It has been pointed out by another that the New Testament is concerned mainly with the presentation of three great facts: first, that the Son of God has been to the earth but has gone away; second, that the Holy Spirit has come down to this earth and is still here; third, that the Son of God is coming back again to this earth. To quote -- |These are the three great subjects unfolded in the New Testament Scriptures; and we shall find that each of them has a double bearing: it has a bearing upon the world, and a bearing upon the church; upon the world as a whole, and upon each unconverted man, woman, and child in particular; upon the church as a whole, and upon each individual member thereof, in particular. It is impossible for any one to avoid the bearing of these three grand facts upon his own personal condition and future destiny| (|Papers on the Lord's Coming| by C. H. M. ). A few words now on each of these facts.
First; the Son of God has been to this earth but has gone away. Here is a fact marvelous in its nature and far-reaching in its effects. This world has been visited by its Creator. The very feet of the Lord of Glory have trod this earth on which we now dwell. From heaven's throne there descended the Only-begotten of the Father, and for upwards of thirty years He tabernacled here among men. His appearing was not attended with regal pomp and outward splendor. His glory was veiled and His Divine prerogatives were laid aside. He who was in the form of God took upon Himself the form of a servant. He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, was made in the likeness of men. He who had received the worship of angels was born in a manger. What an infinite stoop! What amazing condescension! What matchless grace! Were it not that we have grown so familiar with the recital of these things, were it not that our cold hearts had lost their sense of wonderment, we should be overwhelmed with adoring gratitude. Were it not that we were so occupied with the things of this world and our own interests we should prostrate ourselves before God in worship and cry, |Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing|(Rev.5:12). Here then is the first great fact presented in the New Testament -- the Son of God came down to this earth.
How was He received? What welcome did He meet with? What effect did the coming of the |Mighty God| (Is.1:6) have upon the world? What effect would we suppose it to have had? Should we expect to learn that the birth of the God-man was hailed as the most wondrous and blessed event in all history? Should we expect to find the rulers of the earth casting their scepters at His feet? Should we expect to find Him an Object of universal worship? Such expectations would but betray our ignorance of the depths of human depravity. Of sinners it is written |They did not like to retain God in their knowledge| (Rom.1:28). And why? Because |the carnal mind is enmity against God| (Rom.8:7). -- such it was demonstrated to be when God was manifested in the flesh. |There was no room for them in the inn| (Luke 2:7) sums up the whole tragic story. The Christ of God was not wanted. His ineffable holiness condemned the vile wickedness of sinners. He came here to |heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,| but the world hated Him, |hated| Him |without a cause|(John 15:25). Men said, |This is the heir; come, let us kill Him| (Mark 12:7), and no ordinary death would suffice and appease the hatred of their wicked hearts. He must die the death of a criminal, He must be crucified- a form of punishment reserved for slaves who were guilty of the vilest crimes (Josephus). By wicked hands He was |crucified and slain| (Acts 2:20).
|Where sin abounded grace did much more abound| (Rom.5:20). Marvelous are the ways of God. He maketh, even the |wrath of man| to praise Him (Ps.76:10). Those wicked hands of men which nailed to the Cross the Lord of Glory, were but fulfilling, unknown to themselves, the eternal purposes of Jehovah. The Lord Jesus as |delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God| (Acts 2:23). These words bring before us the Divine side of that mysterious transaction. As He hung there on the Cross the Lord Jesus suffered not only at the hands of man, but He was also smitten by the hand of God (Is.53:4, 10) because it was then and there that He |bare our sins in His own body on the tree| (1 Pet.2:24). On the Cross, our blessed Saviour who knew no sin was |made sin for us| (2 Cor.5:21). It was because He hung there as the Sin-Bearer that Jehovah said, |Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered| (Zech.13:7). Thus, the Death of Christ must be viewed from two great standpoints. From the side of the world His death was a deliberate, cold-blooded murder; from the side of God it was a satisfaction rendered unto His justice and holiness which had been outraged by sin. From the side of the world, the Cross was the climatic display of its sin and guilt; from the Divine side it was God's provision to remove the sin and guilt of all who believe. From man's side, the world has yet to account to God for the death of His Son. Therefore it is that God has a |controversy| with the nations. My reader, you are living in a world over which hangs the judgment of God! And the day of His vengeance draws near. God has yet to reckon with a world that is stained with the blood of His beloved Son and soon will His fearful wrath be poured out upon it. How rarely, in these days, is this side of the Cross pressed upon men's consciences and hearts. The Death of the Lamb of God secured our salvation, but it consummated the world's guilt.
