of battlefields. It sounds in the swelling tumult and wordy war of capital and labor. It cries aloud in Christendom’s widespread apostasy, to turn from fables that suit itching ears unto the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It rings out in power in the great awakening among Christians in all lands, stirring them to Bible study and calling to preparation of heart and life in view of the Bridegroom’s coming. Israel too, unknowingly, are helping to shout the warning, yet joyful announcement, that “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh!” The “fig-tree” of Judah, and “all the trees” of the Gentile nations, are putting forth their green boughs declaring that summer is nigh.
It is in view of all this that I would solemnly challenge my reader: What will the Lord’s personal coming mean to you? Do you know that One who is coming, or are you still a stranger to the long-promised Deliverer of this groaning creation? His advent draws on apace—“Yet a very, very little while, and the Coming One will come and shall not tarry.” And you, how does such news as this affect you? If redeemed to God by the precious atoning blood, if saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, you may well leap for joy at the very thought of soon beholding your Saviour’s face. But if still in your sins, still “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity,” it is high time that you be awakened to the seriousness of your condition. For, whether you are ready to meet Him or not, He is coming again, and His advent will mean fulness of blessing for His own, but unmitigated wrath for those who have trampled upon the offers of His grace.
Reader, awake! Open your eyes, unstop your ears; arouse yourself while yet there remains a moment of mercy. The midnight cry rings loud and clear:
“Behold, the Bridegroom Cometh!
Go Ye Out to Meet Him.”
But on every hand is also heard the voice of the scoffer and objector. The unfaithful servant shuts his eyes to the most manifest signs of the times, and cries, “My Lord delayeth His coming.” The unbelieving scorner asks ironically, “Watchman, what of the night?” and tarries not for the answer, “The morning cometh, and also the night!” The scornful cynic exclaims: “Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation!” But he is wilfully and culpably ignorant of the solemn fact that all things do not continue as they were, for changes of vast import and momentous consequences are taking place—politically, religiously, and even physically, in the earth beneath and the heavens above. Even earnest Christians are not wanting who ask, hesitatingly perhaps, but none the less unbelievingly, “What special reasons are there for expecting the Lord Jesus now, which have not always existed since He ascended to heaven? The apostolic band and believers in the earliest period were all looking for His return. Yet He came not, and long centuries have since elapsed. What evidence is there that now His advent is so nigh, and that there may not be as long a time yet to elapse ere He comes back than has already passed?”
We admit the reasonableness of the queries, while grieved at the latent unbelief they manifest. To answer them is the writer’s present design, and in order to do so there are a large number of scriptures relating to the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church of God, which it will be necessary to examine. To take them up in their inverse order may be most helpful at the present time, so we shall first of all inquire, What can be gleaned from the past history of, and present conditions prevailing in the Church of God that would indicate the soon closing-up of the present age and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?