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OUR HIGH PRIEST    by Edward Heppenstall


Christ's Second Coming — 11

We now come to that consummating event that has loomed over the divine plan of redemption from the beginning. Jesus Christ is man's Saviour, Judge, and King. God's purpose will be fully realized only with the return of Christ to our world.

In the visions and messages of Daniel 7 to 12, and Revelation 5, 10 to 14, and 17 to 19, God is revealed directing the final events and movements in our world to ultimate victory. In both type and antitype God has unfolded His program to save the lost and bring about the reconciliation of all things to Himself.

This mighty working of Christ our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary constitutes the distinctive feature of God's last message to the world. The nerve center of the Christian faith, particularly at this time, is not in the human mind or heart, but in the heavenly sanctuary where divine judgment is taking place. The climax of our world occurs when Jesus Christ leaves the heavenly sanctuary and returns to earth.

The pre-Advent judgment is the prelude to the coming of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom. The apostle John, in Revelation 14:6-20, speaks of the coming of Christ as dependent upon a judgment that makes it possible for Him to "render to every man according to his deeds" (Rom. 2:6). This judgment is portrayed under the figures of the harvest of wheat—the righteous—and the harvest of grapes—the unrepentant.

Concern for the improvement of the social, national, and international problems of man, which are part of the Christian mission, can never discover the ultimate truth and reality of God. This comes to man from Christ's ministry in the sanctuary. Nowhere is the final triumph of truth, justice, and righteousness revealed as a gradual process of saving the world, the sure advance of modern culture and civilization against the forces of poverty, disease, and war. God speaks to man His final word through the priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. The man whose faith is set in that direction will learn the truth for these last days.

The inescapable fact is that at Christ's second coming the eternal destinies of all men have been fixed. On the basis of this pre-Advent judgment, believers will be united with Christ when He comes, and unbelievers will be forever separated from God.

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. . . . He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:12-20).

The triumph of righteousness comes through redemption and judgment. In God's ordering of the last events, the pre-Advent judgment is a necessity for the consummation of all things. The judgment message is a matter of great urgency to reach man, to wake him up, to call him out from apostate Babylon, and to prepare him to meet the coming King. The world is full of people wholly unaware that they now stand, as it were, before the judgment bar of God. The measure of the urgency is the nearness of Christ's return and the deadly peril of eternal loss for the vast multitudes in the world today. A large number of God's elect have not been reached. God waits and works to save all those who will come to Him through Christ.

Notwithstanding the spiritual darkness and alienation from God that exist in the churches which constitute Babylon, the great body of Christ's true followers are still to be found in their communion. There are many of these who have never seen the special truths for this time.—The Great Controversy, p. 390.

The judgment-hour message invites all men to come out of Babylon and thereby have their names written in the book of life, not to condemn but to vindicate them. When Christ comes, this will be too late. That God should minister in the heavenly sanctuary this investigative judgment, and speak this word to man before He comes, is a manifestation of God's burning love and desire to have all who will meet the coming Bridegroom with oil in their lamps.

Certainty of Christ's Coming

"When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8, N.E.B.). This text states two points of truth: "When the Son of Man comes." There is the certainty of God. "Will he find faith on earth?" There is the uncertainty of man.

Throughout the centuries there has been a great deal of speculation about the return of Christ and the end of the world. People who have believed in the imminent, visible return of Christ to our world have often been classed with the lunatic and fanatical fringe of Christianity.

There are times when man stands in desperate need of help and deliverance from beyond himself, beyond anything that is available at the hands of men. Such is the time we live in today. The hard facts of the world conditions proclaim that the day of the Lord is near, that God's day of reckoning is here.

Modern man is inclined to regard Biblical statements about Christ's return and the end of the world with grave doubts and open disbelief. Men insist that these Biblical statements have outlived their usefulness and are no longer relevant.

Furthermore, it is urged that modern civilization with its advance in science and technology makes it difficult to preach with effect the imminent return of Christ to earth. Not a few religious people studiously avoid such a contemplation.

The Divine Promise

The Bible declares that man has a future as truly as he has a past and a present. This future is no mere extension of life as it exists now on earth. Christians look for a certainty born of faith in God's promises. Men and women need to hear a clear message from God's Word. God knows full well the hopeless, confused condition of the world. He knows also that only the return of Christ can provide us with the solution we need. Christ promised categorically that He would return.

"Set your troubled hearts at rest. Trust in God always; trust also in me. There are many dwelling-places in my Father's house; if it were not so I should have told you; for I am going there on purpose to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I shall come again and receive you to myself, so that where I am you may be also" (John 14:1-3, N.E.B.).

