At his first advent he came in a body of flesh prepared "for the suffering of death:" at his second advent he comes in glory (Mark 13:26) in his glorious body (Phil. 3:21), a spiritual body.1 Cor. 15:44-49.
But what is a spiritual body? What powers are theirs, and by what laws are they governed? We are here met by the objectionswe have no right to pry into the hidden things of Godand "Eye hath not seen, ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." To both of these propositions we assent, but believe we cannot find out by studying God's Word what he has not revealed; and our investigation will be confined to the Word. The above quotation of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:9) refers to the natural or carnal man, and by reading it, in connection with the three verses which follow, the objection vanishes; for, says the apostle, "God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit," which was given to us believersthe church"that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." And in the last clause of vs. 13, he gives us the rule by which we may know,viz., "Comparing spiritual things with spiritual." We [R261 : page 57] are very apt to change this rule, and compare spiritual things with natural, and thus get darkness instead of light. Let us now use the apostle's rule.
There is a spiritual body as well as a natural body; a heavenly, as well as an earthly body; a celestial as well as a terrestrial; a glory of the earthly, as well as of the heavenly. The glory of the earthly, as we have seen, was lost by the first Adam's sin, and is to be restored to the race by Jesus and his bride during the Millennial reign. The glory of the heavenly is as yet unseen, except as revealed to the spiritual, "new creatures"to the eyes of faith, by the Spirit, through the Word. They are distinct and separate.1 Cor. 15:38-48. We know what the natural, earthly, terrestrial body is, for we now have such; it is flesh, blood, and bones; for, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," and since there are two kinds of bodies, we know that the spiritual is not composed of flesh, blood, and bones, whatever it may be; it is a heavenly, celestial, spiritual body,"That which is born of the spirit is spirit." But of what material a spiritual body may be we know not, for "it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but...we shall be like him"Jesus.
Jesus was raised from the dead a spiritual body; this was his second birth. First born of the flesh a fleshly bodyfor, "as the children are now partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same."Heb. 2:14. He was "Put to death in the flesh, but quickened [made alive] by the Spirit." He was raised a spiritual body. He was the "first born from the dead," "the first- born among many brethren." The church are those brethren and will have a second birth of the same kind as his,i.e., to spiritual bodies by the resurrection, when we shall awake in his likenessbeing made "Like unto Christ's glorious body." But, this second birth must be preceded by a begetting of the spiritat conversionjust as surely as a birth of the flesh is preceded by a begetting of the [R261 : page 58] flesh. Begotten of the fleshborn of the fleshin the likeness of the first Adam, the earthly; begotten of the spiritin the resurrection born of the spirit, into the likeness of the heavenly. "As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." We may, then, by examining facts recorded of Christ, after his resurrection, and of angels, who are also spiritual bodies, gain general information with regard to spiritual bodies, thus "comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
First, then, angels can be, and frequently are, present, yet invisible. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that are his, and delivereth them;" and "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"Heb. 1:14. Are you begotten of the spirit, an heir of salvation? Then doubtless they have ministered to you. Have they ministered visibly or invisibly? Undoubtedly the latter. Elisha was surrounded by a host of Assyrians; his servant was fearful; Elisha prayed to the Lord, and the young man's eyes were opened, and he "saw the mountains round about Elisha full of chariots of fire and horsemen of fire" (or like fire). Again, while to Balaam the angel was invisible, the ass's eyes being opened saw him.
Second, angels can, and have appeared as men. The Lord and two angels so appeared to Abraham, who had a supper prepared for them, of which they ate. At first Abraham supposed them to be "three men," and it was not until they were about to go that he discovered one of them to be the Lord, and the other two angels, who afterward went down to Sodom and delivered Lot.Gen. 18:1. An angel appeared to Gideon as a man, but afterward made himself known. An angel appeared to Samson's mother and father; they thought him a man until he ascended up to heaven in the flame of the altar.Judges 13:20.
Third, spiritual bodies are glorious in their normal condition, and are frequently spoken of as glorious and bright. The countenance of the angel who rolled away the stone from the [R261 : page 59] sepulchre "was as the lightning." Daniel saw a glorious spiritual body, whose eyes were as lamps of fire, his countenance as the lightning, his arms and feet like in color to polished brass, his voice as the voice of a multitude; before him Daniel fell as a dead man.Daniel 10:6. John, on the Isle of Patmos, saw Christ's glorious body (Rev. 1:14), and describes the appearance in almost the same languageHis voice was as the sound of many waters, his eyes as lamps of fire, his feet like fine brass as it burns in a furnace (so bright that you can scarcely look at it). John falls at his feet as dead; but he said to him, fear not; "I am he that was dead; behold I am alive forevermore." Saul [R262 : page 59] of Tarsus saw Christ's glorious body. It shone above the brightness of the sun at noonday. Saul lost his sight and fell to the ground.
We have thus far found spiritual bodies truly glorious; yet, except by the opening of our eyes to see them, or their appearing in the flesh as men, they are invisible. This conclusion is further confirmed when we examine the more minute details connected with these manifestations. The Lord was seen of Saul alone, "they that journeyed with him...seeing no man."Acts 9:7. The men that were with Daniel did not see the glorious being he describes, but a great fear "fell on them, and they ran and hid themselves." Again, this same glorious being declares: (Daniel 10:13) "The prince of Persia withstood me one and twenty days." Daniel, the man greatly beloved of the Lord, falls as dead before this one whom Persia's prince withstands one and twenty days. How is this? Surely, he did not appear in glory to the prince. No; either he was invisibly present with him, or else
Jesus is a spiritual body since his resurrection. He was "raised a spiritual body," consequently the same powers which we find illustrated by angelsspiritual bodies, should be true also of him, and such was the case. If Jesus had revealed himself [R262 : page 60] to his disciples after his resurrection as the angel did to Daniel, the glory of the spiritual body would undoubtedly have been more than they, as earthly beings, could bear. They would probably have been so alarmed as to be unable to receive instructions. [We understand that the glorifying, spoken of was accomplished after he ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on High (Jno. 7:39), refers to the installation into the majesty of power. When the Scriptures speak of a glorious spiritual body, the glory, grandeur of the person is referred to, and not the glory of power or office.] During the forty days of his presence before ascension, he appeared some seven or eight times to his disciples; where was he the remainder of the time? Present but invisible. Notice, also, that in each instance, he is said to have appeared, or he showed himself, language never used of him before his change from a natural to a spiritual body; now, as angels do, he appeared, etc.
