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Ephesians 5:8

I began this speech by commending the young adults who attended the retreat for their exemplary behavior, for their ability to get along with each other, and especially for their love for the Word of God. I told them that they had shown themselves to be what Ephesians 5:8 talked about: “light in the Lord.”

 

The description of believers as “light in the Lord” is an amazing description. It’s a description only used of God himself and of our Lord Jesus Christ and of believers. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, and Jesus is the light of the world, but believers are also light. That is incredible!

In his speech Pastor Kleyn compared believers to a fluorescent light bulb, a very beautiful illustration, but this description goes beyond that. A light bulb, no matter how brightly it shines, cannot be called “light.”  It only holds the light, but believers are light, light in the Lord.

They are light because they are children of light. That’s another amazing statement. If believers are light, then the light is their father. Just as we have our personal characteristics from our parents, so spiritually we are light because the light fathered us.

That is where we must begin when we talk about our calling to be lights in the world. The word of God does not start by saying, “Do this: walk as children of light.” It starts by telling us who we are and what we are. We must know that it is our calling to walk as children of light, but there is no help and encouragement in that. To be told only what we must do is only discouraging.

The help and encouragement come from knowing and remembering what we are. As light in the Lord we can walk as children of light. As light in the Lord we may walk as children of light. As light in the Lord it is our privilege to walk as children of light. As light in the Lord we will walk as children of light.

Notice, too, that we are light in the Lord. Only in connection with him, our Lord Jesus, are we light, and faith is our connection with him. By faith we are so closely joined to him that we become light, and having become light, we walk as children of light.

Chapters 4–6 of Ephesians tell us what it means to walk as children of light in the church, in marriage, in the family, in our work, among unbelievers, but we do that because of what we are in Him.

Parents sometimes say something like Ephesians 5:8 to their children, perhaps when they send them off to something like a Young Adult’s Retreat. They say, “Remember who you are. Remember that you are part of our family. Remember that you are part of our church. Remember that you are a Christian. Let that determine your behavior.”  If we love our parents and their words mean anything to us, then our behavior is ruled by what we are as covenant young people and as church members. The word of God does that here, only takes it to a much higher level, when it says, “Walk as children of light.”

The warnings that follow are there for a reason. We sometimes hide our light. We don’t always walk as children of light. We don’t always understand what it means to live as children of light. But if we really understood, really knew and believed, really kept in the mind and were conscious of what God has made us in Christ, we wouldn’t need those warnings. It would be enough for us to be told what we are in him.

Because of our weakness and sinfulness, however, we do need those warning, as well as the reminder of what we are by grace, and the number of warnings is striking. We should not ignore them. In fact, we would do well to write them down and post them like a sign wherever there’s the danger that instead of walking as children of light, we slip and fall. We could tape a copy to the dashboard of the car and put another copy in our phones with a reminder that pops up regularly. We must walk as children of light, but we must be careful where we walk, and with whom.

Notice the very first warning in verse 3: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.”  What could be more appropriate for the times in which we live and with all the temptations to which we are exposed on television, on the internet and in an increasingly permissive society. The warning was necessary when Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, and it is a hundred times more important today.

Our world is a world that “blesses the covetous, whom the Lord abhoreth.”  The stock market, the lottery, the availability of credit, the media, all fuel a covetousness that is destroying our society and the lives of our fellow citizens and that often wreaks havoc in the lives of God’s people. It’s covetousness that leaves us no time for church and for spiritual things, even for family. It’s covetousness that very often takes mothers out of the home and away from their children. It’s covetousness that keeps us deeply in debt, though the word of God says, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another.”  Read that first warning again.

Verses 11 and 12 take the warning a step farther: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”  Think of all those things, so readily available today, that are described by the word of God as too shameful to speak of, and you will see the need for these warnings.

Verse 11 is especially significant. Though written two thousand years ago and in a society that was quite different from ours, Paul writes as though he had just walked into the room while the television set was on, or as though he was sitting in front of a computer and checking on what some member of the church had been looking at or listening to.

