An Exposition on the Book of Revelation -- by L. S. McCutcheon

Part 10 of 11

Chapter 8

JESUS IS COMING AGAIN

"I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:3b). This is the promise of our Lord. The angels confirm his words and utter to the disciples, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1: I lb). Christ's promise is repeated by the apostles and embraced by multitudes of saints in every generation.

This glorious prophecy shines like a diamond of light from the pages of Holy Writ. Sacred books of other religions are void of the jewels of prophecy. This is not difficult to understand. If human authors attempted with finite minds to foretell future events, they would leave behind them strong evidence of their deception. Only Almighty God grasps the ages. He is the Alpha and Omega. Our God knows all mysteries. None can deny that the prophecies in the Word of God find fulfillment in the march of the ages, corroborating God's prophetic statements.

When Jesus told His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go away but that He would return again, immediately they inquired when He would return. The Lord, the great Prophet, foretold a number of events that would transpire before His second advent. He said, "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:5). Concerning these false christs, Josephus says, "there were many who, pretending to. Divine inspiration, deceived the people, leading out numbers of them to the desert, pretending that God would show them the signs of liberty, meaning redemption from the Roman power; and that an Egyptian false prophet led 30,000 men into the desert, who were almost cut off by Felix." It was just judgment for God to deliver up that people into the hands of false christs, who had rejected the true One. The coming of false christs was to be one of the signs preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. However, throughout all the centuries, false leaders have repeatedly appeared claiming to be the Messiah.

Other prophecies that Jesus gave to warn the disciples of Jerusalem's destruction were of wars, famines, strange signs in the sky, persecution and apostasy. All these prophecies came to exact fulfillment, and then Jerusalem fell. The apostasy that our Lord depicted did not end with Jerusalem's destruction. The Lord said, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt. 24:12-13). The apostles were deeply concerned regarding the rapid pace of the apostasy even before the end of the first century. Paul expressed his burdened soul when bidding farewell to the Ephesian, elders saying, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30).

To the Thessalonians who anticipated the Lord's return in their lifetime Paul wrote: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [Christ's coming] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. 2:3-4). Here is a prophecy that the antichrist and the apostasy would both precede the Lord's return. This "man of sin" could not refer to Caesar as some say. Caesar was already on the stage of history and Paul speaks of an antichrist to appear at a future time. This prophecy was fulfilled when the pope of Rome appeared and set himself up claiming the authority of God. The pope is that "son of perdition" referred to in Second Thessalonians 2:3, and more distinctly disclosed in the words "whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming" (2 Thess. 2:8b).

God Is Preparing His Army

The Word, the Spirit, and the church stand as God's answer to a world of chaos. The prophecies clearly define all these as God's witnesses being especially active at the close of the age. These are the forces of God to combat the powers of iniquity at our Armageddon. The saints may be as small in number as the few Jewish priests at literal Armageddon, and the host of the enemy may be as numerous as the sand of the sea-but God is with the trinity of righteousness and promises victory. One of the most thrilling scenes of the Revelation comes in the nineteenth chapter when John exclaims:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;

That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.

And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their am-des, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:11-20).

The same white horse, the symbol of pure Christianity, is as holy, pure, and powerful at the end of the age as she was in her primitive existence. One thing must be noted, however. In the beginning the rider of the white horse had only one crown; but at the end of the conflict, many crowns were on his head. These are the crowns of victory won in the battles of earth. The same weapon is brought to the aid of righteousness -- a sword out of the mouth of the King of Kings. This is the acclamation that His word cannot be destroyed and remains the chief instrument of warfare against the enemy. It will also be noted that the church of the current century is identically the same as the body of Christ revealed in the New Testament. In Spirit and in the doctrine of the Word, there must be complete agreement in the church. While the church of today, no longer an infant but more mature, uses tools of today's world and has developed many new methods to accomplish her task, her nature must still be identical to the nature of Jesus Christ.

Beyond the dark clouds of the enemies' host the Sun of Righteousness still shines. He has never forgotten His saints and has been working steadily in this conflict against Satan. It is very encouraging to observe the hunger in the hearts of Christians for fellowship together.

Church of God Christians in Germany report that there are still many true saints in Russia. Recently, a Christian walked forty miles just to have fellowship with other saints. A group of Christians sought an underground place of safety to read and disperse the Holy Bible. There were not sufficient copies for all to have complete Bibles, so pages were tom out in sections and distributed among the saints. Only the Spirit creates such a desire for truth, fellowship, and unity. It is heartening to share with numerous Christians the revival of Bible study with renewed vigor. I believe we are on the threshold of one of the greatest moments in church history. It is the responsibility of the church to sound the trumpet of truth and practice the message of Christian unity. It is God's part to draw His sheep into one fold by his Spirit. Unity is a result, not a cause.

