Chapter 9 "I Will Come Again, and Receive You Unto Myself."

John 14:3

Our God is “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13), and the hope that He sets before His people is ever worthy of Himself. We have seen how all the hopes of Israel centre in Christ—the “seed of David,” the “seed of Abraham,” the “seed of the woman.” Though meantime rejected by them, apart from Him, their Messiah, they have no hope or portion on earth; and the very cutting off by death, in which this hope might seem to have been quenched, has become, through the mighty power of God in raising Him from the dead, the basis and assurance of the fulfilment of every mercy that God has promised to the nation.

“As concerning that He raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, He said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.” (Acts 13:34.) The seed of David is raised from the dead (2 Tim. 2:8), and as such shall inherit the throne of Israel. The seed of Abraham is raised from the dead, and in Him shall all the families of the earth be blessed. The seed of the woman is raised from the dead, and, according to the ancient word of God, He shall bruise the serpent’s head.

Such are the dignities that belong to Him as Son of man, but higher and more glorious still are His place and portion as the Son of God. As such His home is in the highest heaven—the Father’s house—His rest the bosom of God. Thither has He ascended, not as a stranger from earth, but as an absent one returned to the glory and the love wherein He dwelt before the foundation of the world. (John 17:5, 24.) But, though meantime we may say He is there alone, He has gone in the double character of representative and forerunner of His people. “Whilst, through infirmity and weakness, beset with temptation, oftentimes failing and sinning here, He represents us there before the face of God as the High Priest did of old with the names of the tribes upon the breastplate, and holiness to the Lord upon the mitre, His own most precious blood maintains our place of acceptance and way of access into the presence of God as worshippers.

But He is also there as a “forerunner”—as such He has gone, according to His own word, to prepare a place for us, and then to come again and receive us to Himself. (John 14:2, 3.)

It is for this hour that we are taught by the Spirit to wait and to be ever in readiness—at once the end of our trial and conflict, and the consummation of our joy and glory—the spoiling of death, and the grave, and Satan, of their prey, and the crowning triumph of the Lord Jesus.

Prior to this—the return of the Lord for His Church— we have no intimation that any event must necessarily take place. Indeed the language used in reference to this —the hope set before us—is not at all consistent with the theory that an extended course of prophetic events must first be fulfilled.

It does not seem that, after the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, in any case (with the one exception of Peter,2 whose death and the manner of it were foretold, 2 Peter 1:14) the writers of the epistles anticipated death otherwise than as a mere possibility.

Their immediate prospect is the coming of the Lord; death is never contemplated as a necessity, not even as a probability.

Thus, when the Lord, in answer to Peter’s inquiry regarding John, said, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” no one ever dreamt that Christ’s coming meant John’s departure by death. Immediately the saying went abroad that “that disciple should not die.”

Again, where the apostle Paul is referring to the coming of the Lord, he uses the third person in relation to the saints who should have fallen asleep, and the first person in relation to those who should be alive at His coming. Thus, in 1 Thess. 4:15, “We who are alive and remain— them which are asleep.” Again, in 1 Cor. 15:52, “The dead shall be raised, and we shall be changed;” clearly showing that Paul regarded it at that time as quite possible that he might remain unto the coming of the Lord, and consequently never die, but be “changed.”

Moreover, such expressions as, “To wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:10); “From whence also we look for the Saviour” (Phil. 3:20); “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13); “Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7); “That we may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10); “Preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23), show very conclusively to a mind unbiassed by a preconceived theory, that neither death, nor the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, was, in Scripture times, regarded as of necessity to precede the coming of the Lord.

But, in opposition to this view, it has been urged that the second epistle to the Thessalonians was written to correct the mistaken impression of the Thessalonian saints, that the Lord’s return was imminent, and to show that certain events, involving the expiry of a considerable period of time, mast first take place. But is this really the teaching of 2 Thessalonians? Is the “day of Christ” of 2 Thess. 2 the same as the coming of the Lord of 1 Thess. 4? Is not the one a hope of unalloyed blessedness, and the other a prospect of great dreadfulness ] Is not the one that by which they were to be comforted, and the other that which they could not but exceedingly fear? How then can the “coming of the Lord” and the “day of Christ” be one and the same event?

But in order to a right understanding of this chapter, it is necessary to observe that the word in verse 2, rendered “at hand,” ought, as all the best critics agree, to be rendered “present.” It is thus translated in Rom. 8:38; 1 Cor. 3:22; and Gal. 1:4, and undoubtedly has this signification here also.

Evidently they had been troubled and shaken in mind by some deceiver, who, personating the apostle, had sent them word, or written to them, that they were actually in “the day of Christ,” and that consequently, instead of being caught up to meet the Lord as they had been taught to hope, they were left to pass through the unprecedented tribulation and anguish of that day.

The “day of the Lord” is an expression often used in the Old Testament, and by reference to the Scriptures where it occurs, it will be seen at once what reason they had to fear being left on earth to pass through that period. (See Isa. 2:12-22; 13:6; Joel 1:15; 2:1-3; Zeph. 1:14-18; Amos 5:18-20.)

To reassure their hearts, and confirm them in the hope that from the first they had cherished, was the real object of the second epistle.

There the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto Him is distinctly marked off from the course of events necessarily to precede the day of Christ. That day would not come until many things had taken place, but the Lord might come and they be gathered to Him in the air at any moment.

Such is still the attitude in which the saints are called to stand, a waiting, watching, expectant people, longing for the shout that shall summon them aloft to be “for ever with the Lord.”

2 And perhaps also at the very close of his ministry the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 4:6.)