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STUDY 6: OUR LORD’S RETURN

 

Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

 

“AND he shall send Jesus Christ, which [who] before was preached unto you: whom the heaven

must receive [retain] until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the

mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3: 20, 21).

 

All familiar with the Scriptures recognize that Jesus taught His disciples that He would come

again a second time. True, He has been with His disciples since His first advent – guiding,

directing, comforting and sustaining them – as He promised in Matthew 28: 20: “Lo, I am with

you alway, even unto the end of the world [age].” The Church has been aware of His constant

care and love, yet she has longed for His promised personal return, as He said in John 14: 3: “If I

go . . . I will come again.”

 

The Scriptures declare that His second personal coming would be during a troublesome time, as

we read in 2 Timothy 3: 1-4: “In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be . . .

lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Also, Jesus forewarned His little flock: “Take heed

to yourselves, lest . . . that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them

[not taking heed] that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21: 34, 35).

 

Some expect the coming and presence of the Lord; but they expect it after the Church has

converted the world, Satan has been bound, the knowledge of the Lord has filled the whole

earth, nations have learned not to war any more, etc. Then the Lord will come to wind up earthly

affairs, reward believers and condemn sinners.

 

World Conversion follows Christ’s Return

 

Some Scriptures taken in isolation seem to support this view, but God’s Word and plan as a

whole, show that Christ comes before the conversion of the world, and that the purpose of His

reign is to convert the world. The Church was promised that after her trial is over, she will reign

with her Lord, to bless the world and cause all men to come to a knowledge of the Lord.

 

One Scripture used to try to prove that the Lord will come after the Millennium is

Matthew 24: 14: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness

unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” The claim is that this verse refers to the

conversion of the world, but witnessing to the world does not imply its conversion, for this verse

says nothing about how the testimony would be received. In fact, this witness has been given.

Back in 1861 reports of the Bible Societies showed that the Gospel had been published in every

language of the earth, though not all of earth’s millions had received it.

 

The Apostle in Acts 15: 14 tells us that the main object of the gospel in the present age is “to

take out . . . a people” for Christ’s name – the overcoming Church, witnessing to the world being

a secondary object.

 

There is a close relationship between the first and second advents. The work of the first advent

was to redeem men; that of the second is to restore, bless and liberate the redeemed; and the time

between the two has been to select “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (Revelation 21: 9). To be

accounted worthy of such honor, each must overcome the influences of the present evil world.

 

God foresaw that nearly two thousand years would be needed to select the “little flock” of “joint

heirs,” so He planned for our Lord’s first advent, and His ransom sacrifice, to take place just far

enough in advance of His second advent, when the blessings for the world are due to come. God

has not failed to convert the world, indeed, he has not even attempted to do so. That great work

is future – during Christ’s Millennial reign. God’s purposes shall be accomplished, for His Word

shall not return unto Him void, but shall prosper in the thing whereto it was sent (Isaiah 55: 11).

 

Election and Free Grace Harmonized

 

The two lines of thought that have divided Christians for centuries are the teachings of Election

and Free Grace. Both doctrines, although seeming opposites, have Scriptural support, leading us

to conclude that in some way both must be true. Many recognize the expression that order is

heaven’s first law, or put another way, the Truth seeker must “rightly divide the word of truth.”

Observing this order, we see that an Election has been in progress during the present and past

ages, whereas Free Grace is God’s provision for the world in the future Millennial age.

 

Election as taught in the Bible is not the arbitrary coercion, or fatalism, usually believed and

taught by its advocates, but a selection according to fitness and adaptability to the end God has

in view, during the period that has been appointed for that purpose.

 

The doctrine of Free Grace is a much grander display of God’s favor than its advocates have

ever taught. God’s grace in Christ is free in the sense that it is unmerited, but since the fall of

man into sin up to the present time, certain of God’s favors have been restricted to special

individuals, nations and classes. In the next age, however, the entire world will be invited to

share the favors then offered, on the condition of obedience, and whosoever will may come and

drink at life’s fountain freely (Revelation 22: 17).

