Editorial (Editor: A. O. Tait, Assistant Editor: W. L. Baker)
Following article was originally published on Signs of the Times – August 5, 1919.
When the doctrine of the second coming of Christ is mentioned, there are individuals who arise to say that Christ is here now by His Spirit, and therefore we are not to look for His coming again.
One of the clearest teachings of the Bible is that the children of God have enjoyed the spiritual presence of Christ all through the ages; and not only is this a Bible doctrine, but it is a glorious experience for those who believe and accept it.
Many do not know or realize that Christ, by His spiritual presence, was with the people in the old dispensation as well as with those in the gospel age. One text from the New Testament Scriptures that will make this point very plain, is as follows:
“I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual food; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10: 1-4, A. R. V.
Instead of a spiritual rock that followed them, the margin of the King James Version has it, “went with them.” The thought of the text is that the invisible leader who stood by the side of Moses to give him his mighty power in his wonderful work in the wilderness, was the Christ Himself, and He “followed” or “went with them,” to use His divine influence constantly to lead them to a truer, better life. This spiritual presence of Christ is one of the realities of the gospel that enables the believer to put to the test its literal truth.
But the fact that we may have Christ present with us by His Spirit here and now must not be allowed to eclipse the fact that He has promised also to return the second time, not as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger, but in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
The truth in the case is very tersely stated by Dr. James M. Campbell in his recent little volume, “The Second Coming of Christ” He says: “In the book of Revelation our Lord announces Himself as the one ‘who was and who is and who is to come’ (4: 8). He is the Christ of the past, the Christ of the present, and the Christ of the future; the Christ who came, who is here, and who is yet to come. A complete vision of Christ in relation to time must include these three separate views.” If we would have the complete Christ, we must see Him he all His relations with mankind. By faith, we must see Him in the past, we must see Him and know Him in the present, and then we must look forward to His coming again in the clouds of heaven. Anything short of knowing Him in this threefold manner means a failure to understand the Christ that is the central theme of all the Word of God.
When Jesus held that last meeting, as He had appointed, in Galilee with His disciples—a meeting that came just before His ascension to the throne of His Father in heaven—He gave them the great commission and the promise of His continued presence in these soul-charming words:
“Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28: 19, 20, A. R. V.
Note the promise, “Lo, I am with you always.” It is not the statement that He had been with them; it is not the promise that at some future time He would be with them; but it is the divine assurance, “Lo, I am with you always,” and the promise reaches “even unto the end of the world.”
Then, this promise of His spiritual presence, even to the end of the world, was, according to many other promises in the Bible, to meet its full consummation in the actual presence of Christ at His second coming.
The promises of the Holy Spirit which bring the spiritual presence of Christ are among the richest and choicest treasures in all the Word of God. Read thoughtfully and carefully a scripture that presents a part of the rich treasure of promises concerning the Holy Spirit:
12. Verily, verily. I say unto you. He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.
13. And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14. If ye shall ask anything in My name, that will I do.
15. If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.
16. And I will pray the Fatter, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever.
17. Even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you.
18. I will not leave you desolate: I will come unto you.
19. Yet a little while, and the world beholdeth Me no more; but ye behold Me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20. In that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.
21. He that bath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him.
22. Judas (not Iscariot) saith unto Him, Lord, what is come to pass that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us. and not unto the world?
23. Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.
24. He that loveth Me not keepeth not My words: the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
25. These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with You.
26. But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.
27. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth. give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.
28. Ye heard how I said to you, I go away, and I come unto you. If ye loved Me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go unto the Father: for the Father is greater than I.
29. And now I have told you before it come to pass. that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe.
John 14:12-29, A. R. V.
Believing in Christ is the foundation rock upon which we build. Then the Master gives the promise that not only the mighty works done by Him, but even “greater works than these,” shall we do; and all this, says the Master, is “because I go unto the Father.” The Master, beside His Father upon the great throne of the universe, sends His Spirit to bring the power of the divine presence to His children in ‘this world as they are battling with all the disappointment, the perplexity, the difficulty, and the conflicts of sin. And how precious is the promise that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it!
The fifteenth verse should be carefully noted in passing. It says, “If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.” And then as we carefully study His commandments, and take hold of the divine power to keep them, He says that He “will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.” But the Comforter that the Master sends to His children is not seen nor understood by the sinful man of the world. “The world cannot receive” Him, and the reason for it is that the world “beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him.” But the follower of Christ may know Him, “for He abideth with you, and shall be in you.”
How beautiful is the promise of the eighteenth verse, “I will not leave you desolate”—or, as in the margin, “orphans”; “for I will come unto you.” The world will not behold Christ. The world will be asking all sorts of questions concerning Him, and making light of His presence; but to the disciples He says, “Ye behold Me: because I live, ye shall live also.”…
…And to all such as love Him, the Lord promises for Himself and His Father that “We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” And to all who through the Spirit have this indwelling presence of the Father and of the Christ, there comes a profound peace—a peace that is beyond all human comprehension, except as it is imparted to the individual by the Spirit of God.
And to those who have this peace there comes the word, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.” How blessed is such a promise as this in these times which are so fearfully trying the souls of men!
We are to rejoice because Christ has gone to the Father; we are to rejoice because from the Father He is able to send the mighty Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, who brings with Him to each individual every blessing that Heaven can bestow. The Holy Spirit brings to each individual the presence and the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and of our heavenly Father.
If the Master were here in person in His human form, as He was nineteen hundred years ago, He could be with only one individual or with a limited group of individuals at one time. But through His divine Spirit, no matter where we are in all this wide world, He can come to each one of us with all the fullness of His personal presence and power. It is beyond the ken of a finite mortal to understand how our heavenly Father can do this. But if we will not trouble ourselves with the how of it, but will be content with the blessed fact that it is true, we may enter into a living experience of this truth, and know in our souls the joy of it.
If we will but believe it and receive it, this spiritual presence of Christ which He so abundantly bestows upon us in this time, is for the purpose of fitting us spiritually, mentally, and morally, so that we may stand in His personal presence when He comes again in the clouds of heaven at no distant day. We must not allow ourselves to be confused upon this all-important topic. Jesus desires that we shall learn to recognize and to experience His spiritual presence now; and then when He comes in person, He will immortalize us, so that we may stand in His literal presence, and enjoy that blessedness forever and ever.