He doesn’t only warn against looking and listening, but against letting those things become our friends because we are constantly in “fellowship” with them. We are warned against allowing ourselves to become addicted to these things, to filth and pornography, to adultery and fornication, to covetousness and greed through constant exposure to them.

We should think of the whole entertainment industry when we read these words and ask whether we are making the unfruitful works of darkness our friends. Think of sports or the music to which we listen. At its best it is “unfruitful,” to say nothing of the works of darkness, but the question raised by God’s word does not just concern the fruitfulness of those things, but whether those are things that are worth all the time, that take almost all of our attention, that capture our interest, that are our friends and fellows.

Then comes verse 6: “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” Don’t ever think that the unfruitful works of darkness, especially uncleanness and covetousness, are harmless—that we can play around with them and dabble in then and not do so to our own spiritual disadvantage and hurt. People go to hell as a result of these things; that’s what the word of God means.

Our calling to walk as children of light does not just mean that we heed the warning signs that are posted by God himself. Our calling is wonderful and beautiful. Verse 8 is positive and encouraging and the similar passage, Matthew 5:14–16, is the same: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

That believers are the light of the world does not mean that they are called to make this world a little less dark or that they are called to try and change the world for good. It means that in all the world they are the only light there is. There is no other light anywhere. Think of that:  Now that Jesus has gone away, you are the only light there is in world.

Notice, too, that walking as children of light means we do good works. It’s as simple as that. Walking as children of light means that we do our daily business and do it in obedience to the word of God—to the best of our ability and out of love for Jesus, our Savior.

Good works are not something only a few people can do or have opportunity to do. We do not have to be ministers or Christian school teachers to do good works. A mother who does her work faithfully in the home is doing some of the best works a Christian can do. A man who does his work cheerfully and honestly, whatever his work may be, is doing good works of which God himself approves and walking as a child of the light..

Doing good works means that we are the best we can be as fathers, mothers, laborers, husbands, wives, unmarried persons, widows, widowers, sons, daughters, young people, old people, teachers, students, elders, pastors, deacons, members of the church—and all for God’s sake and for our Savior’s sake. Then we are not only walking as children of light, but our light shines before men, and even those who do not believe can see who our Father is.

That isn’t easy. Walking as children of light means that we lose friends, lose jobs, suffer ridicule and even persecution. We must be strong in the Lord (Eph. 6:10). We must be fully armored and ready for battle (Eph. 6:11–17). But walking as children of light we have the promise that we will see the rising of the Light in the last day and will walk in that kingdom that has no need of sun or moon or stars, where God himself is the light of his people forever.

My dear young people, remember what you are by grace. Remember what God has done for you in Christ: “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.”

“Walk as children of light.”

 

This an abbreviated version of a speech given at the Lynden Young Adults Retreat in July, 2012

In our last article we showed that the whole New Testament age is the last time, according to Scripture. The last day or last time—the end—is not only something future but something present, something with which each of us must reckon, no matter when we live.

The coming of Christ must be similarly understood. As the great event of history through which all things are brought to their appointed end, the coming of Christ is not only something future, but also something present.

The point is, first, that the Christ’s coming is described in Scripture as one event including his birth in Bethlehem, his return for judgment and all that happens in between. This is the reason why the prophets in the Old Testament seem to mix events that to us are separated by thousands of years of history. They saw it all as one event, and they were not wrong.

Both from the viewpoint of God’s purpose and from the viewpoint of eternity itself (II Pet. 3:8), Christ’s coming is one event which finishes history, accomplishes God’s sovereign purpose, and ushers in the eternal and heavenly kingdom of God. The Old Testament prophets under the inspiration of the Spirit saw something of this.

This means, in the second place, that Christ is already coming! That is the way Scripture speaks. Though it also speaks of his coming as a future event, looking ahead to his personal and bodily return, it more often speaks in the present tense—that he is coming and that throughout all history. He is on the way, and his personal appearance at the very end is only the final stage of something that began in Bethlehem (Matt. 26:64—note the word “hereafter,” i.e., “from now on”; Matt. 28:20).