Remember that the object of Jesus' appearing to them was to convince them that "he who was dead is alive forevermore;" that they might go forth as "witnesses." Being a spiritual body, it was simply a question of expediency which way he could best appear to themi.e., in which way would his object in appearing be best accomplished. He could appear as a "flame of fire," as the angel of the Lord had appeared to Moses "in the burning bush." Thus, Jesus might have appeared to and talked with the disciples, or he might have appeared in glory as the angel did to Daniel, or as he afterward did to John and to Saul of Tarsus. If he had so appeared, they would doubtless also have had "great fear and quaking," and would have fallen to the ground before him, and "become as dead men;" or he could do as angels had done, and as he had done with Abraham (Gen. 18) when he appeared as a man. This last he saw to be the best way, and he did appear as a man. But notice, they did not see him after his resurrection as before his death. First he appeared to Mary as the gardener, and she "saw Jesus standing and knew not that it was Jesus." "After that he appeared in [R262 : page 61] ANOTHER FORM unto two of them as they went into the country" (Mark 16:12). They knew not that it was Jesus until he revealed himself in breaking of bread; then he vanished from their sight. Notice, it was in "another form," and, consequently, not the same one in which he appeared to Mary.
Again, some having given up all hope of being any longer fishers of men, had gone again to their nets. They had toiled all night and caught nothing. In the morning Jesus is on the shore within speaking distance, but they "knew not that it was Jesus." It was another form. He works a miracle, giving them a boat-full of fish in a moment. John, the loving disciple, remembers the feeding of the three thousand and five thousand, the strange days in which they were living, and that Jesus had appeared to them already. He seems at once to discern who gave the draught of fishes and said: "It is the Lord." He recognized him not by the natural eye, but by the eye of faith, and when they were come to shore "None of them durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing (feeling sure from the miracle, for they saw not the point of the nails) that it was the Lord" (John 21:1). Thus did Jesus appear to his disciples at different times, to make of them witnesses of his resurrection. He was present, but unseen, during most of those forty days, appearing, in all, perhaps not more than seven times.John 20:26, and 21:14.
We presume that it was to guard against the idea that he was a fleshly body that he appeared in various forms and in miraculous ways, coming into their midst, the doors being shut, and vanishing from their sight. He not only showed that he had undergone a change since death, but he illustrated his own teaching to Nicodemus, that every one born of the Spirit ("That born of the Spirit is Spirit") can go and come like the wind. "Thou canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (Jno. 3:8). So did Jesus go and come. "But some doubted"some wanted to thrust their hands into his side, and put their fingers into the print of [R262 : page 62] the nails; and Jesus thus appeared. Whether it was the same body that had been crucified, or one like it, we know not, nor does it make any difference; in any case, it was not his body, for he had been "quickened of the Spirit"a spiritual body"sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body," and none of the various forms or bodies in which he appeared were his body. They were only vails of the flesh which hid or covered the glorious spiritual body, just as angels had often used the human form to vail themselves when appearing to mortals.
Jesus affirms just what we have claimed, that the body they saw and handled, and which ate with them, was not his spiritual body, for he says: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones." Look back to the time when the Lord and two angels appeared to Abraham (Gen. 18). Jesus had not then left "the form of God," and taken the form of a servant. He was a spiritual body then, and it had not flesh and bones, but he then used the human form as a vail. He ate and drank and talked, and could have said to Abraham: Handle me; this body which you see is "flesh and bones." No, the disciples did not see Christ's glorious spiritual body, but they saw the fleshly "forms" in which he appeared.
St. Paul teaches us (1 Cor. 15:44,45) distinctly that Christ was raised from the dead a life-giving Spirit [pneuma, the same word used by our Lord]. But where did he get the various bodies in which he appeared, and where did they go when their work was accomplished? They did not see corruption; neither did those bodies which the angels used see corruption. Our only answer is, "Thou canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth." But we all believe other things which we cannot fully understand. We cannot understand how a grain of wheat grows, yet we know it does grow; we know not how Jesus turned the water into wine, or healed the sick, or raised the dead. Yet we [R262 : page 63] believe that he did these things. Can you tell where he got the clothes he wore after his resurrection? "They parted his raiment among them, and for his vesture they cast lots"the old were gone, and the linen clothes lay in the sepulchre. Is it more difficult for spiritual beings with their powers to create a covering of flesh than a covering of cloth? No; the same power can and did do both.
Thus we have found Jesus' spiritual body and those of angels glorious, yet invisible to mortals: with power to manifest the glory, or to appear as men, or in any form they may choose. In the resurrection the overcomersthe Brideshall be "like unto Christ's glorious body." "We shall be like him, for (not until then) we shall see him as he is" (not as he was, for "though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now, henceforth, know we him no more" [after the flesh] (2 Cor. 5:16). Such a spiritual being was Christ at the time of his ascension; and, with what we have learned of the powers of that spiritual body, we are now, we hope, prepared to inquire:
Briefly stated, we believe the Scriptures to teach that our Lord will never again appear as a man; that at his second coming he will be invisible to mankind; that none will ever see him except the Church: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" that the Church will not see him until changed from natural to spiritual bodies; that then "we shall see him as he is" [not as he was], for "we shall be like him" [not he like us, as at the first advent]. But, while none are to see him with their natural eyes, all are to recognize his presence and his power ("the eyes of their understanding being opened"). Hence we read: "Every eye shall see (optomairecognize) him."
