our wonderful future
(Rev. Chapter 20:4-6)
Because I trusted and believed Jesus had forgiven my sins, I used to think that when I died I should go straight up into God’s heaven, to remain there forever, singing His praises.
I did not get a great deal of comfort out of this belief, because we were told so little about our precise surroundings and occupations in heaven, that there was not enough to feed the imagination upon; and I could not have confidence in the mere air-castles of my own imaginings, knowing they might be far from the truth. Music was lovely, but to have nothing but harp music in heaven, however sweet those harps might be, did not seem sufficient. It would, indeed, be wonderful to see the Lord face to face, and to be forever free from sin. My thoughts could rest on these last two facts with much satisfaction.
But at another point I had little joy. Like Solomon in Ecclesiastes, sometimes I felt like saying of this world with its labour and sorrow: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.: What was the use of so much hard toil to prepare for the duties of life, when there was the risk of dying soon, and all that had been learned would be of no use in heaven, where the conditions of life were so entirely different?
And then, even if one did not die young, I noticed that the old people who had spent the longest time preparing, and who had had the most experience of life, were soon set aside by the younger generation, as of no use to them for early conditions rapidly change their complexion; and I must soon be set aside as too old for use, after all my preparation and experience. I was not lazy, but I liked to work to purpose, and there seemed such small purpose in life on earth, when one thought of its briefness. This made of life such a mystery.
But I was taught differently one day, and at once my life took on a new meaning. I saw a use for the labors of this life. I discovered a whole world in which I was yet to dwell, so like and yet so unlike this first earth-life; and where I could make further use of every scrap of knowledge and experience I gained. When I made that discovery, the meaning of life was no longer a mystery to me. Life became a very rich possession. I found I had been taught to read from passages of Scripture as though they were simply void of all sense, and this was the cause of my vacant views of the future.
We shall also reign with him” What does it mean? “The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” What does that mean? Have “the meek,” as yet, inherited the earth? No! a war breaks out and the houses and lands of the people are appropriated at will by their own government, or by an invading enemy; not by their meekness, but by the very opposite—brute force. Those promises have never yet been fulfilled; and as sure as God’s word is true, they must be fulfilled. When will the meek inherit the earth? After Christ has redeemed it out of the hand of Satan and of governments upheld by military power not before.
The Bible tells us, “The saints shall judge the world,” 1 Cor. 6:2 and If we suffer [with Christ] we shall also reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12). Daniel prophesies of the time when “the saints…shall take the Kingdom” and possess it forever; when judgment [the office of judges] is given to the saints of the Most High,” and “the saints possess the Kingdom.” “And the Kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the people of the saints of the Most High (Dan.7:18, 22, 27) and now we read in Rev. 20:4, “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” What does that mean?
All these verses either mean what they say, or else the Bible is not true. When I stopped to think this over, and began to believe just what the Bible says: when I took as mine these plainly expressed promises of the Bible, then my thoughts found complete satisfaction in the contemplation, after death or translation, not only of sinless perfection in heaven, and the visible presence of my Savior, but in the rich imaginings of another (but sinless) earth-life of activity.
The Bible tells us that the very earliest of human beings lived to be nearly a thousand years old. Adam live 930 years; Seth 912, Enos, 905; Methuselah, 969; Lamech, 777; Noah, 950. After that the length of life began to decline. Two thousand years later than Adam, Shem lived only 600 years. Three hundred and fifty years later, Abraham live only 175years; Moses live only 120 years; and in our own day people live but about 70 years. The reason of this is that sin has brought about the gradual shortening of life. Sin produces disease, and disease is inherited from generation to generation, and so the mischief of sin and disease has increased through the centuries.
But Christ redeems us from Satan and sin, and then, if we are faithful to Him unto the end, He redeems the world for us. Then the government of this earth, redeemed from its “wild beast” (military) control, becomes the possession of “The saints of the Most High,” to be ruled by them for a thousand years. We are destined to be restored to all that would have been ours, had Adam never sinned, and had no one ever sinned since Adam’s day and had life on this earth never been shortened. To be sure, we are destined to be restored to more than Adam lost; but it certainly includes all that Adam lost.
Formerly, I did not like the idea of Christ coming so suddenly—“as a snare upon the earth.” It seemed to me unlike Him to suddenly come upon the unprepared Christians, and punish them if He found them unprepared. But now I understand the case so differently.
Let us get at the real idea. Human governments trust to war for their stability; and as time passes, forts are increased in numbers, guns and cannons are increased, and so are warships and soldiers. “Each nation tires to get the most of these things, so as to be the most powerful, the most stable of all the nations. But this is all done at variance to the will of Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace, not of war. And it is all, in the long run, self-defeating and corrupting to the morals of the nations. We all know, too, how oppressive and cruel war is.
