Prophecy Study: “The Return” A.W. Pink (Chapter One)
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1. The Return Is Necessitated By Old Testament Prophecy
It is very apparent to any one who has read thoughtfully through the Old Testament that the First Advent of our Lord did not exhaust the burden and scope of the numerous predictions which had been made concerning Him. Many of the things foretold of Israel’s Messiah were not accomplished during the days when He tabernacled among men. Many of the promises found in God’s Word connected with the Person of Christ, still await their ratification. While it is true that the First Advent of the Lord Jesus literally and remarkable fulfilled many of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him, yet, it is also true that many others were not then fulfilled.
“And I will put enmity between thee (the “serpent”) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). There is much in this remarkable verse which we cannot now consider in detail, yet we will endeavor to present an outline of its contents. This is not a single prophecy but a compound one and at least seven separate predictions are included in it:–
First, the woman is to have a seed: as we know, this pointed forward to our Lord’s humanity. Second, He was to be peculiarly the woman’s “seed,” not the man’s, hence we read, “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4, Greek). Third, the woman’s “Seed” was to bruise the Serpent: in other words, Satan was to be His particular antagonist. Fourth, He was to bruise the Serpent’s head. Fifth, He Himself was to be bruised in the “heel” by the Serpent; and hence it is written, He was “bruised for our iniquities” (Is. 53:5). Sixth, there was to be “enmity” between the Serpent and the one who gave birth to the “Seed,” namely Israel (cf. Rev. 12:1-6). And then, after making mention of the enmity between the Serpent and the woman, we read, Seventh, “And between thy seed–the Serpent’s “seed,” i.e., the Son of Perdition–and her “Seed.” In other words, this agelong “enmity” was to head up in a conflict between the Antichrist and the true Christ. For our present purpose it is sufficient to single out the fourth and fifth of the above items, which, in their historical order, have been reversed.
“Thou shalt bruise His heel.” That old Serpent the Devil was to be permitted to attack the wound the only vulnerable part of our Lord’s person–His humanity, here intimated by the word “heel.” How this portion of the prophecy was fulfilled our readers will know. No sooner was the Lord Jesus born in Bethlehem of Judaea than the “Dragon” sought to encompass His destruction (Rev. 12:4). Immediately following His baptism, which was the inauguration of His public ministry, He was tempted or “tried” by the Devil for forty days (Mark 1:13). On the eve of His crucifixion our Lord expressly declared, “This is your hour, and the Power of Darkness: (Luke 22:53). Thus was Satan allowed to bruise the “heel” of the woman’s Seed.
But we also read, “It shall bruise thy head,” that is, Christ shall bruise Satan’s “head.” The head is the seat and source of power, and in the Scripture we are now considering is placed in sharp antithesis with the “heel” of the woman’s Seed. Stripped of its prophetic symbolism, it can only mean that Christ is to depose Satan and reduce him to a state of impotency. This interpretation is fully confirmed in Rev. 20 where we learn that a day is coming when the Devil shall be bound and cast into the Bottomless Pit to remain there securely confined throughout the Millennial Era. What we now desire to emphasize particularly is, that, this part of the Edenic prophecy was not fulfilled when our Lord was upon earth before, and has not yet been fulfilled. Therefore, if this prediction is be realized our Lord must return to this earth and deprive the Devil of his power, for He alone is competent for such a task.
Again; we read in Is. 9:6, 7, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” Here again we meet with a prophecy which has already received a partial fulfillment, but which has not yet been completely realized. Unto Israel a Child was “born,” unto Israel a Son was “given;” but, during the days of His First Advent the “government” for He is not yet seated upon His own”throne: (see Rev. 3:21). Observe particularly that, above, it is repeated “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” His “government” and “peace” are inseparably connected. The latter part of this prophecy therefore looks forward to the time of His Second Advent, for “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory” (Matt. 25:31). Then will it be that He shall inaugurate a Reign of Peace, for then it shall be (and not till then) that “He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3). Thus we see that the declarations of the Prophetic Word require and necessitate the personal return of Christ to this earth, for only thus and only then will they be literally and completely fulfilled. Many other Old Testament predictions could be cited to the same effect, but one more must suffice.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, the Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, the Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the North country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land” (Jer. 23:5-8). In the first place, observe, here, that unto David (Israel) God promised to raise up a King who should reign and prosper. Without a doubt this prophecy refers to our Lord Jesus Christ who was born “King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2), for it was uttered shortly after the Jews were carried down into Babylon, since which they have had no human King. It needs no argument to prove that the terms of this prophecy were certainly not fulfilled at the time of our Lord’s First Advent, for then, the Jews would not own Him, but demanded His death, and when Pilate inquired of them, “Shall I crucify your King?” (John 19:15), the leaders of the nation answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Furthermore, this prophecy was not fulfilled when our Lord took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, for note, it says that Israel’s King shall “execute judgment and justice in the earth,” not “from the heavens.” Again; we observe that it declares, “In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel (the ten tribes) shall dwell safely” which certainly did not come to pass during the days of our Lord’s humiliation. No; this prophecy, like scores of other Messianic predictions recorded in the Old Testament, looks forward to the time of our Lord’s Second Advent to the earth, which Advent is imperative if the terms of this prophecy are to be realized.
It is this very thing which has proven such a stumbling-block to the Jews and humanly speaking, has been the reason why so many of them have failed to see in “Jesus of Nazareth” the Messiah of Israel. But, as we shall show above, those Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament which were not fulfilled at His first Advent will be fulfilled at His Second.