There will be, we understand, various orders and times of recognizing him by various classes of humanity. The first class to recognize his presence, the Bible teaches, will be those Christians who live in most intimate communication with him, and [R262 : page 64] who are the most separate from the world. These, by the eye of faith, through the word of truth, will recognize him as present. These, called "a little flock," the "overcomers," the Bride, etc., will be the first to be informed of his presence. We have a "sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day (of the Lord) dawn." "If thou shalt not watch,...thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." This "little flock" will be changedmade like unto Christ's glorious [R263 : page 64] body.
Then commences a time of trouble on the worldly-minded Church, and on the world, in which the Lord makes known his presence and power, by causing the overthrow of all systems of error, in Church and world.
Though all this uprooting and overturning of governments, etc., will be accomplished in a manner considered perfectly natural, yet it will be so thorough, that ultimately all will realize that "The Lord reigneth," for "he shall be revealed (made known) in flaming fire." (Judgments.) And in due time, "all that are in their graves" shall also be brought to life (during the Millennial age), and recognize Christ; for "Unto him every knee shall bow." Thus "every eye shall see him; and they also which pierced him."
The second advent, like the first, covers a period of time, and is not the event of a moment. The first lasted nearly thirty-four years, and the events connected with ithis birth, baptism, sorrow, death, resurrection, etc., as mentioned by the prophets, all took place at the first advent. The second advent, as we shall see, lasts much longer. It includes the Millennial reign, and prophecy covers all the prominent features of that reign. He comes to reignmust reign until he has put down all enemies; the last being death.1 Cor. 15:25,26.
In the application of prophecy to the events of the first advent we recognize order. Christ must be the "child born and son [R263 : page 65] given" "before the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." He must die before he could rise from the dead, etc. So also in studying prophecy, referring to the second advent, we must recognize order; we must judge of the order somewhat by the character of the event. As the wife is the glory of the husband, so the Bride is the glory of Christ, for we are to be "partakers of the glory that shall be revealed (1 Pet. 5:1,10), and as the "glory shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18), we know that Christ could not come in the glory of his kingdom [church] until he has first gathered it from the world. In harmony with this thought we readWhen he shall appear, we "also shall appear with him in glory."Col. 3:4.
The prophets foretold the sufferings of Christ [head and body] and the glory that should follow.1 Peter 1:11. If the sufferings were of the whole body, so is the glory. We suffer with him that we may be also "glorified together."Rom. 8:17. "Enoch prophesied, sayingthe Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints," [gr. hagios, never translated angel] (Jude 14). Again (Zech. 14:5), we read"The Lord my God shall come and all the saints with thee." Thus we learn that when he appears in glory we are with him, and of course, we must be caught to meet him before we could appear with him. We understand that this appearing of the saints in glory, as already expressed of the Lord, will be a manifestation not in person but in power.
We have evidence to offer, proving that he comes unknown to the world; but attempt to answer two supposed objections first,viz.: "This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," (Acts 1:11), and "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise."1 Thes. 4:16. These texts are supposed to teach that Christ will come in a manner visible to the natural eye, while the air is rent with the blast of the Archangel's trumpet, at which, mid reeling tombstones and opening graves the dead [R263 : page 66] will be resurrected. It certainly has that appearance on the surface, but look at it again: Would that be coming in like manner as they saw him go? He did not go with the sounding of a trumpet and outward demonstration. It does not say, you shall see him coming, nor that any one would see him, buthe shall come. When he arrives it will be privately. He comes to organize the Church as his kingdom, to set it up. He comes to be glorified in his saints in that day.2 Thes. 1:10. The world saw him not after his resurrection; they did not see him ascend, as he said, "Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more."
And "he shall so come in like manner"unknown to the world. Nor will they see (recognize) him in his second advent until his Church is gathered, for when he shall appear "we also shall appear with him." What, then, does the trumpet mean? Let us see. We are to be rewarded "at the resurrection." As we will not be rewarded twice, nor resurrected twice, we conclude that the "Trump of God" (1 Thess. 4:16) and the "Last Trump" (1 Cor. 15:52) are the same, differently expressed.
The same events are mentioned as occurring at eachi.e., the resurrection and reward of saints. And for the same reason we believe the "Trump of God" and "Last Trump" to be the "Seventh Trump" of Rev. 11:15. The "Seventh Trump" is the "Last Trump," and is called "the Trump of God," possibly because introducing the special judgments of God connected with the setting up of his kingdom.
These trumpets evidently are the samebut what? The seventh angel sounded. A sound on the air? No, not any more than the six which preceded it. They are each said to sound, and Sir Isaac Newton, Clarke, and all commentators of note, agree that five or six of these trumpets are in the past. They have been fulfilled in events upon the earth, each covering a period of time. They certainly must all sound before the resurrection, for that is under the seventh. If
were to make a sound on the air, it would be out of harmony with the other six of the series. That it covers "the great day of his wrath"the time of judgments upon the kingdoms of the worldthe pouring out of the "seven vials" of his wraththe "time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation"seems evident, for we are told, in the same sentence, of the wrath of God coming on the nations.Rev. 11:15,18.
We see, then, that the sounding of the trumpets, and so coming in like manner, do not conflict, but rather add force to the fact that he comes "unawares," "as a thief," and steals away from the world "his treasurehis jewels." Remember, too, that this is Christ the spiritual body, that could not be seen without a miracle; that was present, yet unseen, during thirty-three days after his resurrection.
