“Whom the Heaven Must Receive”

“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” —Acts 3:20,21

AT HIS first advent the long-awaited Messiah was recognized and accepted only by the few. He came with no great army, he assumed no temporal power, he proclaimed no present earthly kingdom, and most of the oppressed, expectant Jews were disappointed. The Messiah for whom the ruling element among the Jews was looking was one who would deliver them from the yoke of Rome and restore to them the glory of David and Solomon, not the lowly son of a simple carpenter.

The manner of life that he taught was a difficult one, and few would choose it. It would be but a little flock that would have the faith and fortitude to await the coming of the vaguely outlined kingdom that he preached. Mark tells us, however, that “the common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12:37) And what boundless joy Is expressed in the excited announcement by Andrew, the fisherman, to his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messias!”—John 1:41

Even as foretold of him, he went about Palestine preaching good tidings of the coming kingdom of heaven to the meek and inviting whosoever would to forsake all, deny themselves, and follow him. (Isa. 61:1; Mark 8:34) He cast out demons, raised the dead, cured lepers, stilled the tempest, and turned water into wine. Yet, incredibly, the scribes and Pharisees sought a sign of his messiahship. “Master,” they said, “we would see a sign from thee.”—Matt. 12:38

“Art Thou He?”

Even John the Baptist began to doubt! From his place in prison, he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3) Jesus instructed them, “Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Matt. 11:1-5) In effect, Jesus was saying to the very one who was chosen of God to announce his presence, “John, what more could possibly be done to prove that the Messiah is really here? What more convincing signs could be given?”

But though the wise and learned did not recognize the signs, a humble few among the nation did. On one Sabbath day Jesus met a man who had been blind from birth, and he cured him of his affliction. Seeking to discredit Jesus, the Pharisees said, “This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.” But others reasoned, “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?” And so there was a division among them; but the man who had been healed said, “He is a prophet.” Being further questioned by the unbelieving Jews, the man replied, “Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes! Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.”—John 9:1-30

And so, at his first advent, our Lord’s presence was indicated by the signs of his presence. Even so has it been at his second advent; we know that he is, and has been, present by the signs of his presence. As his presence at the first advent was proven by the things he did, so also his second presence is revealed by what we, as humble footstep followers of the Lord, walking in the light of the Word of Truth, see going on around us, and by what our Lord has been doing. That this is the method whereby our Lord would reveal his second presence to his footstep followers in the end of the Gospel Age is confirmed by Jesus himself. When his disciples inquired of him, “What shall be the sign of thy coming [presence], and the end of the world [age]?” he replied by outlining some of the events that would indicate his presence. These would be the signs of his presence. At his first advent our Lord was present in the flesh; but since his resurrection, God has “highly exalted” him; and “though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him [so] no more.” (Phil. 2:9; II Cor. 5:16) Thus, we must discern our Lord’s second presence by the signs of his presence, even as he instructed us to do.

He Would Go—and He Would Remain

Just prior to his crucifixion, Jesus said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Here Jesus plainly said that he was going away. But immediately after his resurrection he appeared to his disciples and said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age].” (Matt. 28:20) Here he tells his disciples that he would remain with them.

Was our Lord making contradictory statements? Indeed not! He was explaining to them that he would no longer be with them in a physical sense; but he was assuring them that he would be watching, ever so tenderly and lovingly, over their spiritual interests. Thus we see that our Lord does not need to be present in what (for want of a better term) we might regard as a physical sense, in order to be watching over the spiritual interests of his followers.

After our Lord’s resurrection he said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18) Sometimes we fail to appreciate fully our Lord’s great power and glory. We think that our Lord does not necessarily need to be here, or there, or elsewhere, to accomplish his purposes. Of our Heavenly Father it is written, “He uttered his voice, the earth melted.” (Ps. 46:6) Thus we see that the great God of the universe does not need to leave his heavenly throne and come down here to earth to exercise his overruling providences in the world. Nor does our Lord Jesus need literally to change his location in any way whatsoever to accomplish his purposes in harmony with the Heavenly Father’s plans.