 

Looking backward, we see the selecting of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and certain of their offspring

as the channels through which the promised Seed, the Blesser of all the families of the earth,

should come (Galatians 3: 29). We also see the selection of Israel from among all nations as the

one whom God typically illustrated how the great work for the world would be accomplished.

The Israelites alone were recognized until Christ came, and even then His ministry was confined

to them.

 

Hope for the Living and the Dead

 

Eventually, the Gentiles were also invited to accept the Gospel, and during this Gospel Age those

accepting the Gospel have been in preparation for their great future work. For this promised and

coming blessing, the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting

for the manifestation of the sons of God (Romans 8: 22, 19). Jesus died for all, so the free grace

then offered will not only be for those living at that time, but for all who have died – for those in

their graves have as much right to the future blessings and opportunities then offered.

 

We ask: What has become of the vast multitude of those who have lived and died, the great

majority of which have never heard of the name of Jesus, which is the only name given under

heaven or among men whereby we must be saved? Thinking Christians have asked themselves

these questions, and a variety of answers have come forth:

 

Atheism answers: They are eternally dead and will never live again.

 

Calvinism answers: They were not elected to be saved, and are now suffering in hell, where they

will ever remain, without hope.

 

Arminianism answers: We believe that God excuses many of them on account of ignorance, and

those who did the best they knew how will be a part of the Church, even though they had never

heard of Jesus.

 

Faith in Christ Essential for Salvation

 

Many Christians accept the last view, believing that God’s character could not permit any other

view, yet do the Scriptures support their view? On the contrary, they teach that ignorance is no

ground for salvation. The only ground mentioned in the Scriptures is faith in Christ as Redeemer

and Lord. By grace are ye saved, through faith (Ephesians 2: 8). When the apostles were asked,

What must I do to be saved? they answered, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Paul reasons that a man must hear the gospel before he can believe, saying, “How then shall they

call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they

have not heard?” (Romans 10: 14).

 

Both Jews and Gentiles find themselves under condemnation. The Jews were condemned by

their Law Covenant, for none were able to keep it. James 2: 10 states that whosoever shall keep

the whole law, except to offend in one point, is guilty; and the Gentiles had enough light of

conscience to be condemned. Romans 3: 10 states that “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

The Scriptures close every door of hope except for one, for not one of the condemned is able to

secure eternal life by good works, and ignorance cannot entitle any one to the reward of faith and

obedience.

 

The only way by which any of the condemned race may come to God is not by good works,

neither ignorance, but by faith in the precious blood of Christ, which taketh away the sin of the

world (1 Peter 1: 19) (John 1: 29). This is the Gospel, the good tidings of great joy, “which shall

be unto ALL PEOPLE.”

 

All Scriptures in Harmony

 

If the past and present have provided the only opportunities for salvation, and considering so few

of earth’s billions have even heard of Christ, how can we harmonize the following Scriptures:

 

John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever

believeth in him should not perish.”

 

John 1: 9: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

 

Hebrews 2: 9: “Jesus . . . by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”

 

1 Timothy 2: 5, 6: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ

Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all.”

 

If He is a ransom for all, why should not all have some benefit from Christ’s death? And why

should not all come to a knowledge of the truth, that they may believe? The key is in the latter

part of the last text quoted – “Who gave himself a ransom for all, TO BE TESTIFIED IN DUE

TIME.” God has a due time for everything, and the fact that He did not testify to them in their

past lifetime is proof that their due time must be future, just as the Gospel Age has been the due

time for the Church.

 

We see then that the view that death ends all probation is not true for the vast majority. His plan

is that: “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own

order” – the Gospel Church first; afterward, during the Millennial Age, all who shall become His

during that thousand years of His presence (mistranslated coming) (1 Corinthians 15: 22, 23).

 

First and Second Adams Contrasted

 

As death came by the first Adam, so life comes by Christ, the second Adam. Everything that

mankind lost through being in the first Adam is to be restored to those who believe into the

second Adam. When awakened, with the advantage of their experience with evil which Adam

lacked, those who accept the redemption as God’s gift may continue to live everlastingly on the

original condition of obedience. Perfect obedience will be required, and perfect ability to obey

will be given, under the righteous reign of Christ and His Church. God will not, however,

conflict with their freedom of will, or their liberty of choice, to give them life against their wills

(Deuteronomy 30: 19).