But will the world not see the saints when gathered or gathering? No; they are changed (in the twinkling of an eye) from Natural to Spiritual bodies, like unto Christ's glorious body, and in the instant of their change will be as invisible as he and angels. But those who arise from their graves? No; they were sown (buried) natural bodies; they are raised spiritual bodiesinvisible. Won't the world see the graves open and the tombstones thrown down? A spiritual body (remember, we are comparing spiritual things with spiritual, not natural) coming out of the grave will not make any more of a hole in the ground than Christ's spiritual body made in the door when he came and stood in their midst, "the doors being shut."John 20:19,26. But do not forget that only the Church are raised spiritual bodiesall others, natural fleshly bodies, as Lazarus, etc.
Christ's personal presence and ministry of three and a half years at the first advent, as well as the three and a half years [R263 : page 68] which followed his ministry, is termed "the Harvest." It was the harvesting of the Jewish or Law age. Christ was present as the chief reaperhis disciples as under-reapers. Their work was separating of wheat from chaff, and the gathering of the wheat into the higher or Gospel dispensation. That harvest was the end of that age. Jesus said to his disciples, "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest." "I send you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor; other men (the prophets) have labored and ye are entered into their labors."John 4:38. That work was not general, nor for the world. He confined his labors to Judea, and the work to them did not cease until five days before his death, when he rode on the ass into the city, wept over it, gave them up, and said: "Your house is left unto you desolate." After his resurrection he sends the disciples to "preach the Gospel to every creature, beginning at Jerusalem." Nor were they suffered to preach to the world in general until the seven years of harvest-work to that Jewish people was fully accomplished, as God had promised.Daniel 9:27. "He (Jesus, chief reaper) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week" (seven years), in the midst of the week making all sacrifice to ceaseby offering himself the true sacrifice. But the harvest or reaping done in the end of the Jewish age was confined to them as a people. The oracles of God had been committed to them as a people; wheat was sought among them, but as a nation they proved to be mainly chaff. The wheat was garnered (brought into the Gospel church) and the chaff burned (nation destroyed), and thus their harvest ended.
During the Gospel age, the church does not reap, but sows the seed. Paul plants, Apollos waters, God gives increase, etc. But there is to be a harvest in the end of this age, as illustrated in the parable of the tares and wheat, and taught in the explanation of the same.Matt. 13. Notice that both wheat and tares are in the kingdom of heaventhe churchand that this parable, as also the other six of the series, relating to "the kingdom [R263 : page 69] of heaven"the churchrefers not to the non-professing world, but to two classes in the church.
The Son of Man planted the church pure, good seed. During the days of the apostles there were special "gifts of the Spirit," such as "discerning of spirits," etc., by which they were able to prevent tares from getting in among the wheathypocrites getting into the church,(instance, 1 Cor. 5:3."Simon Magus" [R264 : page 69] "Anannias and Sapphira," etc.); but when the apostles were dead, "while men slept," the enemy began to sow tares among the wheat. Paul says that the mystery of iniquity had begun to work even in his day; now they grow side-by-side in all the churches. Shall we separate them, Lord? No; we might make some mistake, pull up wheat and leave tares. "Let both grow together until the Harvest." "The harvest is the end of the world," [aion -age.] "In the time of harvest I will say unto the reapersthe reapers are the angelsgather together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn."
Notice, this Harvest is the end of this age, yet, like the one ending, the Jewish age, it is a period of time"In the time of harvest." Secondly, there is order"Gather first the tares." There will come a time, then, in the end of this age, when the reapersangelswill be present doing some sort of a separating work in the Church, yet an invisible presence and work. If the work of binding, gathering, etc., were a visible work by visible agents, two would not be found in the field, mill and bed when the hour for translation comes and the one is taken and the other left.Matt. 24:41.
Again, before the living are gathered, the dead in Christ must have risen, whether it be but a moment before; "the dead in Christ rise firstthen we which are alive," etc.1 Thess. 4:16. This harvest is not of the living only, but also of "the dead in Christ," "those that sleep in Jesus." The angels gather the living, but our Lord, who is the chief reaper here (as he was in the Jewish harvest), gathers or raises the dead. "I will raise [R264 : page 70] him up;" "I am the resurrection and the life;" and in harmony with this thought we find that in Rev. 14:15"One like unto the Son of Man, seated on a cloud," reaps the earth. (Here, two harvests, or two parts of one harvest, are shown; the second being the casting of the "vine of the earth" into the wine-press of his wrathtime of trouble.) The special point to which your attention is called, however, is the fact that this harvest will go on without outward demonstration, the chief and under-reapers being present but unseen.
Some may have confounded these remarks on the presence of Christ in a spiritual body with the presence of the spirit of Christ, but they are quite distinct. The latter never left the church; consequently, in that sense, he could not "come again." Of his spiritual presence he said: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"age. We refer to the personal presence which did go away, and was to come againa spiritual body.
The Greek word generally used in referring to the second adventparousia, frequently translated cominginvariably signifies personal presence, as having come, arrived, and never signifies to be on the way, as we use the word coming. This fact is recognized by many who are looking for the Lord; but the error under which the church in general is laboring, is that of supposing that presence implies sightmanifestationappearance. In the Greek, however, other words are used to express revelation, appearing and manifestation, viz.: phaneroorendered shall appear in "When he shall appear, etc." and apokalupsisrendered, shall be revealed in 2 Thes. 1:7. "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed."
These and other texts teach us that our Lord will reveal or manifest himself to the world in such a manner that "Every eye shall see[optomairecognize] him""Be revealed in flaming fire," [judgments]. But what we now claim is, that before he is thus revealed, he will be present unseen, (by all except the Bride, who will seerecognize himbecause of the eyes of her [R264 : page 71] understanding being opened by the anointing of truthsee Eph. 1:17-19), doing a work and gathering his Bride, or body, to himself.