2. The Return Is Necessitated By His Own Affirmations
During the course of His public ministry our Lord made frequent reference to His Second Coming. When we consider how few of His discourses have been transmitted to us and how brief is the inspired record of His teachings as found in the New Testament Scriptures, we are deeply impressed with the importance of our present inquiry as we note how much there is in the Gospel narratives which relates to our Redeemer’s Return. Not only do we find many incidental references, but most of His “parables” treat of those things which have to do with His Second Advent, and, furthermore, several whole chapters in the Gospels are devoted to a fuller setting forth of the same great event. Unto our Lord’s own teaching, then, upon His Second Coming we turn our attention. We cannot now review all that He said upon the subject, but must content ourselves with singling out two or three of His utterances thereon.
In Matt. 24 and 25 we have two whole chapters occupied with this theme, and in them we find that again and again our Lord made mention of His Return–“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (24:27), which means that our Lord’s Return to this earth will be visible, public, and attended with awe-inspiring glory. The same ideas are presented in the 30th verse of the same chapter–“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Further down in the chapter, our Lord bids His people make preparation for His appearing because He may return at any moment. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh” (vs. 44). In the next chapter, in the Parable of the Virgins, the subject of the Bridegroom’s Coming is again brought before us, while the closing verses furnish us with a detailed description of His judgment of the living nations which introduces the setting up of His Millennial Kingdom–“When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31, 32).
In the nineteenth of Luke we have the Parable of the Nobleman which is very plain and pointed: “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And He called His ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated Him, and sent a message after Him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when He was returned, having received the kingdom, then He commanded these servants to be called unto Him, to whom He had given the money, that He might know how much every man had gained by trading” (Luke 19:12-15). The “Nobleman” is the Lord Jesus. The “journey into the far country” was His Ascension to heaven. The “Kingdom” which He went to “receive” is His Millennial Kingdom for which He taught His disciples to pray. The “return” is His Second Advent to this earth. The “servants” are believers. The “money” (marg. “silver,” which in Scripture symbolizes redemption) seems to typify the Gospel, which has been committed into our hands to proclaim to a lost world. The “occupying till He comes” is the faithful giving out of the Gospel and the daily witnessing for Him during the time of His absence. The “message” sent by “His citizens” refers to the continued rejection of Christ and His Gospel by the Jews during the days of the apostles and particularly under the ministry of Stephen. The rewarding of the servants at the time of His Return, is the allotting to them of places of honor in His Millennial Kingdom. That to which we would specially call attention is the fact that our Lord here expressly declares He will “return,” come back again to this earth.
Perhaps the most explicit of all the statements which the Lord Jesus made upon our present theme is that recorded in the opening verses of John 14. Our Lord was alone with His disciples. He was about to be separated from them. For three years they had companied with Him, but now the cross with all its suffering and shame lay athwart His path. The realization of His approaching death had filled His followers with fear and anguish. Their hearts were heavy and sad. Turning to them in their grief, the Master speaks words of solace and cheer–“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). These words of our Lord can have only one possible meaning: He was going away, but He would return again, return in person to receive His own unto Himself. Such was His positive and unconditional promise. Thus we see that the fulfillment of His promises, the keeping of His Word, necessitates the personal Return of our blessed Redeemer.
The testimony of our Lord given while He was here upon earth was confirmed, and rendered even more unequivocal, if that were possible, by His post-ascension utterances. Fifty years after He had returned to heaven the Lord Jesus sent His angel to the beloved John on the Isle of Patmos to give unto him “The Revelation” and in it we hear our Lord saying, no less than six times, “Behold, I come quickly.” This is His last promise, His final word to His people now on earth. He is coming back again. He Himself has said so. He said so repeatedly during the days of His earthly ministry. He said so in language about which there was no ambiguity whatsoever. He said so both to His friends and to His enemies. He said so again fifty years after His ascension to heaven. And He cannot lie. He is Himself the “Truth”–the Truth incarnate. He is “The Faithful and True Witness,” therefore He must keep His Word, fulfill His promises, and Return in person.
3. The Return Is Necessitated By The Ratification Of The Holy Spirit
While our Lord was here upon earth and on the eve of His crucifixion, He promised to send His disciples another Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth. He further promised the apostles that, when the Spirit came to them, He would guide them “into all truth.” Therefore, it is to the Divinely inspired writings of these apostles we must turn if we would learn all that God has been pleased to reveal concerning our present inquiry.
As we read the Epistles of the New Testament it is highly important for us to keep in mind the fact that we have in them not the suppositions and speculations of their human writers but reliable and authoritative information communicated by the Holy Spirit Himself, for “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). As we turn to the Epistles we find that each writer made some contribution to our present theme: Peter and Paul, James, John, and Jude all referred to the prospect and certainty of the Return of our Redeemer.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian saints, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you. So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:4-8). To the Philippian saints he wrote, “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Phil. 3:20, 21). To the Colossians he wrote, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). To the Thessalonians he wrote, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thess. 2:19). To the Hebrews he wrote, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (9:28).
The apostle James wrote, “Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (5:7, 8).
The apostle Peter wrote, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). “And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4).
The apostle John wrote, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3). And again, “For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh” (2 John 7, R. V.).
The apostle Jude wrote, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (vs. 21).
Here then is an argument simple but conclusive. Each Epistle writer of the New Testament makes mention of the Redeemer’s Return. These men were not hallucinated. They were not giving expression to impracticable ideals which would never be realized. Their writings were Divinely inspired. These holy men were “moved by the Holy Spirit” and recorded truth “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13). The very fact, then, that the Holy Spirit of God has, through the apostles, testified again and again, ratifying the declarations of Old Testament prophecy and affirmations of Christ Himself, necessitates and demands the personal Return of our Lord.
Yes! Jesus is Coming!
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