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100 Years ago THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN UNITY

by R H Boll

(From Words in Season, W&W 1919)

A noted newspaper correspondent once previously referred to in these columns, claims that the doctrine of the pre-millennial coming of the Lord Jesus Christ causes division. The thing that is really happening, however, as the present writer has personally observed in a number of instances, is, that men and women everywhere among the denominations of Christendom who are getting hold of this heart-gripping, heart-searching Bible doctrine, are taking on a new and wondrous faith and hope and love, and are getting sick and tired of the worldlines and hollowness of the popular churches, and of denominationalism in general; and under the Christward influence of the “Blessed Hope,” are ready to relinquish old, cherished prejudices and distinctions, for Jesus’ sake, and are coming more and more to appreciate the simple gospel and the word and way of God.

The evidence that such a rather undesigned and unexpected movement is developing increases and accumulates daily. That denominational leaders and their press do not relish that is but natural; that they would, like Athaliah of old, cry out, “Treason, treason!” and “Division and heresy!” is also natural. The unfaithful servants also who have said in their hearts that their Lord delayeth His coming (Luke 12:45) are beating the Lord’s men-servants and the maid-servants. This is the only sort of “division” caused by this teaching of God’s word concerning the ever-imminent, pre-millennial return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

THE FORGING OF THE BOND OF UNITY.

An examination of the New Testament teaching of the Lord’s coming reveals the fact that the doctrine is a potent force for true unity. Not only does the overwhelming issue it sets before believing eyes make the partisanism of sects, the pride of distinction, the human customs, names, usages, forms, seem paltry and unworthy—but in its practical applications to the conduct of Christians the doctrine of Christ’s return makes directly for the oneness of Christ’s people. Note the following teaching.

  1. Purification.

“Everyone that hath this hope (of Christ’s appearing) set on Him, purifieth himself even as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3. This distinguishes the true hope from a mere dream of great things to come: everyone who truly has received this hope into his heart, begins forthwith to rid himself of all that is false, impure, selfish, fleshly, unchristlike; and that with no less a Standard of purity before him, than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Why not? For shall we not be wholly like Him when He shall appear? Now, when we consider that most of the God-dishonoring divisions are caused by fleshly defilement—by pride and vainglory, by envy,  jealousy, strife (1 Cor. 3:1-3) by the works of the flesh generally (Gal. 5:19-2) we can see how far the true hope, truly held, will go toward preserving a God-pleasing unity.

  1. Forbearance.

“Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Phil. 4:5). The “Authorized Version” has “moderation” instead of “forbearance.” Either rendering brings out the force. In view of the imminence of the Lord’s coming the child of God will curb his resentments, will moderate his judgment and conduct toward offenders, and will forbear. How necessary this is to the maintaining of Christian unity is manifest at a glance.

  1. Murmuring.

“Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Murmur not, brethren, one against another, that ye be not judged: behold the Judge standeth before the doors” (Jas. 5:8, 9). In view of this imminence of the Lord’s coming—He standing, as it were, already with His hand on the door-knob, ready to open the door at an instant—at what instant we know not—the apostle urges us to be patient, and forbear murmuring one against another, lest we ourselves be judged at His appearing. Murmuring breeds trouble among brethren. Disruptions and factions among God’s people always originate in much previous grumbling. As a preventive of this sort of thing God urges a vital faith in the imminent coming of the Lord.

  1. Judging

“Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall each man have his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5). To keep our judgments, whether favorable or adverse, so far as we are obliged to judge, tentative, with a view to the final settlement and true judgment of the Lord at His coming, will prevent arbitrariness, and inclines to both justice and mercy. This also is needful for unity.

  1. Love.

Brotherly love is enjoined in direct connection with the prospect of the Lord’s return. “The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another and toward all men …. to the end that he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thess. 3:12, 13). “Owe no man anything save to love one another …. and this, knowing the season, that already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (Rom. 13:8, 11, 12). With such motives as these God presses the exhortation to brotherly love, and love toward all, upon us. But love is “the tie that binds.” Love “suffereth long and is kind . . . beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” In the happy hope of His coming lies a motive and power to make God’s people walk in the same mind, having the same love, and to knit their hearts together in love, unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding. (Col. 2:2).

KEEPING BUSY.

In addition to all these elements of unity, directly engendered and sustained by the Hope of His Coming, there is yet another consideration. It has been strangely charged that this teaching “cuts the nerve of missionary endeavor.” That in face of the fact that the master missionaries of the last two hundred years went out in almost every instance, impelled by the hope of His Coming. And today the same missionary zeal and love springs up wherever the doctrine of Christ’s Coming is given its scriptural place and prominence. In some parts missionaries are being announced right and left, much to the discomfiture of certain who ought to rejoice in it; and the brethren in the homeland who are looking for the Savior and who love His appearing, are depending on the faithful God to grant a sustenance and support for those who are carrying forth the word of God, He will not fail. The fact is that the earnest expectation of the Lord from heaven is an incentive to the true work of the Lord in every line. We must administrate His goods the while He is absent. “Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing: verily I say unto you that He will set him over all that he hath.” And if there be yet a thing lacking of the perfectness of the bond that unites God’s faithful children, this fellowship of earnest, loving, self-sacrificing labor in the Lord completes it. May God prosper and hasten His work!

R. H. Boll was a well-known preacher among the Churches of Christ and served from 1904 until his death in 1956 as minister of the Portland Avenue Church of Christ in Louisville, KY. He was Editor of the Word and Work Magazine from 1916 to 1956.




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