Scripture, therefore, not only speaks of Christ’s birth as his “coming” (and remember, the Old Testament prophets do not clearly distinguish it from other aspects of his coming), but also speak of various other events as part of the “coming” of Christ. These are especially three:

(1) He comes through the Spirit (Jn. 14:16-18). Because the outpouring of the Spirit is part of the coming of Christ, even the Apostle Peter in his Pentecost sermon does not make a clear distinction between that event and those things that we connect with the very end of the world, blood and fire, smoke and darkness (Acts 2:16-21).

(2) He also comes for believers at death. He comes! though not personally and bodily. He himself assures us of this in John 14:2, 3. That, of course, is our comfort.

(3) He also comes through the preaching of the gospel. That Christ himself speaks through the gospel is evident (Jn. 10:27; Eph. 2:17). Through it also, therefore, he comes and is present. This is the point in Matthew 28:19, 20. It is in preaching the gospel that Christ is present with us, even to the end.

All this means that the coming of Christ is not just a future event which has no immediate bearing on us, but something present with which we must always reckon. Indeed, in one or another of these senses, Christ comes every day and will certainly come in our own lifetimes when he comes to take us to himself!

In our last article we showed that the whole New Testament age is the last time, according to Scripture. The last day or last time—the end—is not only something future but something present, something with which each of us must reckon, no matter when we live.

The coming of Christ must be similarly understood. As the great event of history through which all things are brought to their appointed end, the coming of Christ is not only something future, but also something present.

The point is, first, that the Christ’s coming is described in Scripture as one event including his birth in Bethlehem, his return for judgment and all that happens in between. This is the reason why the prophets in the Old Testament seem to mix events that to us are separated by thousands of years of history. They saw it all as one event, and they were not wrong.

Both from the viewpoint of God’s purpose and from the viewpoint of eternity itself (II Pet. 3:8), Christ’s coming is one event which finishes history, accomplishes God’s sovereign purpose, and ushers in the eternal and heavenly kingdom of God. The Old Testament prophets under the inspiration of the Spirit saw something of this.

This means, in the second place, that Christ is already coming! That is the way Scripture speaks. Though it also speaks of his coming as a future event, looking ahead to his personal and bodily return, it more often speaks in the present tense—that he is coming and that throughout all history. He is on the way, and his personal appearance at the very end is only the final stage of something that began in Bethlehem (Matt. 26:64—note the word “hereafter,” i.e., “from now on”; Matt. 28:20).

Scripture, therefore, not only speaks of Christ’s birth as his “coming” (and remember, the Old Testament prophets do not clearly distinguish it from other aspects of his coming), but also speak of various other events as part of the “coming” of Christ. These are especially three:

(1) He comes through the Spirit (Jn. 14:16-18). Because the outpouring of the Spirit is part of the coming of Christ, even the Apostle Peter in his Pentecost sermon does not make a clear distinction between that event and those things that we connect with the very end of the world, blood and fire, smoke and darkness (Acts 2:16-21).

(2) He also comes for believers at death. He comes! though not personally and bodily. He himself assures us of this in John 14:2, 3. That, of course, is our comfort.

(3) He also comes through the preaching of the gospel. That Christ himself speaks through the gospel is evident (Jn. 10:27; Eph. 2:17). Through it also, therefore, he comes and is present. This is the point in Matthew 28:19, 20. It is in preaching the gospel that Christ is present with us, even to the end.

All this means that the coming of Christ is not just a future event which has no immediate bearing on us, but something present with which we must always reckon. Indeed, in one or another of these senses, Christ comes every day and will certainly come in our own lifetimes when he comes to take us to himself!

Rev. Ronald Hanko was born in 1954 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His parents are Prof. Herman Hanko and Mrs. Wilma (Knoper) Hanko.