The Lord has made known His intentions, in this matter. When He can get a sufficient number of volunteers enlisted on His side (not armed with cruel weapons, however, but with the” fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace long-suffering gentleness, goodness, faithfulness meekness and temperance”). He intends to seize this earth for His own Kingdom and rule over it visibly Himself.
A General always seeks to get his soldiers into sympathy with himself, otherwise victory will be doubtful. He must have a powerful influence over their spirits. It is just so with Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief. First of all, before he begins His conquest of the earth, He must have His soldiers, and they must be absolutely under His control, so that they will yield instant obedience to Him. Just think of it! He has spent nearly two thousand years mobilizing His troops! But the conquest of this world—and such a conquest!—is a very great thing. And while He could, with His almighty power, do it in a moment, yet if He conquered the earth by force and gave it back to us, when we were not His soldiers, or at the most were very indifferent soldiers, what would be the use? Satan would have it again, almost immediately.
No, when His forces are all mobilized, and are of a sufficient number for the conquest (there must be 144,000 Jewish men and then all the other Jewish men, women and children; lastly, there must be an immense Gentile Christian Army), then He will strike. Seeing ahead, as He does with His all-seeing eye, He knows of a time coming when all the kings of the earth will be assembled around Jerusalem—so He has let us into the secret, in this book, that when that moment arrives He will attack. “But,” you say, “it’s no secret. It’s written in the Bible.” Never mind; wicked people don’t believe the Bible; they scoff at it as a book of fables; they do not read it so its truth is a secret, as far as they are concerned, all the same.
Now, he warns us, over and over again, to be ready for that moment. He says, repeatedly, “Watch and pray,” concerning this matter. “Watch,” He puts first, and that is what soldiers must do; the sentinel is a most important man in the army. “And pray,” for God to purify your life and enlighten our eyes, so that you can understand what is to come—see it when it is coming, and be all ready.
Then He says, “don’t be frightened, when I come, because to accomplish my tasks, I must come stealthily. I have prepared a snare for the enemy, but see to it that none of you get into it! Keep on your guard! Do not be frightened, for when I come, if in your lifetime, and if you are ready for it, I will suddenly catch you up, out of all danger, so be on the watch.”
You see, Satan—the Red Dragon—is really the commander-in-chief of those who are on his side, and he is far shrewder than any man—he will be shrewder than Antichrist and the False Prophet, when they come—and it is so necessary that he should have no time to scatter his forces that are collected about Jerusalem. Hence, the precise time of Christ’s coming is kept a profound secret, to keep Satan from knowing it—for Satan believes the bible, if wicked men do not.
Satan hates Jerusalem above all cities in the world, because it is the city that God, from the very first, chose for His own. Satan has stirred up war after war against Jerusalem. It has been besieged and destroyed many times. He is always ready to collect armies to go up and fight around and against Jerusalem. But he will do so just once too often. He knows it already; and yet he goes against the city at every opportunity, always gambling (as it were) on the chance of escaping unhurt “this once more.”
But at last the right moment will arrive. But only those at Jerusalem are likely even to suspect it, I think, For such immense wars must throw most of the world into confusion; all news will be censored; and those who live at a distance will not know precisely what is taking place at any given time. All at once, in a moment, Christ and the 144,000 will take up their position above Mount Zion. They will, of course, be invisible to the world. From that point Christ will call to Himself all the Christians of the world, dead or alive—the dead first.
After Christ rose from the dead, He had the same body he had before (John 20:20), but it was different. He could enter a room when the doors were carefully closed, apparently without opening them (John 20:19), and make Himself visible or invisible at will, and transfer Himself from place to place with wonderful ease, at last ascending up towards heaven until He passed beyond the clouds, out of sight (Acts1:9). It would seem that ordinary human bodies (and Christ possessed such a body, at first, from His mother), have been made dense and heavy by the decay going on in them, all the time; and it is this dense part which is cast off by us in death. It has precisely the form and general appearance of the spiritual body within; but it is really to be compared to the lobsters’ shell when it is cast off. Now it is that spiritual body (yet the real, literal body of man, unencumbered of all its dead and waste material), which rises from the grave, in the resurrection of God’s children (1 Cor. 15:44); and those who have not died, but are alive when Christ comes, will pass through a change in their bodies (1 Cor. 15:51,52) which will so lighten them up that they can rise from the earth “to meet the Lord in the air.”