THE PROMISED DELIVERANCE BY JOSEPH A. SEISS,^. D., LL.D., L.H.D.

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Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. — Luke 21 : 36.

HE context of these words treats of a momentous crisis in this world's history. Reason itself, apart from revela^ tion, might anticipate something of it. Everything that lives, or moves, of which we have any knowledge, is plainly tending to a time when it comes to its fullness, and a marvellous change occurs. Conscience also suggests some great moral juncture as the harvest of what mankind has been sowing, — some decisive outcome and consummation that will explain the Uiany riddles which perplex our philosophies. Even the heathen were persuaded that there must come a time of judgment and retribution for the world, as for the individuals who inhabit it. But, when we go to the sacred Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, we are left in no doubt that " He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness." And the

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main features of that great crisis, as also the chief

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duties by means of which to secure our safety when it comes, are duly set forth.

First of all, it is described as a time of alarming portents, commotions, and distresses. The Saviour tells of strange and terrifying disturbances in earth, and sea, and sky, and such startling manifestations everywhere, that men's hearts will fail them for fear, and many will faint and perish for very terror at what is coming on the earth. Nay, the word is, that the very stabilities and powers of the heavens shall be shaken.

We may not be able to explain accurately what all is meant by these terms; but they certainly include great and terrible convulsions. The Scriptures, in many places, speak of those times as dreadful in the extreme. They are called "the

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great and terrible day of the Lord," when mountains and islands are shaken out of their places, and many flee for safety to the dens and caves of the earth, calling upon the rocks to fall on them, to hide them from the scenes then to be manifested.

But, with all, it is the time of redemption for God's people. The Saviour says, "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up >our heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."

There is a redemption of price; and there is a redemption of poiver: the one past, and the other yet to come. The price was paid when Christ surrendered His life for us on the cross, so that there is now no more condemnation to those who

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believe on Him. But we are still helpless, and subject to disease, pain, and death. There must be the putting forth of power to lift us out of our

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many weaknesses and miseries, to recover us from corruption and death, in order to complete our salvation. And the time for that is this very judgment time. With all its alarming accompaniments to the common world, it will be a time of superlative blessedness and glory to the saints.

Furthermore, it is the time of the promised return of our Saviour. The statement is, ' ' Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." From the day that Jesus ascended to heaven from Mount Olivet, the chief consolation of the Church was "that blessed hope, even -the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." And yet, how many persist in neglecting it, and in explaining it away! The world of our time is specially skeptical on this point, and there be plenty of scoffers to say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" But the Lord is not slack concerning His promises as some men count slackness. He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry. No unbelief of men will stay His chariot wheels. And when He does come, woe to them that despise or make light of His word!

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But the text speaks particularly of a way of escape from all these things, before the worst comes.

It must be borne in mind that what is called the Second Advent, like the first, will not be all

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at once, on a single day or hour, or in one scene or act. It will embrace different stages and manifestations, extending through years. There is, first, a coming "as a thief in the night," unperceived by the common world, and known only by the absence of what has been taken. The Scriptures tell of a paronsia^ — a presence; and of an epiphania of that parousia^ — a showing of that presence; with an interval between covering many acts of judgment upon the living world. In the one case, Christ comes for His people, and then afterwards comes ivith them. And His coming for His people is at the beginning of the great judgment time; and only later on will He so come as that "every eye shall see Him."

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The very first thing, then, will be the sudden and miraculous taking away of His ready and waiting people to meet Him in the heavenly regions. Paul gives it as a special word of the Lord, that when He shall come, "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." So again he says, " Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, — not all die, — but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." And this sudden ereption from the earth to the heavenly spaces, is what is described in the text as being "accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Alan," quite saved from the terrible things then to befall the unbelieving world.

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It was thus promise was given to certain of the Church of Philadelphia, saying, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will

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keep thee from the hour of trial, which is to come upon the whole world," And it is most of all to this exemption by means of translation, as Enoch was translated, that it is said of the righteous man, "When the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it."