Until he was nine, Rev. Hanko lived in the house that is now the residence of the principal of Hope Christian School. He grew up in the area of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, though the present church building was not built at that time. His father was the minister of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, and then he took a call to the Doon, Iowa, Protestant Reformed Church in 1963. The Hankos lived in Doon until 1965, when his father took the call to the Protestant Reformed Seminary. They moved back to Grand Rapids and lived first in the second parsonage of the old First Protestant Reformed Church on Bates Street in Grand Rapids, near the old Calvin College campus, and later they moved back in the area of Hope Protestant Reformed Church.

Rev. Hanko attended Hope School until half way through third grade. Then he went to Doon Christian School (we did not have our own school there at the time) for the other half of third grade, fourth and fifth grades. When his family moved back to Grand Rapids, he went to Adams School for sixth, seventh and half of eighth grades, and he went to Hope School again for the other half of eighth grade and ninth. He spent his high school years at Covenant Christian High School.

After he graduated from high school, Rev. Hanko attended Calvin College, Grand Valley, and the Protestant Reformed Seminary for his college training. He also received his seminary education from the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

Peer pressure to conform to ungodly and inappropriate behavior was always difficult for Rev. Hanko to resist when he was growing up. Those pressures are still there today for our young people and have increased due to the decline of family worship and family life.

In 1975, Rev. Hanko married Nancy Cammenga the Lord has blessed with eight children. Nancy has been a support to him, has willingly moved to many different places far from her former home and family, and has shown herself to be “full of good works and alms deeds.”

When Rev. Hanko was very young, God began to prepare him for the ministry. He was often asked if he would be a minister like his father and grandfather. He hated those questions and always denied that he would be; but when he was in high school, he began, nevertheless to feel the call to the ministry. He spoke to both his father and grandfather about it and they encouraged him. Several high school teachers also encouraged him.

When Rev. Hanko decided to enter Seminary, his parents and grandparents were pleased, but up to that time they had never put any pressure on him to do so. That was probably a good thing, since pressure from them, along with the questions of those who thought he ought to be a minister because it “ran in the family,” might have had an opposite effect. He struggled for a time after deciding to enter Seminary with his own feelings because he was unable to determine whether it was for his parents’ sake or for God’s sake that he had made the decision.

One of the more memorable events of Rev. Hanko’s years in Seminary was a humorous one. It occurred during a class with Prof. Homer Hoeksema, whom he loved dearly and whose preaching and work in the churches he misses very much. At the climax of a Dogmatics lecture, Prof. Hoeksema misspoke himself and called Adam a bird, and a little later discovered the seminarian who is now Rev. Carl Haak squatting on a table, flapping his arms and squawking.

The most memorable experience was the practice preaching sessions and the rigorous criticism of sermons at the end of those sessions. Although he can see the value of those sessions, at the time it was difficult for him to see how beneficial they were. There were a number of times when he returned from such sessions and told his wife that he was finished at Seminary.

After he was ordained in 1979, Rev. Hanko’s first charge was in Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Wyckoff, New Jersey. In 1986, his labors at Covenant Protestant Reformed Church were finished when the Lord sent him to Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Houston, Texas. In 1993, he was called to leave Trinity to become the missionary to Britain and pastor of the Covenant Reformed Fellowship (later Covenant Protestant Reformed Church) until 2001. Since July, 2002 he has been the pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of the Lynden, Washington, Protestant Reformed Church.

One of Rev. Hanko’s most memorable experiences with teaching the young children in catechism was teaching the miracles of Jesus to the youngest class. He asked if any of the children knew what leprosy was, and he called on the only child who had raised his hand and whose arm was waving frantically, only to hear a description of leprosy that went something like this: “First your fingers and toes fall off, then your hands and feet, and then the other parts of your body until only your head is left. Then you die.” The other children, of course, were wide-eyed at this description.

As a minister, it has been rewarding for Rev. Hanko to witness the steadfastness of God’s people in the face of adversity, and the spiritual growth of the young people.

During his ministry, Rev. Hanko says it has been wonderful to have lived and worked in so many different places. “We have missed family members, but have learned and grown though contact with many different people of God and have seen many different places. The faces and faith of many dear friends and fellow believers, some across the ocean and some in Heaven are always with us, as are the warm summer evenings in Houston sitting under the live oaks, the green hills of Ireland, the busy streets of London and New York, and the mountains of Colorado and Washington.”