In many countries where Christians face persecution, imprisonment, and death, a new bond of love and concern for fellow Christians has been realized. The emphasis is not on straining points of theological differences, but rather in spiritual fellowship as children in God's family. Evangelist Billy Graham states, "the Communists in Russia guard Christianity like Roman soldiers guarded Jesus' tomb; fearful that He would rise again." We firmly believe that true Christianity cannot be buried -- it will rise again in Russia!

The prophecies do proclaim a true restoration of the pure gospel message before our Lord's return. Often Christians plead for Christ to answer their prayers; Christ also pleads a prayer that only Christians can answer. It is our Lord's prayer, "that they may be one" (John 17:1 1).

Jesus prophesied the proclamation of the gospel being complete before His return. He said, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). The Revelator, John, bears witness to this truth when he calls attention to the message of three angels who appear in his vision of the Lamb on Mount Zion at the end of time: "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Rev. 14:6-7).

It is noted that it is not a new gospel, but rather the everlasting message delivered from the beginning of the gospel day. A second angel followed proclaiming, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (Rev. 14:8-10).

The picture is clear that just preceding God's judgment upon Roman Catholicism and Protestant systems marked with the nature of the apostate church, God would revive the everlasting gospel message with a renewed power of the Holy Spirit. The proclamation of the Word is the only solid foundation for true unity. Mergers of religious denominations and sects, which include individuals who deny the virgin birth, Christ's divinity, divine inspiration of the Scriptures, the atonement of Jesus' blood, and the miracles and supernatural religion, certainly have no agreement with the Word. Church councils may form a neutral creed agreeable to numerous religious bodies, but the true church must abide by the only creed God gave for His church-the Bible.

Church councils may succeed in uniting many religious bodies into one union, but men are powerless to breathe the life of the Spirit into its corpse. Spiritual life is not a result of human effort. Only when the Holy Spirit is recognized to be the sole Organizer of the church can life be breathed into the body. Paul said, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body" (I Cor. 12:13a). To unite Christians who are alive in Christ with the dead bodies of religious creeds is to tie living saints with dead sinners; both suffer separation from God. When, a true baptism of the Holy Spirit is experienced by God's children, their natures are changed and they are partakers of the Divine Spirit. Paul said, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9b).

The nature of the Word, the Spirit, and the church must be in perfect agreement. This is a prerequisite for Christian unity.

The church has been a 'sleeping giant,' which must be awakened with the trumpet sound of war against the powers of evil. Every preacher should shout, "This is Armageddon!" Christian soldiers cannot afford to lay aside their shield of faith, for Satan's darts of atheism, fear, materialism and pagan philosophies will soon reach the target. Helmets of salvation must be tightened lest the enemy find God's soldiers unprepared. Skill in wielding our sword of the Spirit may mean spiritual life or death. A breastplate of righteousness is the only kind of armor that sin cannot penetrate. Only loins girded about with truth are protected from error. Feet shod with the gospel of peace march forward with the weapons of our warfare which "are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (2 Cor. 10:4).

One of the mightiest victories for Satan is won when Christians are deceived into believing that Armageddon is a literal battle in the future with some anti-Christ who is half man and half devil. Paul said long ago, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12).

Now, pit the armies of the pagan dragon, the papal beast, and the false prophet against the powers of God, the Word, the Spirit, and the church! The battle is costly and demands trained soldiers. The stakes are high. There will be many casualties; but victory is promised to the saints. God's soldiers may be beheaded but they will say with Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not unto me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:7- 8). This brings assurance that when the battle is over, "we shall wear a crown in the new Jerusalem."

Christians rejoice to see the gospel reaching around the world. There is a revival spirit awakening, church growth and missions is on the move! In countries where missionaries are not permitted, the radio is reaching. It was a great achievement when Dr. Billy Graham was the speaker for the Global Crusade. On Sunday, April 14, 1996, during prime time, Billy Graham broad- cast his Message of Hope to more people around the world than on any day in history.

In his largest and most challenging endeavor yet, Graham reached more than 2.5 billion people in 200 countries -- 160 on national television and more than 40 via satellite. It was translated into over 40 of the world's most commonly spoken languages and 445 million pieces of follow-up literature was distributed. One million churches in the U. S. and around the world were invited to mobilize "house television gatherings" for this evangelistic effort.