There is, then, such a thing as being saved from the terrors and sorrows of the great judgment time; and saved even from death itself, if living when that time comes. The only great matter on our part is, to be prepared and in condition for the blessed exemption. And what such readiness involves is sufficiently set forth.

First of all, this exemption was promised only to Christians — to the followers of Christ. No such hopes are anywhere held out to non-Christians, heathen, or unbelievers. A Christian is one who accepts Christ for his Saviour, and obediently submits himself to Christ's ordinances and commands. And where there is no orderly enlistment under the Christian banner, there is no word of hope against the terrible trials of the great day. Furthermore, there must be careful guard against carnal and worldly excesses, which

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weigh down the soul and choke spirituality. Surfeiting, drunkenness, debauchery, and all wicked indulgences, as well as too much engrossment with the cares and interests of this present life, must be avoided; for there can be no standing

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with the Son of Man if overtaken in what so ill befits a Christian. There be many whom that day will take unawares, as a snare upon an unsuspecting animal, because too much preoccupied with earthly cares and vanities. Even otherwise Christian people may imperil everything by lack of carefulness on this point.

Another direction is to watch. This is one of the Saviour's oftenest spoken and most emphasized admonitions; and it means constant wakefulness and expectancy. It means the treatment of the coming of the great day as a fixed and undoubted certainty, and the time an absolute uncertainty. If we do not believe in any such crisis to come, we cannot be watching for it; nor can we

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rightly watch for it if we persuade ourselves that it cannot come in ourdifetime.

And, with this watching, there must needs also be continuous //'(T)'?/^^. The word is, "Watch, a7id pray always^ that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." Prayer is as essential to true religion as language to poetry, or the atmosphere to music, or thinking to philosophy. There is no Christian life which does not voice itself in prayer. How indeed can one love God who never speaks to Him, and avoids all communion with Him!

But our praying must include a specific and earnest aim and desire for this exemption from the tribulations of the judgment times. We may die before Christ comes; but if we die expecting,

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watching, and looking for Him, as if He may come while we are yet alive, we certainly shall

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not fail to be among those who sleep in Jesus, and whom He will bring with Him when He comes. In this line, therefore, are we to direct our aspirations and our prayers, being duly careful also to live as we pray.

And the nearer that time may be, the more cause there is for us to rejoice. However mysterious and solemn, we are abundantly certified that it will be in all respects a blessed time to those who have made Jesus their trust and hope. Our Lord speaks of it as the time of our redemption, the opening of a glorious summertime for the Kingdom of God. Having been ' ' once offered to bear the sins of many; unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

And a great and blessed salvation it will be. What all is involved we cannot fully tell.

Think of change from mortal to immortality without tasting of death!

Think of these coarse, cumbrous, earthy, aching, dying bodies suddenly transfigured into the like-

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ness and beauty of the glorious body of Jesus, lifted into equality with angels, and purged of all weaknesses, weariness, and waste I

Think of painless and triumphant escape from a world smarting under the curse, convulsed with judgment, and tortured with the throes of approaching dissolution !

Think of mounting up, as on eagles' wings, to

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the heights above the clouds, there to stand accepted before the Son of Man!

Think of the blessedness of meeting that Saviour whom we love, seeing Him as He is, and being ever with Him!

Think of the immortal crowns, the golden seats, and the sublime association with the Kinor of Glory in His judgment of the world!

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Think of the excellences of the new heavens and earth, and of Kingly rule with Jesus there, where tribulation, tears, and death are forever done away!

O dear friends, is not this enough to make us rejoice, and be glad at sight of signals that the time is near? Who indeed can enter into the subject as the Scriptures present it, and not feel the prayer rising to his lips: Come, O Thou Prince of all the Kings of the earth! Put on the visible robes of Thy imperial Majesty, and come; for now the voice of Thy Bride calleth Thee, and all creatures sigh to be renewed. Even so come. Lord Jesus.

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