Christ has always kept His word; the promise to return is firmly grounded. He is the living Christ, not a dead man. He gave that promise to return almost two thousand years ago. The passing of time does not make void the promise. Having come once, God's promise to come again is not to be denied. In Christ, God gave man deliverance from sin and death.

Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Rev. 1:17, 18).

Christ must come again, for He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Without a coming back to resurrect the saints, He must be only the God of the dead. The return means that Christ Himself must come. No coming of the Holy Spirit to the hearts of men will answer to the promise. Christ spoke of "that day," the day when He would resurrect His saints at His coming.

Marvel not at this; for 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 (John 5:28, 29).

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 (chap. 6:44).

If the present order is to continue as it is, then the conspicuous and eternal victory of Christ over Satan, sin, and death is nowhere in sight.

It is impossible that the grave should conquer at last. One factor is stronger than sin and death; one thing guarantees victory over both: not that man has an immortal soul but an immortal Saviour; not that men move at death into a higher or lower life but that they are Christ's at His coming.

Life after death depends solely upon the resurrection. At His resurrection Christ said, "I am not yet ascended to my Father" (chap. 20:17). God did not call His Son back to heaven. He called Him forth from the grave. If Christ had not been raised, He would not now be in heaven. He would still be in a tomb somewhere in Palestine. Only by resurrection comes life. This is true for all believers. "I am the resurrection, and the life," said Jesus (chap. 11:25). Christ's victory over death is the guarantee of our own victory. The Christian can face death without fear. When Christ comes the second time, the Christian will awaken to immortality at the sound of His voice.

Listen! I will unfold a mystery: we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet-call. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise immortal, and we shall be changed. This perishable being must be clothed with the imperishable, and what is mortal must be clothed with immortality. . . . Then the saying of Scripture will come true: "Death is swallowed up; victory is won!" "O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?" . . . God be praised, he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:51-57, N.E.B.).

Let us make no mistake about our Lord's return. It is close at hand. Christ died on the cross not only to set up a kingdom but to consummate it at His return. The return of Christ is the Christian's crowning day.

I count everything sheer loss, because all is far outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I did in fact lose everything. . . . All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings, in growing conformity with his death, if only I may finally arrive at the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:8-11, N.E.B.).

The visible, personal, bodily return of Christ to the earth was a dominant belief of the early church. The New Testament abounds in references to this basic truth. The only way to account for this united belief and expectation of the early believers would be by Christ's own affirmation. The disciples were absolutely sure that Christ would personally and visibly return (see Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:13-15; Heb. 9:27, 28; Rev. 1:7).

The Bible writers who spoke and prophesied of Christ's return were men of high moral integrity. Biblical statements are not the product of mere wishful thinking or fictitious inventions of diseased minds. Their witness to final events of this world's history is quite unmistakable. Since that time the Christian church has accepted and proclaimed this truth as an essential part of its creed, along with Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection.

Our Lord's Great Prophecy

All three of the synoptic gospel writers recount the prophecy our Lord gave just prior to His crucifixion, when He stressed the certainty of His return (see Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-36). As they viewed the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, Christ startled them by saying, "There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matt. 24:2). The disciples immediately asked Him: "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (verse 3).

Then Jesus spoke of the future that involved a divine judgment both on the Jewish nation and on the world. He sought to prepare His disciples for the terrible disaster that was to come upon the Jewish nation, and for the dark days that were to come within their generation.

After dealing with the judgment on the Jews, Christ moved immediately to answer their question "What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" He spoke of various signs in the heavens and upon the earth that would occur just before the Son of man was to come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (see Luke 2 1:25-36).

What is significant is that all of Christ's predictions regarding the Jewish nation have been fulfilled in a remarkably literal manner in all details. This very fact makes certain that His prediction regarding the end of the world and His return will likewise receive an exact literal fulfillment. Christ is concerned not with the time of His return but with the certainty of it. Christ makes the fact of His return so certain and important that it is included among the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

A Completed Salvation

Complete salvation can be realized only with the return of Christ. It is a matter of great urgency that God's program for the redemption of lost man and the restoration of the new earth be realized.

The full manifestation of all the children of God is yet to be realized.

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope (Rom. 8:21-24).

Christ's second coming is to fulfill what the first coming left undone. The work of Christ on earth was only the first chapter in the plan of redemption. There was a great deal more to be realized. Christ's supremacy has not yet been acknowledged. Sin still abounds and Satan still prevails.

This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool (Heb. 10:12, 13).

When Christ ascended He took with Him a handful of His children from the earth, the first fruits of His work, the guarantee that He would return for all His children (see Matt. 27:52, 53; Eph. 4:8). Millions more wait in their graves for His return. The separation between Christ and His children in their graves cannot be eternal. He will certainly return for them.

I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. . . . 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18; see also 1 Cor. 15:51-58).