Christ is absent. Why? Because the world rejected Him. Yet, if the world disowned Him, the heavens received Him. If men despised Him, God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him the name which is above every name. We shall consider now, though, more briefly, the second great fact.
God the Holy Spirit has come down to this earth and is still here. This, also, is an amazing and stupendous fact. God did not abandon the world to which in love He sent His Son, even though that love was requited by the crucifixion of the Holy One. How strictly just it would have been had God then and there entirely deserted this rebellious race of ours! He |spared not| the angels that sinned but |cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment| (2 Pet.2:4), why then should He continue to deal in mercy with a race that had committed a crime which far surpassed in wickedness any sin of which the angels could have been guilty? Ah! God's ways are |past finding out.| Where sin abounded grace did much more abound. The day of God's wrath was postponed. A world guilty of murdering God's beloved Son was granted a reprieve. In marvelous long-sufferance God gave the world an opportunity, a protracted opportunity, to repent and thus reap the benefits of the Death Divine.
The Holy Spirit has come down to this earth. Here is an amazing fact of stupendous magnitude. There is a Divine person on earth to-day. He has been here, now, for eighteen centuries unseen, unknown, and unappreciated by the world, yet here, nevertheless. Like the absence of the Lord Jesus Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit has a double bearing -- a bearing upon the world, and a bearing upon the Church. His relation to the world is a solemn and an awful one. The Holy Spirit is here to convict the world of its terrible crime in rejecting and crucifying the Son of God. This is clear from the language of John 16 -- |When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on Me. Of righteousness because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; Of judgment because the prince of this world is judge| (vss.8-11). These verses do not refer to the work of the Holy Spirit in individual sinners, but speak of the consequences of His presence on earth toward the world. It is true that by His gracious operations the Holy Spirit brings sinners to repentance, but this is not the subject of the above verses: there, as we have said, we have set forth the relation of the Holy Spirit toward the |world| in general. The above quotation brings before us the significance of the Spirit's presence on earth rather than defines the character of His work. In the sense that He is now here, the Holy Spirit would not be present at all if the Lord Jesus had not been cast out by the world. The Holy Spirit is here to fill the place of an absent Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit is the demonstration of the fact that Christ is absent. Therefore it is that His presence here |reproves the world,| reproves the world |of the cause of Christ's absence, reproves the |world| of its awful crime in putting to death the Lord of Glory. He reproves the world of |sin.| Furthermore; the presence here of the Holy Spirit reproves the world of |righteousness,| of righteousness because Christ has gone to the Father and the world sees Him no more, nor will it see Him until He returns in judgment. The |righteousness| of which the Spirit reproves or convicts the world is the righteousness of God the Father in His exaltation to His own right hand of the One cast out by the world. Finally, the presence here of the Holy Spirit convicts the world of |judgment| because Satan, the prince of this world, is already judged, though the sentence has not yet been executed. So much then for the world-ward bearing of the fact of the Holy Spirit's presence on earth.
Like the fact of our Lord's rejection by the world, the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth also has a bearing upon the Church -- a blessed bearing. God has overruled the issues of this second great fact. Though the presence here of the Holy Spirit condemns the world, it involves infinite blessing for the Church. Churchward, the Holy Spirit is here to take the place of our absent Saviour. He is here to |quicken| (John 3:6) as Christ quickened (John 5:21). He is here to |teach| (John 14:26) as Christ taught (Matt 7:29). He is here to |comfort| (John 16:7) as Christ comforted (John 14:1). In short, the Holy Spirit is here to do for God's people what Christ would have done for them had He remained on the earth. The consequences, then, of the presence here of God the Holy Spirit are unspeakably solemn as regards the world, but infinitely precious as regards the saints.
We are now prepared to consider the third great fact which is presented to our notice in the New Testament scriptures that fact which forms the subject of this chapter -- the fact of the Redeemer's Return. And --