We have Christ's own words to prove that he will be present in the world, and the world for a time will know not of it. In Matt. 24:37, we read: "As the days of Noah were, so shall also the parousia (presence) of the Son of Man be." The presence of Christ is not compared to the flood, but to the days of Noah, the days that were before the flood, as verse 38 shows; as then they ate, drank, married, etc., and knew not, so shall also the presence of the Son of Man be. The resemblance here mentioned is that of not knowingthey will not know of the presence of Christ. They may have been wicked then, and doubtless were, and may be similarly wicked in his presence; but wickedness is not the point of comparison; as then they ate, drank, marriedproper enough things to be doing, not sins; so shall it be in Christ's presence. Now look at Luke 17:26, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man." Verse 27 tells us how it was in the days of Noah, they were eating, drinking, marrying, etc. "So shall it be in the days of the Son of Man." Surely the days of the Son of Man are not before his days, any more than the days of Henry Clay could be days before he was born. No, the more we examine the more we are convinced that the world will go on as usual, and know not until the "harvest is past, the summer ended," and they are not in the ark, not with the little flock "accounted worthy to escape," the time of trouble coming upon the world.Luke 21:36. There will be no outward demonstration, until the church is gathered, whenever that takes placesoon or in the distant future.
We think we have good solid reasons, not imaginations, nor dreams, nor visions, but Bible evidences that we are now "in the days of the Son of Man:" that "the day of the Lord" has come, and Jesus, a spiritual body, is present, harvesting the Gospel age; yet, as he has said, the world seeth him no more; they [R264 : page 72] eat, drink, etc., and "know not." This day of the Lord in which "he will show who is that blessed and only potentate, the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings," is already dawning, but the majority of the church, as well as the world, are asleep; and to themthe day "so cometh as a thief in the night." "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should come upon you as a thief." "We are not of the night, therefore let us not sleep as do others." Not the worldly-wise, but those humble ones, wise from heavenly instruction, are meant when it is written, "the wise shall understand." But "if thou shalt not watch thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." "Take heed lest your hearts be over charged with...the cares of this life, and so that day come upon YOU unawares."Luke 21:34.
We have seen that in his days of presence it will be as it was in Noah's daysthe world will know not.Matt. 24:37; Luke 17:26. We are told that the day of the Lord is a day of trouble, a day of clouds, and thick darkness.Zeph. 1:15; Joel 2:2. We are told also that "as the lightning which shineth," (not as the shining, but as the invisible electric fluid which causes the shining) "so shall the Son of Man be in his day."Matt. 24:27; Luke 17:24. Now if he is to be as lightning, and his day a day of clouds, as the above texts assert, are they not in harmony? In the natural storm when we see flashes from lightning and hear peals of thunder, it gives evidence to us that atmospheric changes are taking place, and that the vitiated and corrupt "air" is to be changed, and we rejoice that it will be pure after the storm.
We now find a harmony in the account of our gathering. As we found "the voice of the archangel" and "the trump of God" were symbols of the closing epoch of this age and its troublous events, so now we find "the clouds" to symbolize the gathering of the trouble in that epoch; "the lightning" to symbolize or illustrate our Lord's presence "in his day," and that "air" is used as the symbol of the spiritual throne from which Satan [R264 : page 73] ("the prince of the power of the air,") is to be deposed, and to which our Lord and his joint heirs are to come.
The great time of trouble, as a storm, has been, and continues gathering over earth. The air, in which Satan, "the prince of this world (age,) rules, becomes more and more vitiated until the storm breaks. The prince of darkness now works in the hearts of the children of disobedience to the accomplishment of his own will, viz., in oppressing and opposing justice and truth to the affliction of mankind. The clouds are gathering, and men's hearts are beginning to fail for fear of the approaching storm"for fear of those things that are coming on the earth." Soon it will break in all its fury. But though it fills all hearts with fear and dread, in its final results it will prove a great blessing to the earth, (mankind,) displacing the present "powers of the air," ("powers of darkness,""spiritual wickedness in high (controlling) places,")and giving place to earth's rightful rulerJesus and his Bride, also spiritual beings (powers of the air.)
So, after the storm, shall the "Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings," and the kingdom of darkness shall give place to the kingdom of light, and mankind will rejoice in the pure air and cloudless sunlight of that perfect day.
Notice, also, that all the flashes of lightning come from among the clouds, and become more and more vivid as the storm increases. How the various Scriptures interpret each other: "As the lightning, so shall the Son of Man be in his day." "Behold he cometh with clouds." "The day of the Lord is a day of trouble, of clouds and thick darkness." "He maketh the clouds his chariot."
We conclude, then, that if "he cometh with clouds" of trouble, etc., we shall be "caught away in clouds" [diaglott] of the same sort, after he has thus come. If prepared, we shall be caught to meet him during the gathering of the trouble, before the storm bursts.
David [anointed] was doubtless a type of the church in her [R264 : page 74] deliverance, as pictured in the song (2 Sam. 22,) in which he says (vs. 10): "He bowed the heavens also and came down and darkness was under his feet....He was seen upon the wings of the wind, and he made darkness his pavilions round about [R265 : page 74] him...and thick clouds of the skies....He sent forth and took me;...He delivered me from the strong enemy" [death].Luke 21:36. Yes, our Lord when he has come and made trouble and darkness his pavilion, takes his Bridedelivers her from the strong enemy of the fleshly nature, death, into the perfection of the new divine naturelike unto Christ's glorious body. Lord help us to be ready for the change that we may be thus "caught away."
WHEREVER we find a counterfeit we may rest assured there exists a genuine. If there were no genuine gold dollars, there could be no base imitations or counterfeits. Then, too, the base or spurious article must appear very much like the genuine, or it would not be a counterfeit.
Whoever has carefully searched the Scriptures cannot have failed to see that, while God throughout all past ages has condemned evil and sin in their various forms, and warned his children, both "Israel after the flesh" and also the spiritual children (the Gospel age Church), of the danger and bad results of evil, yet he has nevertheless permitted evil and good to stand [R265 : page 75] side-by-side before the people for their choice. If we take heed to his Word we may discern which is evil, and, by obedience to that Word, shun the evil and choose the good.