The Trans World Radio reports there has been an increase of 20 million new Chinese Christians in just the past two years.' The thousands of men who joined together for prayer and spiritual commitment is a wonderful experience. These Promise Keepers are making a better home for their families and a better world for others.

Prison Ministry calls for the church to redouble their efforts. Chairman Chuck Colson reports the inmate population at mid - year 1997, to be the shocking number of 1,725,842.

We are thankful for the number of missionaries who serve in the United States and countries abroad. We have learned missionaries are never beggars. They are ambassadors who give us the opportunity to become partners by giving our dollars while they give their lives.

The Church of God Movement at Armageddon

In the year 1880, D. S. Warner, along with a number of other saints, caught a vision of a completely restored church.

The group multiplied, and has been referred to as the Last Reformation, Church of God Reformation, Evening Light, or as Church of God. It is both inclusive and exclusive. The sole requirement for membership is the new birth. God alone could keep such a membership record. The church maintains that any religious body, which excludes Christ as the Head is not His Church. Neither is any religious body, which excludes some of God's children the body of Christ.

All truth revealed through the great reformers is graciously accepted by the Church of God. The message of Christian unity is especially of great concern. The teachings of Alexander Campbell, founder of the Christian Church, stressed much doctrine regarding this matter. He laid a great emphasis on the Word, producing unity among believers. About the middle of the nineteenth century there was a great holiness movement, termed an Interdenominational Assembly, which stressed the importance of the Holy Spirit experience uniting all Christians. The Church of God ministry proclaims that both the Word and the Spirit are essential to Christian unity. I like what Dr. A. F. Gray has to say:

The entire Christian world is discussing Christian unity and is experimenting in the pursuit of it. But the assumption seems to be that success in this venture must be achieved at the top level. The heads and leaders of denominations are looked to as ones who must solve the problem of church unity among Christians.

President Eisenhower, in connection with his European trip, said something like this, "The peoples of the world want peace; the governments had better get out of their way." Why should not Christian unity spring from the "grass roots" rather than waiting for church leaders to effect it?

Satan is making a desperate attack on the Church of God message of unity. He presents the temptation to compromise truth in exchange for prestige in religious councils. The enemy presents a rosy picture of coexistence with all religious bodies rather than proclaiming the unique pattern for the church. The leaders of spiritual Babylon are calling loud and long for the return of the saints to the fleshpots of materialism. Satan even suggests that the Church of God has fulfilled her mission, made her contribution, and should now lose her identity like the gulf stream, that flows into an ocean. Nothing could be further from the truth!

True saints, who have been delivered from the confusion and bondage of Babylon have no desire to return. The Protestant body is no more spiritual now than when they left it. Wise Chris- tians, will not accept the counterfeit of union for genuine unity.

Saints who stand on Mount Zion have only the Father's name in their foreheads and follow the Lamb wherever He leads.

Harold Boyer previously served as chairman of the General Ministerial Assembly of the Church of God, writes the following in his book, The Apostolic Church. "There is a distinctiveness to this reformation movement of the Church of God. It does not seek to reform, either the Roman Catholic, state, or Protestant church; it rather seeks to call the true people of God from all humanly organized churches to true spiritual unity, thus establishing on earth the church of the New Testament. Your writer believes the truth to be restored. I believe we have the truth, but greatly fear the truth does not have us. Too many professed saints are indifferent, and not a few have backed away to become engulfed again in the spirit of Babylon confusion, but the truth goes marching on.

The Church of God is unique. Because of its nature it cannot merge or unite with systems contrary to Christ. The body of Christ is holy and cannot be joined to councils, synods or assemblies, which include in their membership unregenerated persons. Neither can the church adhere to ecclesiastical governments of human origin, for the church is divinely governed. The only pattern for unity is the New Testament pattern. Anything else is not the design of God. True unity cannot be realized on the terms of men; the Lord Himself has set the price.

May God grant that the Church of God movement shall stand in the front ranks of the greatest spiritual conflict of the ages.

There is an urgent call to awaken the church. All too long the church has been weak, tardy, irrelevant and silent. Weak saints become strong, healthy hypocrites. Let's all check our armor. Jesus, our Captain, is calling for all soldiers to be better prepared for battle; learn how to use our sword of the Spirit.