While he was growing up, Rev. Hanko enjoyed reading, orchids and stamp collecting, which has an honorable history among ministers, in that Arthur Pink took it up as a hobby in his later years.

Now Rev. Hanko enjoys collecting and reading antiquarian books including theology, water-color painting, and photography.

Rev. Hanko has advice for men who are considering the ministry of the Word to be their calling. He says that they be very sure that they are called by God, since the ministry, especially in these times, is difficult, often burdensome, and with many discouragements and trials.

Concerning the thinking, attitudes, and behavior of the young people, Rev Hanko would like nothing so much as to see more spirituality on the part of the young people, especially in the area of personal devotions, preparation for catechism, and an interest in the truth.

Rev. Hanko is encouraged that there are always, by the wonderful grace of God, young people who are spiritually minded and who are not ashamed of their faith and of living by their faith.

Dispensationalism, also known as Darbyism (after John Darby, the founder both of Dispensationalism and of the Brethren movement), Brethrenism, and Scofieldism, is the most serious of all errors regarding the millennium. In fact, it is not just a certain teaching about the millennium and the future, but a whole erroneous theological system.

The name comes from the fact that Dispensationalism divides history into different “dispensations” in each of which God has a different covenant relation with men, each of which ends with man’s failure to meet God’s requirements. We are now, according to classic Dispensationalism, in the “church age” or dispensation of grace, with only one more dispensation to come, that of the kingdom.

Rather than give a lengthy and detailed description of Dispensationalism, however, we suggest that those of our readers who are unacquainted with its teachings or want a lengthier critique than is offered in these articles, write us for the booklet, Dispensationalism. We have limited quantities of this booklet.

Some of Dispensationalism’s errors we have already dealt with, i.e.:

(1) its teaching regarding a secret, pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture.

(2) its teaching regarding multiple comings of Christ. Some of its teachings we will, God willing, deal with in future articles, i.e.:

  1. its belief in multiple resurrections and judgments.
  2. its literalist interpretation of Scripture, especially Revelation 20.

The other principal errors of Dispensationalism are:

(1) its method of interpreting Scripture, the end result of which is that the whole Old Testament and some of the New Testament are applied to the Jews, and have no application to New Testament Christians except perhaps as an object of curiosity. The Scofield Bible teaches, for example, that the Sermon on the Mount is not Christian but Jewish. This is contrary to the teaching of Scripture that all Scripture is profitable (and applicable) to New Testament Christians (Jn. 10:35; II Tim. 3:16, 17). It is in this connection especially that Dispensationalism has been accused of “wrongly dividing the Word of truth” (cf. II Tim. 2:15), though it claims the opposite.

(2) its strict literalism, which, as one writer points out, is really the literalism of the Pharisees, who could not and would not see that Christ is a spiritual King and so crucified Him. This strict (though inconsistently applied) literalism, and opposition to “spiritualizing” is also contrary to the teaching of Scripture (I Cor. 2:13-15; also the many passages in which Scripture itself “spiritualizes” the things of the Old Testament, notably I Pet. 2:5-9 and the whole book of Hebrews). We hope, God willing, to deal in more detail with this matter of “literalism” in a future article, but would point out, that while Scripture must be interpreted carefully and soberly, there are things which cannot be taken literally, e.g., the white stone of Revelation 2:17.

We will continue to point out these errors in the next issue.

Premillennialism (chiliasm) is the teaching that the personal, visible return of Christ will take place 1000 years before the end of the world. It teaches that apostasy and wickedness will increase and result in the final revelation of Antichrist. At that time a period of severe persecution (the great tribulation of Matt. 24:21) for the church will begin. This reign of Antichrist and period of persecution, which ends with the coming of Christ who will raise His saints, translate those who are still living, judge them, remove the curse from the earth, and establish an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem, which will last 1000 years.

