Sign of Christ's Coming
Prophecy - Signs
Friday, August 12, 2016
I've been reading through my Morning and Evening Spurgeon Devotional. He was called the Prince of Preachers for good reasons. I love his grand language and his pastoral insights. He was a man of great faith who worked tirelessly for the kingdom of God.
A recent Morning Devotion particularly warmed my heart. It was titled: "Watchman, What Time of the Night?" Spurgeon wrote in part:
But, watchman, when comes the morning? The Bridegroom delays. Are there no signs of His appearing as the Sun of Righteousness? Hasn't the morning star arisen as the pledge of day? When will the day dawn and the shadows flee away? O Jesus, if You don't come in person to Your waiting Church today, still come in Spirit to my sighing heart and make it sing for joy.
Now all the earth is bright and glad
With the fresh morn;
But all my heart is cold, and dark and sad:
Sun of my soul, let me behold Thy dawn!
Come, Jesus, Lord,
O quickly come, according to Thy word.
Charles Spurgeon eloquently stated what we wish for: Maranatha, please, Lord, come soon! The interesting thing to me is that Spurgeon was a Historic Premillennialist. As such he was also a posttribulationist. Dennis Swanson wrote an informative article on Spurgeon's eschatology which you can read online.
Despite being a posttribulationist, Spurgeon expected Christ's any-moment coming. J Barton Payne was another posttribulationist who believed in imminence. Others were Robert Murray M'Cheyne and the Bonar brothers.
However, the Coming of the Lord they expected imminently was the Second Advent just prior to the Millennium. Their view of imminence wasn't connected to the rapture of the church. The reason they could simultaneously believe in the Second Advent and imminence is because they were Covenant Theologians.
Covenant Theology presumes the Church is a continuity of Old Testament Israel. Most prophecies don't fit well into the scheme of a predominantly Gentile Church. Therefore CT proponents must spiritualize texts which speak prophetically of Israel. This system facilitates historicism, amillennialism, postmillennialism, preterism, and pretty much anything else.
Even though some believed in Israel's salvation in some form, they missed the full meaning of the prophetic points of God's plan. Had they understood the prerequisite for Christ's Second Advent as it pertains to Israel, they wouldn't have held to imminence.
As an example of CT thinking - a reviewer of a recently published book of essays honoring a Progressive Dispensationalist, complained about its dispensational presuppositions. He noted that a pre-commitment to dispensationalism imposes discontinuity throughout redemptive history.
Whatever his concerns: dispensationalism teaches one way of redemption. The notion of One People of God also does not preclude a special function for redeemed national Israel. In fact continuity in redemptive history demands Israel's future restoration because God promised it.
The Bible affirms Israel will seek God because of its afflictions (Deut 4:30-31; Hos 5:15). Compare also Zech 12:10 with Matt 24:29-30. Israel will be restored when it seeks Christ (Matt 23:39).
God will act to restore and cleanse Israel for His name's sake (Ezek 36:22-38). Israel will possess the land forever (Jer 7:7, 25:5; Amos 9:14-15). God will never reject Israel's descendants for what they have done (Jer 31:31-37, 33:19-25). The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29).
If God's cursing of Israel is valid (Deut 28:37) then so are His promises of restoration and blessing (Zech 8:23). Throughout all these texts, dispensationalists "presuppose" that God means what He says. His holy name is at stake. If God can renege on Israel's redemption then our salvation is in peril as well.
If God meant what He said about Israel's redemption, then it follows that other statements are true. These include prophecies concerning Israel immediately prior to the Second Advent. Compare Zechariah chapters 13 to 14 with the Olivet Discourse and Revelation chapters 16 to 19.
Historical prognostications regarding Christ's Second Advent failed because the main ingredient was omitted. The Millerites and Adventists failed for the same reasons Harold Camping consistently failed. They left national Israel out of their calculations.
The Second Advent couldn't have occurred during Spurgeon's, M'Cheyne's or Ryle's day because Israel didn't exist as a nation in the land. The emergence of dispensationalism has sharpened the distinction between the church and Israel and highlighted the dynamics preceding Christ's premillennial coming.
Despite the horrors of the 1st and 2nd World Wars, we understand that the Second Advent couldn't have occurred then. Israel was missing. Yet these two conflagrations (some say it was a continuous one) helped set up the restoration of Israel.
The Jews have endured centuries of persecutions and pogroms, including the Holocaust of WWII. Israel survived large-scale attacks the same year it became a nation. Since then it has managed to overcome multiple treats to its existence in a hostile environment. Who would have thought?
Through all this Israel has been castigated by the nations for its alleged human rights violations. This includes churches, political parties and a host of activists. Even World Vision has been indicted for its anti-Israel stance. Ironically, nations such as Iran consistently escape scrutiny.
How is it that some Christians defend Islam, yet have no qualms indicting Israel? Doesn't this seem odd if Israel is no longer prophetically relevant?
Syria and Iraq have fallen. Turkey's recent turmoil has cemented Erdogan's Islamist regime. The current U.S. Administration further enabled Israel's number one enemy, Iran (and Hezbollah). Russia's interests in the Middle East (Turkey and Iran) has left pundits (including Israel and Europe) wondering and debating its next moves. Then there's the growing belligerence of China and North Korea.
As I write this, the world is like an out-of-control car sliding on ice. It will only come to a stop once it has collided. Some European leaders have identified similar dynamics which were present prior to WWII. Only this time Israel is present in the land.
Scripture speaks of a future global conflagration involving Israel. The world is currently obsessed with castigating Israel. Israel's Islamist terrorist concerns have become the world's problem. Are we possibly seeing end time events occurring in our time? Shouldn't we be paying attention?
My prayer is that those who diligently study God's Word as it speaks of grace, salvation and other eternal truths would begin to treat Scripture concerning Israel in the same fashion. It is a mistake to ignore Israel.
I mentioned the rapture earlier. Unlike Spurgeon, pretribulationists have legitimate cause for expecting Christ's return for the church at any time. The rapture is an imminent event (1Thess 5:2-3 etc) because it occurs before God's wrath.
The period preceding Christ's premillennial return is characterized by global turmoil initiated by the opening of the seals (Rev 6). Yet the Faithful Bride has been promised exemption from God's eschatological wrath (1 Thess 5:9) and from the time of trial which will come upon the whole world (Rev 3:10).
The closer we move towards this period the nearer we come to the rapture of the church. And so we can rightly proclaim Maranatha!
Come, Jesus, Lord,
O quickly come, according to Thy word.
About Alf Cengia
Last week: Scripture Contains God's Word?
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