At last all who have trusted in Him are united with Christ in His eternal kingdom. This certainty has been the Advent hope through all the years. That hope is central to God's people in these last days. As there can be no substitute for Christ's first advent, so there can be none for His second advent. It must happen as Christ said.

This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).

Salvation covers more than forgiveness, justification, and sanctification in this life. Salvation is more than the acceptance of those who believe in Him here. Complete salvation includes Christ's second advent. The plan of redemption cannot be finished without this. Complete redemption comes only by a new order from above. In that day God has promised to—

wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful (Rev. 21:4, 5).

Human progress will not do this. Extend life here as long as you will, but man will never conquer sin or death, with its terrors for the dying, its tears for the surviving.

The assertion that a perfect society can be realized by man on earth must be denied. Nothing will remain of the present civilization as we know it. This has been the divine plan all along. Christ will one day soon make His work perfect. Those who trust in Him will live in a sinless world of perfect beings. Beyond these shadows, the perfect order will come with the final revelation of Jesus Christ.

As we consciously receive from our Lord here and now, we hunger for more, and the conviction becomes deeper that this hunger for righteousness will not be put to shame but be satisfied as only God can satisfy it. The Christian's faith is set, not in the possession of things but in ultimate realities. The return of Christ is no addendum to the faith. The Christian can find complete fulfillment of the third angel's message only when the Son of God appears in the clouds of heaven.

Sudden Intervention

So far as world conditions are concerned, no change for the better is promised in the Bible. This is not pessimism. It is scriptural truth.

You must face the fact: the final age of this world is to be a time of troubles. Men will love nothing but money and self; they will be arrogant, boastful, and abusive; with no respect for parents, no gratitude, no piety, no natural affection; they will be implacable in their hatreds, scandal-mongers, intemperate and fierce, strangers to all goodness, traitors, adventurers, swollen with self-importance. They will be men who put pleasure in the place of God, men who preserve the outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality. Keep clear of men like these (2 Tim. 3:1-5, N.E.B.).

Today the forces of darkness and unrighteousness are everywhere in the ascendancy. Men may construct theories proclaiming the gospel of gradual improvement and the saving of civilization as we know it, but the Holy Scriptures deny it. Christ said: "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). Christ is pictured at His coming as the rider on a white horse leading the armies of heaven.

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 (Rev. 19: 15, 16).

His return is sudden, catastrophic. It breaks in upon the world with terrifying suddenness.

"Like lightning from the east, flashing as far as the west, will be the coming of the Son of Man. . . . Then will appear in heaven the sign that heralds the Son of Man. All the peoples of the world will make lamentation, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. With a trumpet blast he will send out his angels, and they will gather his chosen from the four winds, from the farthest bounds of heaven on every side" (Matt. 24:27-31, N.E.B.).

While men are proclaiming peace and safety, sudden destruction comes upon them.

For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them. . .But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober (1 Thess. 5:2-6; see Matt. 24:44-51; Rev. 6: 15-17).

The return of Christ means an entirely new order from above, not from within. Everything here will come to a full stop. All business, pleasure, labor, and education will cease. All social, political, national, and international activity will be paralyzed. Men will have neither desire nor time to eat, to play, to work, or to fight. Men will behold Jesus Christ. "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him" (Rev. 1:7). The veil of heaven will be rent. The invisible Lord of heaven will become visible. He will be seen. He will be heard with the voice of the trumpet that wakens the dead.

Among the multitudes alive today the "other-worldliness" that anticipates the supernatural event of Christ's return has been discounted by the secularism of our time, lessening the urgency that requires a specific preparation for the day of the Lord. The unbridled enthusiasm for the pleasures of sense discourages a diligent study of the Word of God. Some argue that Christ has been personally and visibly absent for almost two thousand years. Therefore there has arisen a disposition to consider the imminent return of Christ a misinterpretation of the Word of God, if not a falsification. The apparent delay in Christ's return makes uncertain the possibility of a conclusion as to the approaching end of the ages. It is asserted that uniformity in nature denies all possibility of a divine intervention. The Bible foretold that in the last days men would think this way.

Note this first: in the last days there will come men who scoff at religion and live self-indulgent lives, and they will say: "Where now is the promise of his coming? Our fathers have been laid to their rest, but still everything continues exactly as it has always been since the world began." In taking this view they lose sight of the fact that there were heavens and earth long ago, created by God's word out of water and with water; and by water that first world was destroyed, the water of the deluge. And the present heavens and earth, again by God's word, have been kept in store for burning; they are being reserved until the day of judgement when the godless will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:3-7, N.E.B.).

Because of its suddenness and catastrophic force, Christ compared the end of the world to the destruction of the world by the Flood and to the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire.