“Speak the Word Only, Lord”

On one occasion during his earthly ministry Jesus was approached by a centurion, who besought him to cure his servant who was lying at home, sick of the palsy. Jesus, always compassionate, said, “I will come and heal him.” But the humble centurion, aware of Jesus’ powers, said, no, Lord; it is not necessary for you to go to my home! Just “speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” And Jesus marveled at the faith of that simple man; and the centurion’s servant “was healed in the selfsame hour.”—Matt. 8:5-13

At another time Jesus was met by a woman who implored him to free her daughter of an unclean spirit. Impressed with her faith, Jesus said to her, “Go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.” And Mark tells us that, “When she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.”—Mark 7:24-30

These incidents give us a small inkling of Jesus’ mighty power, immeasurably multiplied since his resurrection, and they clearly illustrate an important principle with relation to our Lord’s second presence. He does not necessarily need to alter his position in the slightest degree in order to accomplish any of the various aspects of God’s great plan for man’s ultimate and everlasting restitution. As can the Heavenly Father, so also can Jesus freely exercise his great power at any time, and from any location.

The Scriptures indicate that our Lord’s second presence has various phases or stages, in which he appears in various roles. We find that he can be present at one time in one phase or stage, in a particular role; and later he can be present at another phase or stage, in another role. His presence in these different stages and different roles is indicated by the signs of his presence—by what is occurring in the earth, and particularly with regard to the church.

Rightly Dividing the Word

Bible students have long known that in order to understand the Bible they must “rightly divide the Word of truth” with respect to the three great time dispensations of the Scriptures: the world that was, the world that now is, and the world to come, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (II Pet. 3:6,7,13) Scriptures that apply to one of these grand dispensations cannot properly be applied to another dispensation. So, likewise, must one rightly divide the Word of truth as respects the long period of our Lord’s second presence and note particularly the different phases of his presence, and the different roles he plays in those different phases of his presence.

In the first phase of his second presence Jesus comes in his role as the lord of the household of faith, to deal with his servants. In the parable of the talents Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods”—to one, five talents, to another, two talents, and to another, one talent, to be used in the master’s service. “After a long time,” the account states, “the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them,” and rewarded each according to his diligence and faithfulness. (Matt. 25:14-30) Much the same basic lesson is contained in the Parable of the Pounds.—Luke 19:11-27

Perhaps one of the first acts of our Lord in this first phase of his return would be to raise the sleeping saints. The Apostle Paul speaks of this in his letter to the church at Thessalonica. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [presence] of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”—I Thess. 4:14-16, RSV

Also, in this same first phase, in his role as lord of the household of faith, he would supply the living and watching members of the household of faith with meat in due season. “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh, shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.”—Luke 12:37; Matt. 24:44,45

Additionally, in this first phase, the Lord would begin to gather home the ripe wheat. Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”—I Cor. 15:50-53; I Thess. 4:17; Rev. 14:13-16

We believe we have seen these signs of this first phase of our Lord’s second presence. There has been meat in due season; there has been a harvesting of the ripe wheat; there is proceeding a reckoning by the Lord with the household of faith. These are signs of this first phase of his presence, in his specific role as the lord of the household of faith, reckoning with his servants.

The Arm of Jehovah

Then there follows another phase of our Lord’s return, when he is present in another role, this time as the Arm of the Lord, or General of Jehovah, bringing destruction upon the iniquitous social arrangements of this present evil world. This is the period of the world’s history which is described in the Bible as the Day of the Lord, or Day of Jehovah.

Jesus is characterized as the Arm of Jehovah in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Verse 1 reads, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord [Jehovah] revealed?” The rest of the chapter clearly identifies Jesus as being this Arm of Jehovah.

