Things Which Are Surely Believed Among Us --Part 11

Things Which Are Surely Believed Among Us
Part 11

E. W. Rogers

The phrase, “Things which are most surely believed among us” is to be interpreted in no sectarian sense. “Food for the Flock” does not foster sectarianism. The phrase has been extracted from Luke 1:1, and, in using it as a caption for a series of articles touching our Faith, we wish to imply that those responsible for the production of the magazine unreservedly believe all that is contained in “the Scriptures of Truth,” and they write for that large body of Christians who share their like faith. All over the world, and at all times, God has those who like Paul say, “I believe God.”

Seeing that our beliefs are based on Holy Scripture, it follows that we should first consider the nature of those Scriptures, in order to satisfy ourselves that our faith is well-founded. Our eleventh paper, therefore, will relate to…

The Hope

Though we speak of the “things touching the Hope of the Church most surely believed among us,” yet there is much discord. This is regret-able and ought not to be. It largely springs from having pre-conceived notions, a refusal to accept further light, and a failure to be both consitent and logical in interpreting the Scriptures. If we ignore the context of a passage, we shall surely go astray in deciding its meaning.

We cannot in an article of this character go into all the details of the coming of our Lord Jesus, but one thing is crystal clear, and that is, that He will return bodily and visibly. “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11). That was said to believing Jews. That was said before the Church, the body of Christ, was formed. That was said as to His coming back to earth, for He went from earth. No time was indicated, but it was in perfect accord with Zechariah 14:4. “His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east.”

The Old Testament Scriptures abound with, and some New Testament Scriptures refer to details as to conditions on earth when this will take place. In fact, one has only to read the first three verses of Zechariah 14 to have an idea of those conditions. It is a complete mistake to spiritualize what the Spirit of God has stated so plainly and lucidly. One may glean practical lessons, as we should from all God’s past and future dealings with men, but in determining the meaning of any passage regard must be had to what is said, not to what we apply it to ourselves or to others.

There are two sets of truths in the New Testament which have been briefly stated as Christ’s coming FOR His people first and thereafter His coming WITH His people. This, perhaps, is all right in general though it needs amplification.

In John 14:3 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14 ff we are clearly told that the Lord Jesus will come for His own. He will take them away from earth to the Father’s house. He will come for their blessing and the consummation of all their hopes. It will result in the resurrection of the sleeping saints and the transformation of the living ones. It is altogether unheralded by time-marks or sign-marks. This is the present hope of the Church. We should be watching daily for His return. Nothing must of necessity transpire, so far as Scripture states, before He thus comes. It is the believer’s ever present hope, and for that reason no directions are given him in the Epistles as to how he should act either in view of death or in view of the unprecedented trouble that is to come on the earth. His hope is that he is looking for a Saviour from Heaven who will transform his body of humiliation that it may be fashioned like unto His body of glory (Phil. 3:21).

This seems to have escaped the attention of the saints for many centuries: they had no understanding, it would appear, of the distinctive hope that is theirs, distinct from that of the Jewish people who will yet be taken up by God again.

If we fail to perceive the peculiar hope of the Church as being that of Christ’s coming for the saints, we shall find ourselves in a maze of difficulties from which we shall find it impossible to extricate ourselves. For example, in Matthew 24 there is not a word about His coming for the saints but rather His coming to earth, to initiate judgments on sinners. It will be preceded by unequalled and unprecedented tribulation so that life will hardly be worth living. The Olivet discourse recorded in Matthew 24 is time-marked, and sign-marked, as will be apparent to any who carefully read the whole chapter.

When the Lord comes for His saints it will be for their blessing. But when He comes with them (as Col. 3:3 and Rev. 19 clearly show He will) it will be for judgment on men on earth. When He comes for His saints, He meets them in the air. When He comes with them, He comes to earth. When He comes for them, one person will be taken for heavenly blessing and the other left for judgment later. But when He comes to earth and introduces His judgments, one will be taken away by judgment and the other will be left for millennial blessing.