That kingdom will be the result of a mass conversion of the Jews who will be restored to their own land. They, along with the Gentile Christians, will make up the kingdom of Christ, though the Jews will have the priority. That kingdom will be characterized by righteousness, peace and prosperity here on earth and will last exactly 1000 years. At the end of this period of Christ’s earthly rule, the rest of the dead will be raised and the last judgment and the creation of the new heavens and earth will follow.

Some of these views of premillennialism are very strange. For one thing, the citizens of the millennial kingdom will be a mixture of those who have been raised and glorified and those who have not, who will still be their earthly bodies (cf. I Cor. 15:50). For another thing, they believe that this kingdom will be on an earth from which the curse has been removed, but which is not yet delivered completely from sin, death and sickness. On that earth the resurrected saints will live along with those who are still subject to sin and death.

There are, however, more important objections to this teaching:

(1) Scripture contradicts the teaching that the coming of Christ precedes the end of the world by 1000 years. Rather Scripture teaches that Christ’s coming is simultaneous with the end of this present world (I Cor. 15:23-24); with the creation of the new heavens and earth (II Pet. 3:4-13); with the resurrection of all the dead (Rev. 20:12-15); and the last judgment (Jude 6-7, 14-15; Matt. 24:37-41; Lk. 17:28-37 – cf. also some of our earlier editions).

(2) Scripture does not teach more than one resurrection and judgment (Jn. 5:25-29) nor a resurrection and judgment that precede the end of the world by 1000 years (Jn. 6:39, 40, 44, 45; 11:24; I Cor. 15:51-52 – note the emphasis on “last” – cf. also earlier editions).

(3) Scripture teaches the very opposite of an earthly kingdom, i.e., that the kingdom is heavenly (Jn 18:36; Heb. 12:22-29, esp. vs. 22, 23, 28).

(4) Also, Scripture teaches that Christ’s kingdom is everlasting, not just 1000 years (Dan. 4:4, 34; 7:27; II Pet. 1:11 – cf. also earlier editions).

(5) Nor does Scripture teach that “Jew” only ever refers to the physical descendants of Abraham. Indeed, it makes clear that all believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, are Jews or Israel in God’s sight (Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:29; Phil. 3:3 – cf. also earlier editions of this paper). Israel is the church (Acts 7:38) and the church is Israel (Heb. 12:22-23).

For these reasons especially we reject premillennial teaching.

Strictly speaking, premillennialism and dispensationalism belong to the same school in that they both teach that the personal and visible coming of Christ will be prior to (pre-) a yet future thousand year reign of Christ. There are also other similarities:

(1) Both teach a literal thousand year (millennial) kingdom.

(2) Both teach that this millennium and kingdom are future.

(3) Both teach that the millennium kingdom of Christ is earthly, centered in the city of Jerusalem, and that it involves the personal visible reign of Christ on earth.

(4) Both teach that the promises of God to Abraham and to the Jewish nation regarding the land have a future, literal, earthly fulfillment to that nation.

(5) Both believe also that “Israel” in Scripture always and only refers to the physical descendants of Abraham.

(6) Both teach more than one resurrection and more than one judgment.

There are, nevertheless, important differences between the two views. Dispensationalism teaches two comings of Christ prior to the millennium (usually separated by a period of seven years), i.e., the rapture and the revelation—Christ’s coming for His saints and with them. They also teach that the rapture will be secret and at any moment and that it will occur prior to the great tribulation so that the church will not pass through the tribulation, but will be away with Christ.

Dispensationalism also teaches that the New Testament Church is but a parenthesis in history, that the Jewish nation alone constitutes the people and kingdom of God, and that the millennial kingdom of Christ will be an exclusively Jewish kingdom, i.e., the Jews and they alone are the kingdom people. Along with all of this, dispensationalism also teaches that the Holy Spirit will be absent from the earth during the time between the rapture and the revelation, the two stages of Christ’s premillennial coming.

In addition, the older dispensationalism of the Scofield Bible notes, teaches different ways of salvation, denying that salvation is only in the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and through faith in Him. All this historic premillennialism rightly rejects, teaching that the so-called rapture and revelation are one event, not two. Premillennialism also denies a secret rapture and teaches that the church shall pass through the treat tribulation. Finally, it teaches that the church has a part and place in Christ’s kingdom, and is not just a “parenthesis in history” between God’s past and future dealings with the Jews.

