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THE SCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF THE SECOND ADVENT.
The term ADVENT has been commonly used in ecclesiastical language in reference to the incarnation; and also to the visible, real, and personal appearance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, at the end of the world, to judge all men, the righteous and the wicked, both quick and dead. The one is called the first, and the other the second advent. We have said commonly used; for the term advent, and its synonyms, appearing, manifestation, etc., are employed frequently in the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testaments to denote any instrumental, figurative coming or interposition of the Lord, either to impart blessing or to inflict judgment.
This doctrine of the second advent has been held always, every where, and by all, in all churches, ancient and modern, oriental and western, primitive, mediæval and protestant, as one of the fundamental doctrines of the christian Church, one of the first principles of the oracles of God, concerning which there ought not to be, and never has been any doubt. Thus the Apostle's Creed, which certainly contains the germ of the earliest christian creeds, after declaring that Christ ascended up to heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, adds: "from thence," that is from heaven, where he is regarded as having continued to sit as our Mediator, Intercessor, and King, "he shall come to judge the quick and the dead," that is the whole world of mankind, good and bad, and at the same time. Irenæus, the disciple of Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John, enlarges this article so as to express belief in the "ascension of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh, and his coming again from heaven in the glory of his Father, to gather together, in one, all things; and to raise from the dead the flesh of all mankind. . . . and that he may exercise righteous judgment on all, consigning to everlasting fire all . . . . both the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and ungodly, lawless, and blasphemous men; and to bestow life upon them that are just and holy . . . . and investing them with immortality and everlasting glory." Irenæus, who is made the father of the premillennial theory of the advent, believed that the Lord Jesus Christ would establish a kingdom on this glorified earth-not before, but after the resurrection.
The creeds of Tertullian, Lucian of Antioch, and Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, and the Nicene Creed on this subject, are perfectly synonymous with the above. In the creed of Pelagius the article is, "He will come to judge the living and the dead, that he may reward the just and punish sinners." The Athanasian Creed, which is one of the three embodied in the Thirty-nine Articles, says, "At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith, etc.," against the rejection of which is pronounced anathema. The Liturgy of St. James, one of the oldest and most important, in the prayer of consecration says: "We sinners, remembering his life-giving passion, his saving cross, his death and resurrection from the dead on the third day, his ascension into heaven, and sitting at the right hand of thee, his God and Father, and his glorious and terrible second appearing when he shall come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to render to every man according to his works, etc." It is unnecessary to quote from any later creeds, either anterior or subsequent to the Reformation, as their tenor will be found uniform. In our own standards, the doctrine of Christ's second advent is introduced under a variety of relations. Thus in the Confession of Faith, (Ch. 8, § 4,) it is said of Christ that "on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered; with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels at the last day." In Chap. 32, the souls of the righteous are represented as being "received into the highest heavens, where they wait for the redemption of their bodies, and at the last day all the dead shall be raised up, etc." In Ch. 33, it is declared that "God has appointed a day wherein he will judge the world, etc.; in which day not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons, etc. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, but the wicked, etc." "As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, so would he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord may come; and may be prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come. quickly." The proof texts added to these and other passages of a similar purport will be found to include those adduced in
proof of a premillennial advent, and are, like all the Scripture proof texts of the Westminster standards, of equal authority with the text itself.* In the Larger Catechism, Q. 53, it is said that Christ "shall continue (in the highest heavens) till his second coming at the end of the world." For teaching of precisely similar import, see Q. 52, 53, 56, 63, 64, 66, 68, 74, 75, 77, 78 81, 82, 83, 85, 86, 87. See also Shorter Catechism, Q. 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 37, 38.