God is the head and fountain of goodness and truth, and the Scriptures teach that Satan is the head and fountain of all evil and error"the father of lies" (deceptions). Both of these are spiritual beings. "God is a spirit," and Satan, as we have heretofore shown, was once an angel of Godthe chief or prince of "those angels which kept not their first (sinless) estate." These, though cast out from God's presence, are not yet destroyed; they still possess their angelic nature, though through sin they have become evil "angels;" consequently they still are spiritual beings (not human), and have the same powers as they ever had, and as good angels have, except that God has put them under certain limitations and restraints which we shall more fully discuss farther along.
If we trace them through the Scriptures we shall find that these fallen spiritual beings have continually made use of their spiritualsupernaturalpowers to lead mankind astray into disobedience of God and injury to themselves.
Spiritual beings, as we have heretofore shown, possess powers greater and higher than humanity. We have seen, from the statements relative to good angels, that they can be present in our midst without our being conscious of their presence. (The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him.Ps. 34:7. Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation?Heb. 1:14.)
These, we have seen, have power to appear as a flame of fire (the angel of the Lord so appeared to Moses in the bushExod. 3:2), and they can and have appeared as men.
Some other powers of angels can be discovered by examining the record; for instance, the angels who delivered Lot and his family from Sodom had power to smite the rioters of Sodom with blindness.Gen. 19:11. An angel "did wondrously before Manoah;" another performed a miracle before Gideon.Judges 6:21, [R265 : page 76] and 13-19. The angel of the Lord delivered the apostles from prison, and yet left the prison-doors unmolested; again, an angel delivered Peter from prison, the doors opening of their own accord.Acts 5:19-23, and 12:8. On many occasions they made known to men things which were about to come to pass, etc.
Now, the evil angels"the devil and his angels"have by nature the very same powers, but are restrained. So much of evil as can be overruled for good, and tend to the development of experience and the education and discipline of the "heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ"is permitted, and the remainder restrained. As God through his Spirit and influence works in and through men who give themselves up to his control, so does Satan operate in and through those who "yield themselves as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin." "His servants ye are to whom you render service." As Jesus said to some, "Ye are of your father the devil, for his works ye do."
As "God in times past spake unto the fathers through the prophets," who were his mouthpieces, so Satan spake through his agents and agencies. His first agent was the serpentit became his agent in beguiling Eve into disobedience. Satan manifested his powers through the Magicians and Soothsayers of Babylon, and remarkably in those of Egypt, where God's powers were manifested through Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh, while Satan's powers, of a similar kind, were used to oppose the truth for a time. Here these two spiritual powers were strikingly manifested; both did miraclesthings which men alone could not do, but which men possessed of evil and good powers did do.Exod. 7:11-22, and 8:7-18. "There were false prophets also among the people," who evidently spoke by an inspiration, or power in them almost like the real prophets of God; these were the counterfeits. (See 2 Peter 2:1; Jer. 23:21.)
We are aware that to the worldly mind it seems superstitious to believe that men and women may be so given over of themselves [R265 : page 77] to Satan, and so controlled by him as to be wizards and witches; but they are recognized as such in the Scriptures, and we believe it. Israel was commanded to put such to death.Exod. 22:18; Lev. 20:27, etc. Manasseh, king of Judah, made Judah to err, etc.; he "used enchantments and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit and with wizards."2 Chron. 33:6.
Take a concordance and see how much God says against wizards, witches, and "they that have familiar spirits"mediums of the devil for communication with mankind. It was the claim of these mediums of "familiar spirits" that they held communication with the dead and received their information from them. In this claim they contradicted the plain statements of God's Word, which assure us that the dead could not furnish any information. (See Job 14:10-21; Eccl. 9:10.)
But this was merely another way in which Satan sought to continue the lie imposed upon Eve in Eden. ["He is a liar from the beginning," said Jesus.] God had said that if disobedient they should die. Satan contradicted this statementclaimed that man had naturally Immortality, and could not die, and that God was a liar. Ever since, he seeks to uphold the statement, "Ye shall not surely die." Full well does he know that if people realized that it was the "spirits of demons" who spoke to them through the mediums, they would shun them; hence the claim that it is dead people (not dead, but more alive than ever) who communicate the information.
An illustration of this sort is given in 1 Saml. 28. Saul, king of Israel, had become wicked, and God would no longer communicate with him through the prophets. He was engaged in a war with the Philistines, and a great battle was about to be fought. He wanted council and desired to know what would be the outcome. Since the Lord would not answer him, he sought out one of the condemned and forbidden class, a medium, a woman who had a familiar spiritthe witch at Endor.
All are familiar with the story, (1 Saml. 28:3-20), how that [R265 : page 78] the medium pretends ignorance as to her visitor, knows what Saul desires, gives a description of Samuel, etc. Then follows an account of the coming defeat of Saul's army and the death of himself and his sons. The fact that these things occurred just as foretold by the medium, has been thought by some to be a proof that Samuel really furnished the information. But, Satan could foretell those things as well as Samuel could were he alive. Not that Satan is a prophet, nor that God reveals coming things to him, but he is a student of God's Word and a believer of it. "Devils also believe and tremble."Jas. 2:19. The defeat of Saul and accession of David to the throne had been foretold by the prophet and both Saul and Satan knew it, and Satan had learned that every word of God is sure.
Besides we should not forget the words of the apostle, that he that hath the power of death is the devil.Heb. 2:14. Since he is executor of the death penalty, and must have the permission to execute from God, (Job 1:12), is it strange that he knew that he was to have power over the lives of Saul, his sons, and many others on the next day? No, it is the reasonable inference. Certainly we should not for a moment suppose that God (or Samuel, if he could) would recognize, or use any means of communication which he had prohibited on pain of death, and condemned as wicked. Read 1 Chron. 10:13.