"As things were in Noah's days, so will they be in the days of the Son of Man. They ate and drank and married, until the day that Noah went into the ark and the flood came and made an end of them all. As things were in Lot's days, also; they ate and drank; they bought and sold; they planted and built; but the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from the sky and made an end of them all—it will be like that on the day when the Son of Man is revealed" (Luke 17:26-30, N.E.B.).

In Noah's day man was preoccupied with secular living and personal profit. For more than one hundred years Noah sought to warn the world of the impending world disaster. But they were as men who did not hear. Noah's building of the ark witnessed that Noah believed the word of the Lord. Yet only eight souls of the then-known world entered the ark and were saved. The Flood came with fearful abruptness. In a few short days the only survivors were those in the ark!

Christ said that the same situation would prevail prior to His return; that the unbelieving world would ignore or despise God's last message. A world in sin and death can have no part in God's new order. His kingdom is beyond the preservation of life as we know it here. Eternal life will never proceed from such a world. The wisdom and works of men can provide no panacea for the ills of mankind. We have no evidence of a general turning in repentance toward the living Christ.

The Word of God repeatedly states that Jesus Christ will have the final say and execute the final judgment on our world. Christ spoke frequently in parables on this point—the tares among the wheat, waiting for the great Reaper; the wicked husbandmen caught unprepared by the coming of the Lord (Matt. 25:13-33; 21:33-42).

Life today for the most part is materialistic and almost

godless. It operates without spiritual insight or taste. The morality of the age tends to license and lawlessness. It awakens alarm and fear everywhere. Notwithstanding the progress of evil in the world, God is directing from His sanctuary His own plan for the establishment of His righteous kingdom. The world is moving fast toward the climax. The future of all men and nations, will be molded by this final revelation from God.

"Come Out of Her, My People"

I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. . . . And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues (Rev. 18:1-4).

A terrible condition of the religious world is here described. With every rejection of truth, the minds of the people will become darker, their hearts more stubborn, until they are entrenched in an infidel hardihood. In defiance of the warnings which God has given, they will continue to trample upon one of the precepts of the decalogue, until they are led to persecute those who hold it sacred. Christ is set at naught in the contempt placed upon His word and His people.—The Great Controversy, p. 603.

The world today faces spiritual reformation or lawless revolution. The first depends on man's surrender to the Holy Spirit; the second on man's control by demonic powers. The first will lighten the world with the reality and the glory of God, the second will sweep the world into lawless living and the rejection of all moral restraint.

The revolution now taking place threatens the security of men everywhere. The fundamental truths and laws of God are being discarded. The very foundations of life are being undermined. One of the main pillars of the universe is the righteousness of God. This must be upheld at all costs. Because Christ is the Lord our righteousness, iniquity must be destroyed. An essential quality of a vital faith is commitment to Christ and obedience of His commandments. When men think to change the law of God, they choose to be disobedient and reject the righteousness of God. The consequence is that they have little respect for, or inclination to obey, either the law of God or the laws they have made.

Works of obedience alone will not save a man, but, at the same time, they do constitute the best evidence that one has experienced the saving power of God.

Christ our High Priest is still the minister of reconciliation in the heavenly sanctuary. The world belongs to God and not to Satan. At the cross Christ paid the redemption price for all men. In spite of this, multitudes are in bondage to satanic forces. Our world stands on the threshold of the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ. The investigative judgment has continued for more than one hundred and twenty-five years. Therefore men should come to Christ in this judgment hour with trust and hope. They should come with a full allegiance and commitment to do His will. "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

At this time the remnant church of God, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, is to take God's last message to the world. In the midst of worldwide apostasy from the truth of God, the Holy Spirit will effect a revival of primitive godliness.

The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. The prophecies which were fulfilled in the outpouring of the former rain at the opening of the gospel, are again to be fulfilled in the latter rain at its close.—Ibid., pp. 611, 612.

Whether people choose to respond or not, this mission is the church's responsibility. The people of God are to be the most pure, the most honest, the most obedient, the most loving, and the most involved in spreading the gospel of the kingdom of God. The certainty of the soon-coming Lord must fill His people with confidence before God and boldness before men. The church is to move from the Laodicean state to the second Pentecost. Personal witness to the transforming power of God will capture the citadel of hearts for the coming Christ.

Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand. The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. . . . Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord's side.—Ibid., p. 612.

God's people must experience the reality of the living God. They must grasp the reality of the eternal world. Christ in His exalted person is the source of their power and strength. Theirs is a new creation to share with men. They walk in the glorious liberty of the children of God. They have been delivered from darkness into the glorious light of God. They walk with Christ in heavenly places. Their citizenship is in heaven. Their faith is anchored to the throne of God.

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