Such is the doctrine of the second advent of Christ as set forth in all the symbolic confessions of faith in christendom, and as declared by them to be taught in the Holy Scriptures;simple and sublime; the logical sequence of the science of redemption; the last act in the divine tragedy of an Incarnate Deity; the topstone of the living temple of God's glorious grace; the final step in the progression of that coming of God's eternal Son whose initiation in the everlasting covenant was revealed in the foreshadowing promises of the prophetical dispensation, manifested in the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, is perfected in the appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ when he shall come to be glorified in his saints; the consummated triumph of that victorious conflict of salvation which crowns the Redeemer with a diadem gemmed with souls translated out of the kingdom of darkness, and shining resplendent as the stars for ever and ever;—and the hallelujah doxology of that heavenly song whose first strains were sung melodious by the angel choir over the silver mantled plains of Bethlehem, when:
"The joyous hills of Palestine
To greet from all their holy heights
Of this advent, Scripture is full. It is spoken of or implied in all its teachings. Without it, no doctrine is complete. It constitutes the key-note in all its strains, whether plaintive or seraphic. This is the thunderbolt in every tempest of vengeful wrath and fiery indignation; this is the still small voice of tender merciful compassion and sustaining hope, fortitude and self-sacrifice in the Church's heart as she comes up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved; this the anchor which holds her fast amidst every swelling tide of adversity
"When cares like a wild deluge come
And storms of sorrow fall."
*See Ch. 25. § 1, Ch. 29. § 4, Ch. 12, Ch. 13. § 2, Ch. 19. § 3. 24-Vol. IX.
This also is the death-song of every weary pilgrim as he treads the verge of Jordan and plunges into its icy stream; and with this shall be commenced the universal, unending song of the innumerable, ransomed hosts, which, loud as the sound of many waters, shall fill the courts of heaven and resound throughout the universe of God.
Our Lord as the great teacher, and his apostles as taught by him all things, and guided by his Holy Spirit into all truth, have frequently and in most explicit terms spoken of this great consummating event. They speak of it in various relations, applications, and aspects. They represent it in all its solemn pomp and infinitely momentous issues as foreshadowed and assured in the destruction of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Roman Empire, the overthrow of the antichrist, the overturning of the nations, the fulness of the Gentiles, the spiritual ingathering of all Israel which shall be saved, and in all the glorious things spoken of the progress, perpetuation, and perfection of the Church of God till all her regenerated and redeemed saints shall be presented by him at his coming, without spot and blameless, unto God. Throughout these numerous passages, of which twenty-seven are contained in the Pauline epistles, this advent of Christ is spoken of as one and only one. Various terms, like rays of light, are employed to define and describe that day as one and only one, and throw upon this event their convergent lustre, such as "revelation," that is, the making to appear that which previously had not appeared; "presence" or "advent;" "appearance" or "manifestation;" the "day of God;" the "day of the Lord;" the "day of the Lord Jesus;" "the day of the Lord Jesus Christ;" "the last day;" "the great day;" "the day of wrath," and "the day of judgment," and of the "revelation of the righteous judgment of God." It is important also to remember that the Scriptures speak only of one literal and general resurrection of the dead, though it admits a priority in order for the righteous; of one literal and general judgment, including the righteous, the wicked, and the devils; one conflagration of the earth, as there was one deluge; and that they distinctly affirm that the heavens and the earth that now exist are reserved for that destruction by fire; and that the coming of Christ at that day is represented to be his coming again and the second time; and that they never speak of any third or other advent of Christ.
There are four ways in which this question of the second coming of Christ may be brought to a clear and positive determination.
. I. Do the Scriptures teach that Christ's second advent is to occur in connexion with the general and simultaneous resurrection of the dead, the general judgment, the conflagration of the world, and the generation of new heavens and new earth? For if they do, then it is impossible that that advent should take place previously.
And first, as to the resurrection of the dead, it would be admitted by all persons, (did not the premillennial theory upon the strength of a single figurative expression in the book of Revelation question it,)* that it will be universal and at the last day. Thus it is written: "Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.' "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust." "And this is the Father's will that hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day." "And this is the will of him who sent me, that every one who seeth the Son and believeth on him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day." "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." "The hour is coming, in the which all 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." "Of the resurrection of the dead I am called in question." ... "I hope toward God that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust." "Since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead;"--"so also is the resurrection of the dead." Scripture therefore indubitably teaches, 1. That there will be a universal resurrection of the dead. 2. That this resurrection will include the righteous and the wicked. 3. That this resurrection of both classes will take place on the same occasion. 4. That, excepting Enoch and Elijah and perhaps Moses, it will be a universal resurrection of the dead, as of this even Job was distinctly informed; for he says, "Man dieth, and wasteth
*See Rev. xx. 6; on which see Fairbairn's Typology and Prophecy, and Brown on the Second Advent.