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AS THE LIGHTNING
Before his crucifixion, Jesus taught the early disciples, and through them all the church, to earnestly watch for his second coming. He did not tell them how long they must wait, nor did he leave them in doubt as to how they should watch. If we had no idea or means of knowing when, where or in what manner he should appear, our watching would be a very indefinite thing, and we might not be able to recognize him, even when again present.
When the disciples inquired „What shall be the sign of thy presence, and of the end of the age,” Jesus told them plainly just what that sign should be (Matt. 24:3,15. See TOWER of January, 1885) that would positively declare his presence. And though we now see that sign, as well as various other indications which mark that important and glorious event as now at hand, we would fail to discern his presence, and would be disappointed, if we were not informed as to the manner of his appearing.
Many of God’s children are expecting to see the Lord Jesus appear again in the flesh, as a man, forgetting that his flesh (his humanity) he gave for the life of the world; that that was the body of his humiliation, which he took only for the suffering of death, and that he was raised a spiritual body, the express image of his Father’s person, and was invisible to men during the forty days of his presence after his resurrection, except when he for a time assumed a human form, and thus appeared to them to instruct them concerning the fulfilment of the Scriptures, and the fact of his resurrection. And he taught them that the assumed body was not his glorious body, saying, „Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39, and 1 Pet. 3:18, R.V.) He would not have us think that when we are raised in „the likeness of his resurrection” we shall still be of the earth earthy. It doth not yet appear what we shall be like, but we know that we shall be in his glorious likeness—the express image of the Father’s person—of the divine nature which is not of the earth earthy.
„Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.” „If they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” (Matt. 24:23,26.) But why not? If he should come again in the flesh, would it not be reasonable to expect to find him now here and now there among the little scattered companies of his faithful „little flock?” Would he not mysteriously appear in our midst at times when worshipping together in his name, to manifest his second presence, even as he appeared to the early church to convince them of his presence after his resurrection.
Such expectation would certainly not be unreasonable if we were not otherwise informed; but being informed, we know not to expect him in that way—”Behold I have told you before,” said Jesus. (Matt. 24:25.) Then he tells us how he will be seen or recognized in his day, saying, „For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the (Gr. parousia) presence of the Son of man be” (verse 27). The lightning, or electricity, is everywhere present, yet unseen except when manifested by a sudden flash. So is our Lord’s presence. The Scriptures use light as a symbol of truth; and the lightning, or electric fluid, is here used to symbolize the unseen presence of Christ, and the flashes of the lightning to represent the sudden, bright, clear, almost dazzling revelations of divine truth, heretofore unknown to us, but now made manifest by his presence to those who are awake and watching. Never before were such glorious revelations of truth flashed upon the church. The faithful little flock has, during all the age, walked in a measure of light, but not in the light of his actual presence. They had all that was necessary for their day and trial, but how much more glorious is the light of his presence. Not only is this light true to the symbol, in that it comes suddenly, and is of dazzling brightness, but in that it shines from the east even unto the west, revealing God’s plan as never before seen, as one grand harmonious whole spanning the ages past and reaching its glorious culmination in the end of the incoming Millennial Age. And the various parts of this stupendous plan are shown in their beautiful and harmonious relationship to each other, and to the grand end to be accomplished during the reign of Christ. As the storm continues to gather over the world, and the sleeping Nominal Church, the Bride of Christ who is awake and watching, thus recognizes and is made to rejoice in the presence of the Lord. And the flashes of light have been increasing so constantly in this day of his presence that it is becoming one continuous blaze of light.
Understanding the fact that though for a few years, and for a special purpose, the Lord was „made flesh,” but that now being „highly exalted,” he is no longer a human or flesh being, but a spirit (John 1:14, and Phil. 2:9, Acts 5:31, 1 Pet. 3:18, R.V.), we see the force of the Lord’s words of caution, and know not to expect to see a glorious spirit-being, except by the eye of faith, until „changed” (1 Cor. 15:51), and made like him (Phil. 3:21). Hence we look not for him as if he were a man. If as a man he had come to gather his church, before making known his presence to the world, it would be by calling them to his standard in desert wilds or in secret chamber meetings in the cities and towns. But not so; he is no longer a man, but a spirit-being, and the Master cautions us against fleshly expectations. We should learn to recognize all the flashings forth of truth on every subject—religious, political and scientific, as so many manifestations giving evidence of the presence of the New Ruler. The young nobleman returned, having received the kingdom, begins to reckon with the unfaithful stewards. Soon these evidences of the Lord’s presence and rule will become so marked that every eye shall see him, every enlightened understanding shall discern his presence. And by and by we, who now see the sign or indication of his presence, will see him as he is, for we shall be like him. (1 John 3:2.)
With grateful hearts we rejoice that he told us before, so that we now so clearly discern his presence by the eye of faith. Lift up your heads and rejoice, for your deliverance draweth nigh.
— January, 1886 —