This is not propounding a theory: we are not entitled to do this. But let the reader soberly read the chapters that relate to these things and he will find that what we say is incontrovertible. All we plead for is that he should read having regard to the context, and interpret consistently. He should not import into the passages pre-conceived notions.

The writer begs leave to refer the reader to two recently published books —”Jesus the Christ” which is a survey of Matthew’s Gospel, and this deals with the coming of the Lord to earth. Also “Concerning the future” which, among other things, deals with His coming for His saints to the air. Plainly all that is said in them cannot be condensed into this article.

We wish that we could say that this is one of the things that is most surely believed by us. But Satan has, of late, brought in a spate of strange ideas which are bewildering God’s people.

We freely admit that we dare not build doctrine on the Old Testament histories, but surely they are pictorial methods of teaching the ways of God, and when we see the New Testament statements illustrated in the Old, Testament we must reach the conclusion that God has recorded the history in order to confirm our faith.

What shall we say of Asenath united in martial bonds to Joseph who was in power and glory, whilst his own brethren (figure of the Jew) were in affliction? Or of Zipporah, united to Moses in marriage whilst his own brethren were in affliction in Egypt? Or of those who had a preview of the hidden king Jehoash, and who later were with the king when he came forth? They lose much who fail to discern the purposed ways of God in times yet to come from these records.

As we have said, judgment for earth follows the coming back to earth of its rightful King. But there are other judgments. It is a mistake to bunch them all together as though they all took place simultaneously. Before the judgment of the nations on earth of which Matthew 25 speaks, the Judgment-seat of Christ at which all those who have been caught away will appear, will have taken place. For they will be in possession of their kingdom-rewards when they return with the King. Read for example Luke 19:17. After the Judgment seat will be the Judgment of the nations: and a millennium (or more) after that there will be the Judgment of the Great White throne at which all the lost will appear (Rev. 20). Both the judgment of the nations and that of the Great White Throne result in eternal punishment (see Matt. 25:46 and Rev. 20:15). The Scriptures nowhere envisage the complete annihilation of the being of any man. He is an eternally existent creature to spend eternity in either one of two places.

And here we may take advantage of saying that the record of the rich man Lazarus given in Luke 16:19ff gives the lie to a vast number of heresies abroad today. It denies universalism, for one was saved and one was lost. It denies a second chance, for an impassable gulf was fixed. It denies sleep of the soul, for each was conscious of his state. It denies non-eternal punishment for there is no question of the cessation of either condition. It denies conditional immortality — for each was eternal in existence unconditionally. It denies Spiritism for it was impossible for anyone from the regions of the dead to go to those alive on earth. It denies purgatory, for the punishment was not remedial, it was consequential on the life lived on earth and was punitive.

A careful reading of Matthew 25 will show that the Judgment of the nations on earth differs in material respects from the final judgment of the Great White Throne. There will be those who are left to enter millennial blessing on earth. God has determined to vindicate and honour His Son in the very place where He was so grossly dishonoured and refused His rights. The result of that will be that the nation of Israel will be restored and re-instated: they will be repentant and regenerated. We must not suppose that God intends to bless the Jew as he is now in his unregenerate and anti-Christian state. He will be taken through the fires of persecution, and the vail wilt be taken off from his heart and when that vail of unbelief is removed his confessional lament will be Isaiah 53.

He will then be made the head of all the nations, and in Christ and in His people all the other nations will be blessed.

Moreover, the creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption and brought into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God (Rom. 8:21). This explains such passages as Isaiah 11 and 65 in which we have poetically set forth the wondrous changes that will be wrought on the earth and the animal creation. Although it is poetry it does not lack literal reality. It is inconsistent to interpret certain parts literally and other parts otherwise.

God intends to purge this world of all that offends and to make it the scene of the displayed glory of His Son, and associated with Him His redeemed people. It will then be not only to the “praise of the glory of His grace” but also to “The praise of His glory.” It will display to all the vast universe of principalities and powers, mights and dominions what God is: He will be known by His doings.

And so we bring this series to a close. These are the things that we believe. We cannot explain them but we believe them. They fill us with joy and peace and hope.