I will Come Again
E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
I was once asked to what passage in the New Testament I would turn to learn about the second coming of the Lord. I forget what answer I gave then, but, if I were asked the question again, the answer would be " John 14." It is true that Matthew's Gospel contains many references to the second advent and on a later occasion, if the Lord will, we may consider some of them ; but most of them are in the form of a parable. Now, a parable requires interpretation, and interpretationsvary, even amongst the most learned and saintly men. John 14 is not a parable. The Lord Jesus is cheering His jaded and dejected disciples, and He makes a promise. A promise does not require interpretation, it demands belief. So in considering first principles, it is surely wise to go to a promise rather than to a parable.
Circumstances in which the promise was given.
The words of chapters 13 and 14 of John's Gospel were Spoken by the Lord in the large upper room in Jerusalem where He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples and had instituted the simple act of remembrance which, in response to His loving command, we carry out each week in our ' morning gathering.' The shadows of the Cross were over that scene ; very soon the Saviour would lie prostrate in Gethsemane in prospect of bearing sin's burden. Yet so loving and precious is He that His thoughts were all for His own whom He was leaving in the world. They were
(a) perplexed. Events had moved contrary to their hopes. Their perplexity was expressed in such words as, " Lord, whither goest Thou ?" —" Why cannot 1 follow Thee now?" — "Lord, we know not..."—and " How is it that Thou . . . ?"
(b) perturbed. " Because 1 have said these things, sorrow hath filled your heart." Twice over the Lord exhorts them, " Let not your heart be troubled . . . Believe God . . . Believe Me."
(c) alas, soon to be panic-stricken. " Behold the hour cometh, yea is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone." How often do we, too, become perplexed. Life is hard, problems beset us, and sorrows threaten to overwhelm us. We become perturbed, troubled and anxious, and are at times even brought to the verge of panic. But even as these words of the Lord brought within that upper room the very peace and joy of heaven, so they still come to us with living freshness and power as ministered to us through the Spirit of Truth whom He promised to give to His own.
The promise itself.
Let us first note the simple fact that He was going away. He had been with His disciples for possibly 3| years; He had been their counsellor, guide and friend ; they called Him their teacher and Lord ; they had continued with Him in His temptations ; but now that old sweet relationship was to be broken; He was going to leave them ! Can we imagine the tremendous shock to these men ? He was going away, but where ? " Arise," He said ; " let us go hence," and they went out through the streets of the city to the place of the olive-presses. He " went forth " to meet the rabble who came to take Him ; He " came forth " wearing a crown of thorns; He " went forth " bearing His cross to the place called " Calvary," where He died in shame. Is this what He meant when He told His disciples that He was going away ? No! He was going to the Father whom He loved, whom He had glorified on the earth and whose work He had finished. The glories of the Father's House were before Him, and the Gates of Eternity would be opened to Him in triumphant welcome. But, what of His own ? In the Father's house there was plenty of room, many abodes. Had this not been so. He would have told them. How wonderful this is ! He who exhorts them to believe Him would hide nothing from them ; He, who asks for the absolute confidence of His own, takes His own completely into His confidence. There is nothing for our spiritual good and comfort that He has not told us ; nothing of possible trouble or difficulty which He has hidden from us. " If it were not so, I would have told you." He was going to prepare a place for them. Going in the perfection of His manhood to the place that He had eternally occupied as the Son of God. He was the Chief Leader of our salvation, opening the way and preparing the place to be occupied by the many sons who in the Father's purpose were to be brought to glory.
He told them of His departure; He told them of the place that He would prepare for them ; but He also makes the pledge which forms the title of this paper, " I will come again." Can anything be simpler than such a statement ? Note carefully that at this time no suggestion is made as to the manner of His coming ; no indication is made as to the time of His coming; nothing is said of the various problems and difficulties that have caused so much discussion and dissension. Is tins, however, not in keeping with the whole tenor of the passage ? What did the disciples want ? They wanted His company—they wanted Him. Very well, the Lord says, " I will come again." Is there not a fundamental lesson here for us all to learn ? Amid our arguments about this and that, do not our hearts at times grow cold, and are we not guilty of neglecting the fundamental fact that HE is coming again ? Who is coming ? " I, Jesus !" the Eternal Lover of our souls ; the Lord who gave Himself for us ; the One, whom having not seen, we love ; in whom though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
His declared purpose in coming again.
" To receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." Even as we crave for the companionship of those whom we love, so does the blessed Lord desire the eternal companionship of those whom He has bought with His own blood. We are linked eternally with Him. Note the links that unite us with Christ. There is the:
Link of Life. " Because I live, ye shall live also."
Link of Relationship. " I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, to my God and your God."
Link of Home. " My Father's House . . . that where I am, there ye may be also."
Link of Glory. " The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them."
" Meet companion then for Jesus ; Of Him, for Him made ; Glory of God's grace for ever Then in me displayed."
There are those who treat this promise of our Lord's as though He meant that He. came when we died and took us to be with Himself. Malachi Taylor's words have a direct bearing on this, and will form a fitting conclusion :
" Here then is the beginning of the things of heaven of which He made mention to Nicodemus. It explains the whole of His work and unfolds the Father's will and His own. To introduce man to heaven, He must come for him. The spirit may be absent from the body and be with Christ, but the things of the new creation in that completeness necessitate the body as well as the spirit that the whole man shall be there. This tells not of manifestation with Him in glory, only the intensely sweet thing of being with Him for His love's sake."