The Prophet Isaiah also writes concerning Jesus in this role as the Arm of Jehovah in the day of his wrath. Under inspiration, Isaiah writes of Jesus, “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of [Jehovah’s] vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.”—Isa. 63:3-5

The Prophet Daniel also speaks of this Day of Jehovah, which he describes as “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” He indicates that this great time of trouble takes place when Michael (Jesus, the Arm of Jehovah) stands up. (Dan. 12:1) Jesus himself called it a time of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” He said it would be a sign of his presence, and of the end of the age.—Matt. 24:3,21

Again, this phase of our Lord’s presence, in his role as the Arm of Jehovah, is easily discerned. The world has already entered into the time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation. The Lord Jesus is now present in this specific phase of his presence, and in this specific role, initiating the destruction of this present evil world. If we believe we are in the time of trouble, we must also believe our Lord is present in this particular role.

Earlier we saw that our Lord had returned in the role of the lord of the household of faith, reckoning with his servants. He was not then present in his role as the Arm of Jehovah, destroying this present evil world. This is now a different phase of our Lord’s return, in a different role.

Behold the Bridegroom!

Then there is to follow another and joyous phase of our Lord’s return, one for which the Lord’s people have long waited, prayed, and patiently endured—when he comes in his role as the Bridegroom. We are told of this great event by the Revelator: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”—Rev. 19:7,8

What a glorious event that will be, when the completed bride class are all taken home to be joined with the Bridegroom in his heavenly home, to share his glory and honor and power and throne, to be presented before the Heavenly Father, and to see him face to face! “I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.”—Ps. 17:15

Again, this phase of his presence will be different from the previous phases of his presence. He will then be present in a different role—as the Bridegroom. He is not yet present in this specific role.

Jesus as the Great Mediator

And then there is to come yet another, and most wonderful phase of his second presence, when our Lord returns in still another role—his role as the great Mediator of the New Covenant, as the Everlasting Father and Life-giver to the whole world of mankind.

The Apostle Peter speaks of this still future phase of our Lord’s second presence as “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Also, Peter identifies Christ as the great antitypical Moses who would bring the promised blessings of the kingdom to all the willing of the world of mankind during his mediatorial reign. He says, “He [God] shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive [retain] until the times of restitution of all things. … For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” Peter then goes on to point to Jesus as the promised Mediator and Seed of blessing.—Acts 3:20-26

The Apostle Paul also identifies Christ as the foretold Mediator when he writes to Timothy that there is “one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”—I Tim. 2:5,6

Whom the Heaven Must Retain

Again, this particular phase of Christ’s presence has not yet arrived; he has not yet come in his role of Mediator of the New Covenant on behalf of all mankind in the times of restitution. His coming as the Mediator is still future; in this particular role, the heaven still retains him.

But when the church is complete and glorified with her Lord and Savior and seated with him in his throne, then the mediatorial reign for the judging and blessing of all the families of the earth will have arrived.

Our Lord himself specifically marked this particular phase of his coming, or presence, in this particular role as the Mediator and Judge of the world of mankind, in relating the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which applies to the times of restitution. He said, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory [he has not yet so come], and all the holy angels [the completed church] with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”—Matt. 25:31-34

Soon to Be Testified

In summary, then, we believe that we have clearly seen the sign of our Lord’s coming, or presence, in his role as lord of the household of faith, providing them with meat in due season, and in the harvesting of the ripe wheat. We believe, too, that we have seen the sign of his coming, or presence, in his role as the Arm of Jehovah, initiating the destruction and dissolution of the elements of this present evil world.

But he has not yet come in his role as the Bridegroom. Nor has he yet come in his role as Mediator of the New Covenant on behalf of the world of mankind, bringing in the times of restitution. That phase of his coming, or presence, is also still future. In that particular role, the heaven still retains him. His beneficent, restoring presence in that phase, and in that role, will be joyously testified to the world “in due time.”—I Tim. 2:5,6

Dawn Bible Students Association
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