Historic premillennialism has also always rejected the heretical teaching of the Scofield Bible notes, that there are different ways of salvation in different dispensations and the strange teaching that the Holy Spirit is withdrawn from the earth during the time between the rapture and the revelation.

Nevertheless, we believe that while premillennialism rejects many of the false teachings of dispensationalism, it does not go far enough. So, as we hope to show in our next article, premillennialism also is unbiblical.

Reprinted from the Loveland PRC newsletter.

Scripture’s testimony concerning the coming of Christ raises the question, “When (and how) shall He come?” It is in answering this question that the subject of the millennium of Revelation 20 comes up. The different millennial views, premillennialism, postmillennialism and amillennialism, therefore all have to do with the time and manner of Christ’s coming.

From one point of view it is to be regretted that millennialism, something mentioned only a few times in Scripture and that in one chapter of a difficult and symbolic book, should have become such a matter of debate and disagreement among Christians. Nevertheless, the difference between these different millennial views is important and not to be dismissed as of no account. The time and manner of Christ’s coming are important!

For example, the constant testimony of Scripture that Jesus comes quickly, is of enormous importance for our hope while we live our lives in the world (cf. II Pet. 3:8, 9, 17). So is the fact that He comes suddenly and unexpectedly (cf. I Thess. 5:1-10).

So, too, the different views of the millennium also raise questions about the nature of Christ’s kingdom, whether it is earthly or heavenly, present or future, Jewish or Christian, and these questions, too, are of the utmost importance. We are called to seek the kingdom and we must know what it is we seek, if we are to fulfill this calling.

We will not, therefore, dismiss the subject of the millennium as unimportant, but will attempt to explain the different views, and to show from Scripture what ought to be believed. We do this not to further divisions among Christians or to offend those who hold differing views from ours, but to show what the Word teaches and why.

We trust that everyone understands that “millennium” means “a thousand years,” and refers to the “thousand years” mentioned six times in Revelation 20 . During that thousand years, according to Revelation 20, Satan is bound, and those who have part in the first resurrection live and reign with Christ. At the end of that period, whatever period of time it describes, Satan is loosed for a “little season” the nations are deceived by him and gathered to battle against the holy city. God then intervenes and judgment follows. That much is clear to all from Revelation 20. What that all means, however, is not so clear.

Some believe this is all in the future, including the thousand years itself (premillennialism), others that it has all already begun and that we are already in the period described as a thousand years (amillennialism). Still others teach that while it may have begun, its principle fulfillment is still future and will be seen only when a period of unprecedented peace, blessing and prosperity comes for the gospel and the church (postmillennialism).

In connection with this some believe that the next personal coming of Christ is prior to the millenium (pre‑), others, that it is after the millennium (post- and a-). The former also teach more than one future coming of Christ, the latter two expect only one future coming. To these different views we turn in our next article.

Rev. Hanko is a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches. Reprinted from the Loveland PRC newsletter.

We should never forget that the coming of Christ at the end of the world is a wonder and a miracle—indeed the last this world shall ever see. It is a work of God and therefore wonderful in our eyes and something that transcends our understanding. In fact, all that belongs to the end of the world is a wonder-work of God, a miracle.

The signs of Christ’s coming, the resurrection of the dead, the catching up the saints to be with Christ, the destruction of the old earth and heavens by fire, the final judgment and the glorification of believers, all belong to those things which are wholly unexplainable in terms of what is natural and earthly. They all belong to the realm of the supernatural, and are therefore received only by faith.

There are various Scripture passages that make it clear that this is true of the coming of Christ. For one thing, Revelation 1:7 testifies of the fact that “every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him” (cf. also Matt. 24:27, 30). Not only does this indicate that the general resurrection will have already taken place when Christ returns, but it shows that the coming of Christ is a miraculous work of God.

