Another of the points which prove that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse is the character of Christ's Coming which is there announced and described; and with which its events are connected.
This has been already partly shown under the headings of |The Day of the Lord| and |The Son of Man.| But it is now more definitely stated and distinguished.
The coming of Christ for His Church is quite a different event, and belongs to quite a different Dispensation. The end for which the Church is waiting is not judgment or tribulation, but to be |received up in glory| (1 Tim. iii.16), to be |called on high| (Phi. iii.14), to be changed and have glorious bodies like our Saviour's own body of glory. Their seat of government exists now in heaven, from whence they look for the Saviour (Phil. iii.19-21).
That coming is into the air, and not unto the earth; it is in grace, and not in judgment; it concerns those who are |in Christ,| and not either Jew or Gentile as such.
Nothing is revealed in the Old Testament or in the Gospels about this coming. Those books know nothing of it. This coming concerns the Mystery, which was kept secret from times eternal, and was |hid in God.| The church of God (which is the Mystery) waits for one thing as its consummation, and that is to be |received up into glory| (1 Tim. iii.16). But this is not the subject of the Apocalypse.
To make this more clear we must compare what we call the |second| Advent with the |first.|
When the Coming of the Lord was announced in Micah, v.2, it was announced as a coming forth; and in Zech. ix. as a coming unto. The former speaks of the coming forth at Bethlehem, the latter of the coming unto Jerusalem.
There was nothing in those prophecies to tell the Jewish reader whether there would be any interval between these events, or what that interval would be. The Jewish Bible student might think there was a discrepancy; while the Jew with the mind of a |higher critic| might see a greater difficulty, and refuse to believe either Scripture.
But we, today, with our knowledge, know that there was an interval of more than thirty years between the two events. Both refer to one and the same Coming, but to two different stages in it; and that all the events between them go to make up what we speak of as the |first Coming.|
We believe that it will be exactly the same with regard to what we call the |second Coming.| There will be the same two stages, with a similar interval (or longer it may be) between them, and all the events (which are recorded in the Apocalypse and elsewhere) will go to make up what we speak of as |the second Coming.|
There will be the coming forth (as at Bethlehem) of |the Lord Himself| and the calling of His saints on high (Phil. iii.14), and the receiving of them in glory (1 Tim. iii.16); and then, later on, to fulfil all the prophecies which related to His People Israel; and, as the Son of man will |come unto| the earth, to take unto Himself His great power, and reign.
This latter coming is connected with |the Day of the Lord,| and it is that which is the subject of the Book of Revelation.
Chap. i.7 settles this for us: |Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.|
Only Jew and Gentile are in this verse, and not the Church of God.
This is the Coming of which the Old Testament speaks. It knows no other. See Dan. vii.13 and Zech. xii.9,10, which is the Scripture referred to here.
This is the Coming which the Lord spoke of when on earth in Matt. xxiv.30,31; xxvi.64, and elsewhere (mark the |ye|). What He there said is perfectly clear, and in perfect harmony with all that had been said in the Old Testament. To read Eph., Phil., and Col. into the Gospels is only to create confusion; and make a difficulty where none before existed: it is to use one truth for the upsetting of another truth.
The same difficulty is created when we arbitrarily introduce these later Prison Epistles of Paul into the Apocalypse.
To save us from making such a disastrous mistake, the Holy spirit gave special instruction in 1 Thess. v., immediately after He had inspired the revelation of 1 Thess iv. If we heed this and learn its great and important lesson, all will be perfectly clear.
1 Thess. v.1. |But of the times and the season, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.|
Why, |no need|? Simply because the Coming forth into the air and our |gathering together unto Him| there, do not depend on any time or season. His |Coming unto| the earth does; but that is not what he had been speaking about in the chapter immediately before (Thess. iv.).
2. |For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.|
It is the |day of the Lord| which (as we have seen above) is the subject of the Apocalypse: and in Rev. iii.3, the Lord distinctly warns as to His Coming |as a thief,| which is the very opposite of what we read of in Eph., Phil., and Col., and even in 1 Thess. iv., v. For mark the sudden change of pronouns in the latter chapters.
3. |For when THEY shall say, 'Peace and safety,' then sudden destruction cometh upon THEM...and THEY shall not escape.|
It is this |destruction| which the Apocalypse describes. It is this which gives its character to |the day of the Lord.| It is |sudden,| and comes |as a thief;| and it comes upon |THEM| and |THEY,| not upon us: for mark the change of pronouns again.
4. |But YE, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake YOU as a thief.|
Here, our point is distinctly, emphatically, and categorically stated, with a precision and explicitness which leaves nothing to be added. Can anything be more clear than the fact that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse? And that the |Coming| which is the subject of this book is not the Coming for which the Church of God is now longing, waiting, and looking?
If some of our points are cumulative in their evidence, this one point, by itself, is sufficient to establish our fundamental proposition that the Church of God is not the subject of the book of Revelation, either in prophecy or in history.
The book is |prophecy,| as we have seen; and therefore it awaits a future fulfilment in |the day of the Lord,| when the Lord Jesus shall be unveiled as the Son of man, and every eye shall see Him.