Coming further down the stream of time, we learn that the same wicked spirits continued to operate in the same manner. The Lord, while still permitting them, warns the people against such, saying, "they shall say unto you, 'seek unto them that have familiar spirits (spirit mediums) and unto wizards that peep and mutter.' (But) should not a people seek unto their God? For [why should] the living [go] to the dead? To the law and [R266 : page 78] to the testimony, [the Bible], if they speak not according to this Word it is because there is no light in them."Isa. 8:19. God warns people not to believe any one whose teachings are contrary to the Word, no matter what powers they may exercise.
Coming down to the days of Jesus and the apostles, we find [R266 : page 79] that Satan still operated in much the same manner, as well as a variety of other ways. Among the more notable instances [not to mention the numerous cases of casting out of devils, etc., by both Jesus and the disciples] we might remind you of the experience of Philip and Peter with Simon the sorcerer.Acts 8:7,9-24. "Unclean spirits crying with loud voice came out of many that were possessed;...but there was a certain man named Simon which...used sorcery and bewitched the people...to whom they all gave heed...saying, this man is the great power (medium) of God." Thus did Satan use his power to delude the people.
Paul and Barnabas had an experience with another of these mediums of the devil, named Elymas, who withstood them. Paul addressing him said, "O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?"Acts 13:10. And he was blinded immediately. Again, Paul and Silas met a female medium at Phillippi. "A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination...which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying." But Paul "turned and said to the spirit [Satan] I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour."Acts 16:16,18.
And so ever since, Satan has kept up his practices with various changes of method to suit the circumstances; sometimes with characteristic devilishness, at other times in the garb of religion, "for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light, therefore it is no great thing if his ministers [mediums] also be transformed as ministers of righteousness."2 Cor. 11:14. In our day, when knowledge is so great, and morality (called Christianity) so popular, Satan must, if he would continue to oppose truth, take the religious cloak; and so he does. Today Spiritualism ranks itself among the religious sects. ["The synagogue [church] of Satan," truly.]
Spiritualism, though refined and modernized, is yet the same [R266 : page 80] that it ever was, in ages past. Its object is not the inculcation of truth, nor of love for God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. They claim that Jesus was a fine medium and taught and used spiritualism in his day as well as he understood it. They do not outwardly profess to oppose the Bible and its teachings, but they do so really, both teaching and practicing the very things therein condemned, and still seeking to prove by their enchantments that men are not dead, thus endeavoring to uphold Satan's first falsehood.Gen. 3:4.
They still possess supernatural powers, too, just as in the days of Saul, and Paul, and Moses. While we do not question that some of the things claimed to be done are mere deceptions, yet we know of many things done by them, where no deception was possible. Among those who believe "in this way" we know of several who once were mediums of the devil and did "those things whereof they are now ashamed." These, when coming to a knowledge of the truth, are thankful for their escape from that "snare of the devil." Spiritualism hates the light, and their wonders are done under cover of their favorite principledarkness. Their work of proselyting, too, is dark, coveredsecret. Jesus gives us a word of wisdom on this subject. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light lest his deeds should be reproved."Jno. 3:20.
Though working stealthily, their numbers are large and embrace many of the influential of earthjudges, senators, etc. The queen of what is known as the greatest Christian kingdom of earth, on whose possessions the light of day is said never to set, called the "Christian Queen," is known by many to be a "Spiritualist." It is coming before people in a way that commands attention, and those who do not realize it to be the work of Satan, are almost sure to regard it as a power of God.
The Rev. Joseph Cook, justly celebrated for his able defense of the Bible and its Author, against the attacks of atheists and infidels, such as Huxley, Darwin, Arnold, et al., has lately had his attention aroused to the recognition of the growing influence [R266 : page 81] of "Spiritualism," and having investigated the subject to some extent, he recently delivered a lecture on the subject, in which he expressed his belief that many of their tricks and performances are done by no human power, and are actually supernatural. He does not pretend to say how, or by what power, but claims that not only himself, but some of the profoundest scientific minds of Germany have reached the conclusion that Spiritualism cannot be condemned as false by any scientific tests yet applied to it.
Nor is this power of Spiritualism difficult to account for if we take the Bible as our authority and recognize it as the work of Satan, whom Jesus designates "the prince of this world."Jno. 14:30. "The prince of the power of the air (spiritual power) the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience."Eph. 2:2. And the same book is our authority for saying that "Spiritualism" has not yet reached the climax of its power; its powers are to increase wonderfully. Paul says, (1 Tim. 4:1,) "Now the spirit [of God] speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing [deceiving] spirits and doctrines of devils." Jesus says, "They are the spirits of devils working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the whole world to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty."Rev. 16:14.
2 Peter (2:4,) and Jude (6,) tell us, that when cast out of God's presence as evil angels, they were bound by "chains of darkness" "unto the judgment of the great day." Many Scriptures have shown us that the closing part of the Gospel age is to be upon the living a time of trial and trouble, preparing them for the coming Millennial reign of Christ, and is called "the day of the Lord""the great day""the great day of his wrath," etc. We understand, then, that Satan and his angels have been limited; might not appear except through human beings who willingly gave themselves up to be "possessed of devils" or became his "mediums." He has thus been confined or chained. But we claim that this "day of the Lord"day of the "presence of [R266 : page 82] the Son of man"has already commenced, that the Scriptures prove it to be so; and if the chains of darkness restrain Satan until "the great day," we should expect that very soon those chains will be loosed and no longer restrain. (Any who expect soon the loosing of those powers should, to be consistent, recognize both "the day of the Lord" and the trial as commenced.)