How it will be possible for every eye to see Him when He appears it is impossible to say, but we have no doubt that the Word of God speaks truly. Indeed, every eye must see Him, for He comes as the revelation of God, both for salvation and judgment. Every creature, living and dead, will be judged and so saved or damned in relation to Him!

Another passage which makes it clear that the coming of Christ is a miraculous and wonderful work of God Almighty is II Thessalonians 2:8, which speaks of the fact that the man of sin, the Wicked One, shall be destroyed by the very brightness of the coming of Christ. Again, it is difficult to know exactly how we are to understand this, but it nevertheless reminds us of the fact that the coming of Christ is no natural event.

The coming of Christ will be wonderful in another sense, however, that is, it will be the delight and joy of God’s people (Rev. 22:20) and the terror of the wicked (Rev. 6:15-17). That it will be the fulfillment of all our hopes is marvelous, especially when we remember that we too must stand before the judgment seat and give an account of our works there. Even that can destroy the wonderful hope we have in Him. In fact, our salvation in and through the judgment is part of the miracle of grace.

It is for that coming, therefore, that we wait and watch and hope. Our whole life as believers can be described from this point of view—it all has as its goal and purpose the appearing of Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters to us so much as that. Take away the hope of the coming of Christ and nothing matters any more.

What this all adds up to is that the coming of Christ is part of the miracle and wonder of salvation. From the beginning of history God has revealed Himself as the only Savior in that He does for us what is utterly beyond the power or even the imagination of man. He saves us by the miracle of grace in Jesus Christ. The return of Christ is the final revelation of that great miracle of grace and mercy!

Reprinted from the Loveland PRC newsletter.

If the “rapture” is not secret, why do we read of Christ’s coming as sudden and unexpected (I Thess.5:1-9)? He comes, Scripture says, as a thief in the night (Matt. 24:34; II Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15). What could be more secret or unexpected than that?

The truth is that Christ comes as a unexpected thief only in relation to the ungodly and unbelieving. I Thessalonians 5:1-9 makes this abundantly clear. There Paul speaks of “them,” the ungodly, in distinction from “you,” that is, the saints. He tells us that inescapable destruction shall come upon them (vs. 3), “but ye, brethren, are not in darkness that the day should overtake you as a thief” (vs. 4).

The wicked are not expecting the final judgment and the coming of Christ. Though many of them have heard that He is coming and know that God will judge the world, they hold this truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:16). They are the scoffers of whom Peter speaks (II Pet. 3:1-8). Because God does not pour out His wrath on them immediately they conclude He will not judge them at all. Nor do they recognize the judgments He does send on them now as judgments (AIDS, earthquakes, famines, wars).

Such people are also found in the church. There they are represented by the five foolish virgins of Matthew 25 (vss. 1-13). When Christ does come they are sound asleep, and without oil, and are excluded from the wedding feast as a result. They belong to the church and have the name of believers (virgins), but are in fact hypocrites and unbelievers.

God’s people are not taken completely unawares (further proof that the “rapture” is not secret), and are in fact, though always imperfectly, watching and waiting for the coming of Christ, believing that He shall certainly come as He has promised. They are not in the darkness of unbelief and sin, as I Thessalonians 5:4 reminds us.

Nevertheless, even they do not know the day or hour of Christ’s coming (Matt. 24:36, 42; 25:13; Mk. 13:32). To them also Christ says, “In such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh” (Matt. 24:44).

For this reason we have the urgent calling to watch and wait and pray. Matthew 25:13 speaks of that calling. So does I Thessalonians 5: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober…. Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (vs. 6, 8).

This warning is needed! The five “wise” virgins are also sleeping when the bridegroom comes (Matt. 25:5). They have oil in their lamps (the biblical symbol of the Spirit of God), but they themselves are slumbering. It is with this in mind that Jesus says in another place, “When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8) and that in connection with a call to fervent, frequent prayer.

That we need this warning should be evident in the fact that we are often careless, and live as though Christ will never come. Indeed, the thought of His coming right now, more often than not would fill us with dismay. Let us then watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation.

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