The Army of the Lord

In the holy army we've enlisted,
Now the banner of the cross we bear;
All the forces of the wrong resisted,
Causes right to triumph everywhere.
We will follow where our Captain leadeth,
We will fight against the sullen foe.
We will stand together, then we'll conquer;
Certain victory is ours, we know.

We will push the fight o'er land and ocean,
And across the desert plains of sin;
We will give the cause our true devotion,
Till for truth and righteousness we win,
We're arrayed in all the gospel armor,
Bravely onward we will ever go,
Till we put to flight the hosts of evil,
Through our Leader we'll subdue the foe.

Hear the tramping of the countless millions,
Hear the battle's mighty thunders roar;
Hear the great Commander of the army
Sound the orders loud from shore to shore;
"Go ye into all the world, I'm with you,
Take the fortresses of sin today,
Charge the enemy, compel surrender,
Wear the victor's crown through endless day.

B. E. Warren

The Second Resurrection

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:16-17).

Here, Paul describes the manner of our Lord's return. He explains to the Thessalonian Christians that the saints who are alive at Christ's coming will not be taken to heaven until all those saints who have died have been resurrected.

In Jesus' sermon, concerning the two resurrections, it is clear also that all those in the graves, good or bad, will come forth. "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all they that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28-29). Paul further proclaims, "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It [the body] is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:42, 44a).

What a day that will be! The earth will tremble and shake. It will burst asunder at the voice of God and yield up all the dead from the ages of time. John describes, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works" (Rev. 20:13).

The second resurrection is of the physical body. The great Creator who remembers to awaken the pulse-less heart of an acorn in the sod, will not forget even one of the human creatures created in His own image. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the great witness to the immortality of man. Ever since the day Christ used the cross for a battering ram to burst the gates of death asunder, Christians firmly believe the acclamation of the Victor over death saying, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19b)

There is little need to question the nature of the resurrected body. John simply states, "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" (I John 3:2). Glory to the Lord-He wore a robe of flesh like mine, that I might wear a glorified body like His!

When the Lord returns He will not again take upon Himself the clothing of the flesh and reign upon the earth. Rather He will clothe the saints with immortality and take them to reign with Him. It is truly written, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (I Cor. 15:50).

Some have supposed there were two literal resurrections -- one for the righteous, and a resurrection of the wicked later. It is maintained that, the righteous dead and alive, will all be caught secretly away with Christ, leaving the wicked people on earth for a great tribulation. Jesus preached concerning this matter; four times in one sermon, He declared that the righteous would be resurrected on the last day. "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39-40). (See verses 44-54 also.)

The same truth is expounded in the parables. In the Parable of the Tares, it is noted that the tares are first gathered, then the wheat is placed into the garner; but both grow together until the end. Jesus' description of the judgment reveals both sheep and goats before Him at the same time; likewise the fish are separated, the good from the bad, in the Parable of the Net and Fishes.

There are many appointments we may break; but no one will fail to rise for an appointment with God at the resurrection day. We will all be there together.

The Destruction of the Earth

Recent scientific research and nuclear weapons for warfare have created much concern regarding the destruction of the planet named earth. Many scientists once believed the world was in- destructible. Now, however, scientists realize they have at their command hydrogen and cobalt bombs capable of utter holocaust destroying all life on this planet. Mononuclear weapons have been discovered which are too deadly to even use in test bombing.

God always vindicates His Word. Jesus very plainly referred to the end of the world saying, "Io, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20b). Again He proclaimed, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35).

Peter makes a vivid description of the earth being consumed:

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (11 Pet. 3:10-13).

John describes the catalysis as a mighty earthquake, the sun becoming as sackcloth of hair and the moon turning to blood In his vision he beheld the stars falling from the heavens as figs being shaken from a fig tree by a mighty wind. The heavens departed as a scroll and every mountain and island was moved out of its place (See Rev. 6:12-17).

It is readily observed from the Scriptures that Christ is not coming to renovate this planet. Rather, He will come to consummate this time world of materialism. The planetary heavens will vanish as a vapor. The earthly elements, which have been the habitation of evil as well as good will be annihilated. The ground, which was cursed because of Adam's sin (Gen. 3:17-19) shall cease to be and the dust from which man was created and unto which he returned will disappear in a great blast. Thus shall it be fulfilled as the Psalmist has written, "Of old thou hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure" (Ps. 102:25- 26a). And the words of the prophet shall come to pass as he said, "The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage;…it shall fall, and not rise again" (Isa. 24:19-20). When this great day appears I want to be safe in the bosom of God!

 

 

 
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