 

The last part of 1 Timothy 4: 10 reads: “We trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all

men, specially of those that believe.” Universalists claim this Scripture teaches that all will

eventually be saved, but upon closer examination, it indicates that all will be eventually saved

from Adam’s condemnation. Only those who through obedience go on to gain eternal life,

whether in this age or the next, are the “specially” saved.

 

As the dead come forth from their graves, the good tidings of a Savior will be testified to them,

and those who “believe in that day” will be granted a full release from the bondage of sin, and

the corruption of death, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. But attainment of these

blessings will depend upon hearty compliance with the laws of Christ’s Kingdom. The speed

with which each attains perfection will be dependent upon their love for the King and His law of

love. If any, after being restored to human perfection, become “fearful” and “draw

back” (Hebrews 10: 38, 39), they, with the unbelievers (Revelation 21: 8), will be destroyed

from among the people (Acts 3: 23). This is the second death.

 

Restitution for Israel and all Nations

 

Peter said that this promised restitution to human perfection has been spoken by the mouth of all

the holy prophets (Acts 3: 19-21). Ezekiel says of the valley of dry bones, “These bones are the

whole house of Israel.” And God says to Israel, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves,

and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall

know that I am the LORD, when I . . . shall put my spirit in you . . . and I shall place you in your

own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the

LORD” (Ezekiel 37: 11-14). This cannot merely refer to restorations from former captivities in

Babylon, Syria, etc., for they since have been plucked up.

 

Other nations beside Israel are also promised restitution, such as Sodom, whom our Lord

guarantees shall have an opportunity (Matthew 11: 24). Indeed, all nations, “all the families of

the earth” shall have an opportunity.

 

The Lord says, “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and

the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one [who dies] shall die for his own

iniquity” (Jeremiah 31: 29, 30). This is not true now, for presently each dies for Adam’s sin, but

the day when every man who dies shall die for his own sin is the Millennial or Restitution day.

 

Christians in general believe that all God’s blessings are only for the selected Church, but we see

that God’s plan is wider, and though He has given the Church “exceeding great and precious

promises,” He has also made bountiful provision for the world which He so loved as to redeem.

The Jews made a similar mistake in supposing that all God’s promises were to them alone; but

when the “due time” came and the Gentiles were favored, the few among Israel whose hearts

were large enough to rejoice in the wider evidence of God’s grace, shared that increased favor,

while the rest were blinded by prejudice and human tradition.

 

God’s Plan Greater than Man’s Doctrines

 

How different is the glorious plan of God – to select a few now, in order to bless the many

hereafter – from the various doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism! The former both denies

the Bible doctrine of Free Grace and distorts the doctrine of Election; the latter denies the

doctrine of Election and fails to comprehend the blessed fullness of God’s Free Grace.

 

Whereas Calvinism highlights God’s wisdom and power, it ignores His justice and love. On the

other hand, Arminianism recognizes His justice and love, but diminishes His wisdom and power.

While the doctrines of Election and Free Grace, as taught by Calvinism and Arminianism, could

never be harmonized with each other, with reason, or with the Bible, yet these two glorious Bible

doctrines are perfectly harmonious and beautiful when seen from the standpoint of the plan of

the ages.

 

God is, and has always been, the perfect master in the carrying out of His plan of the ages, and in

the end all will eventually recognize that everything has been working together for the

accomplishment of His purposes. Seeing that so many of the wonderful features of God’s plan

for human salvation from sin and death lie in the future, and that the second advent of our Lord

Jesus is the designed first step in the accomplishment of those long promised and expected

blessings, we look upon His second advent with longing instead of dread. Praise God that the

time for evil, injustice and death is about to end by the great power which He will exercise, and

that righteousness, truth and peace are to become universal! We lift up our hearts in anticipation

of the “great joy which shall be to all people.”

 

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