The facts correspond to this exactly. "Spiritualists" claim that they are having more power to show their wonders, daily; and they claim now (one case very recently) that the spirits can materialize in broad daylight; and they promise wonderful revelations and manifestations very soon. Now, materialization of a spiritual being, just as they claim, has been possible all along to the angels of God, of which we have many recordsangels on many occasions appearing as men. Jesus, as we have seen, when born of the Spirit at his resurrection, a spiritual body, ("that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," was, as all other spiritual beings, (good and evil) invisible to human sight, and in making known his resurrection to his disciples he appeared in various fleshly "forms" materialized.Mark 16:12. These are the powers which Satan has desired, but could not heretofore use, because bound or limited, but which he will have when the judgment (trial) of "the day of the Lord" begins. (Which we believe is now.)
The trial of this "day" causes not only a "time of trouble" and distress among nations, but it includes a trouble or fire upon the living phase of the church. This church trouble comes first, and we believe began in the spring of 1878, and is to result in the purifying of faith; and will bring those who continue to bear the name of Christian to the firm foundations of the teachings of the Word of God. For all the errors of human traditions shall be consumed as dross, wood, hay, stubble, in the fire (trial) of this day. The apostle says, "think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which shall try you (the church) as though some strange [unforetold] thing happened unto you."1 Pet. 4:12. For the fire of that day shall try every man's work of what sort [R266 : page 83] it is: "He that hath built [his faith] with gold, silver, and precious stones [the truths of God's Word] the same shall remain. (His faith will not be destroyed.) But if any man build with wood, hay, stubble, (the teachings and creeds of man,) the same shall suffer loss," etc.1 Cor. 3:12-15.
This trial is "the trial of your faith," and in this "day of the Lord" not only does the light of truth shine strongly and beautifully, showing us the great prize of our high calling as we never saw it before; revealing to us the present King, who causes us to sup with him and feeds us with his truth which is "meat in due season," giving strength needed in this day; but it is also a day for the increase of the powers of evil, that the separation between the wheat and tares (the children of the kingdom and the children of the wicked one, Matt. 13:38,) may be complete.
Because of this struggle between truth and error, the real and the false, Spiritualism, etc., Paul says, "My brethren, be strong in the Lord and the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the [R267 : page 83] devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood [not against human beings, but against evil spiritual beings] but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, (Satanthe prince of this world)Jno. 14:30, against spiritual wickedness in high (controlling) places. Wherefore, [on this account] take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand [the spiritual wickednessthe devil's wiles] in the evil day [this day of the Lord's presenceday of trial.]...Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth and having on the breastplate of righteousness, etc."Eph. 6:11-14.
This same day of trial is referred to in Psalm 91, where only those who have made God's "truth their shield and buckler [support] are able to withstand the snares of the devil, the 'arrows' of infidelity, and the moral 'pestilence' of Spiritualism, while thousands shall fall at their side."
There are portions of Scripture which seem to teach that during this "Day of the Lord" there will be manifestations of the saints as men in fleshly bodiesthose who have been changed to spiritual bodies like unto Christ's glorious bodyand that they will appear as he "appeared" after his resurrection, and do a work of teaching as he taught the disciples, opening men's understandings that they might understand the Scriptures.
We have seen that the coming of Moses, the first and second times, to deliver Israel from Egypt, was a type of the two comings of the Lord. The second time he came with power, and "Aaron, the saint," was his mouthpiece before Pharaohduring the signs, etc. So we expect, that the living representatives of the church, will sometime be used as the mouthpieces of their Lord before the world [Egypt in type]. As there in type Jannes and Jambres, and the other magicians under Satanic power, opposed and hindered for a time the effect of the wonderful powers wrought through Aaron, so we anticipate that in the antitype, when the [R267 : page 85] living church is used as the Lord's mouthpiece, they will be withstood and their teachings controverted by the same spiritual wickedness"Spiritualism"which will seek to do the same things and partly be able. Paul seems to refer directly to this in 2 Tim. 3:1-8, when, after saying, "In the last days [of the age] perilous times shall come," etc., he adds: "Now, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth ...but they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be manifest unto all men as theirs also was."
We suggest again, then, that every counterfeit is a proof of a genuine; second, that none but valuable things are counterfeited; and third, that a counterfeit must resemble the genuine very closely, or it would not deceive. Already, Spiritualists are talking much as we do, of "the good time coming," the "glorious day," and even declare that Jesus is present, etc. This is an old practice with our opponent. At the first advent the devils knew Jesus, and, crying out, said: "Thou art Christ, the Son of God;" and he, rebuking them, suffered them not to speak, "for they knew that he was Christ."Luke 4:41. (See also Paul's experience, Acts 16:17.) Yes, "the devils also believe and tremble."James 2:19. And no doubt they would fain call some of us Spiritualists, both for the purpose of bringing to their credit our knowledge of God's Word and plan, and to seek to offset the value and effect of our Bible teaching, by claiming us as one with themselves.
But, beloved, "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God" or of Satan. "By their fruits ye shall know them." That system, by whatsoever name it calls itself, whose time and talent is spent in doing useless and foolish things, and making use of supernatural power to obtain money; which appeals merely to the human credulity, and neither seeks nor develops an increase of faith and love toward God and men; ignores Jesus and the plan of salvation; repudiates the Bible; whose tendency is toward things earthly, sensual, devilish [R267 : page 86] "Free-loveism," etc.is not of God, but bears unmistakable signs of Satan being its author.
On the contrary, a system based not on forbidden and pretended communications with the dead, but upon the Word of God only; whose teachings tend to the glory of both the Father and his Son, our Lord; which seeks to unfold to those who have "ears to hear" and "eyes to see" the glorious beauty and grandeur of God's plan of salvation, of which Jesus is the recognized foundation; which tends not to the ignoring of any part of the Word, but to a searching of the Scriptures daily; which tends toward and teaches that the prize of our high calling is obtainable only by patient perseverance in well-doingthe death of the old nature and newness of life as a new creature in Christ Jesus, bears unmistakably the stamp of God, and is of Godfor it speaks according to his Word.