I can hardly say how much I appreciate the very undeserved privilege of standing here tonight to present to you something concerning the Coming Again of our Lord Jesus Christ in this place where so many mighty men of God have borne testimony throughout the years. I am quite sure of this, that I cannot really add anything to what they have already proclaimed. I have not anything new to bring to you; if I had, it would not be true. For, you know, in regard to God's truth whatever is true is not new, and whatever is new is not true. Ours is "the faith once for all delivered to the saints." The most I can hope to do is to "stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance," that is, those of you who are already looking for the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and "our gathering together unto Him," and who are looking for His Return to the earth as the one means of solving all earth's problems.
I have no doubt that the great majority of this splendid audience tonight is made up of real Convention people. At least I take it that you over here are very much like us in America. You know, if we have a Convention of any kind in the Moody Church we can always depend on about 3,000 regular meeting folk; they always come; they are always interested; they are always there to stand by anything that they believe to be of God. Then if we can get in a sprinkling of the less-interested people, we are very thankful. Tonight I want to address myself not to the regular folk, to you who are prophetic adepts-I am going to talk to you-but I shall be thinking more particularly of any friends who have come in here tonight who have never yet given very much attention to the doctrine of the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are, in fact, a great many professed Christians who have not given much attention to it. In a general way they believe in it, but just what is involved in the doctrine of the Second Advent they do no know.
I remember on one occasion I was asked to give an address at a ministers' meeting in a Canadian city; I do not want to particularize too carefully. After I had finished my address the meeting was thrown open for discussion, and I soon found that those who looked at things as I did were very much in the minority. One splendid man was asked to speak on the subject; he was a man widely known; he had written a great many books, and I had read every one of them, and I was exceedingly glad to meet him. He was asked if he would not say something as to what he thought of the doctrine of the Second Coming. He was very courteous. He said, "I am really sorry you have asked me to say anything, because the fact of the matter is, I never like disagreeing with a guest speaker; but since you have put me on the spot, I simply have to say that, while I appreciate the spirit of our friend (that was very kind of him), I do not believe a word he says. I cannot accept his view. Now do not misunderstand me. I do not believe in the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. There must be something about it in the Bible, or we would not have the Advent Lessons in the Prayer Book. But just what is meant by it I do not know, and I have never met anyone else that did; and I am certain our visitor does not know either, though he believes he does. I give him credit for being thoroughly honest. There is something terrific about this idea of the Second Advent of Christ to me, and I cannot understand people who talk about it in such a free and easy way, and who seem so eager to see it take place. If I believed that the Saviour might return tomorrow, I should not be able to sleep tonight for anxiety. And just imagine a clergyman starting out to visit his parishioners on a given day, and the awful thought coming to him, 'The Lord may be here today!' Why, it would just paralyse Christian effort. I know, speaking for myself, I would want to get back to my study, and get down on my knees, and cry to God to make me fit for that great event. The way our friend has spoken about it to me is perfectly appalling. Why, he has intimated to us that if the Lord should come even today, all the saints would be caught up to meet Him; and whatever would become of the rest of us poor fellows? It is perfectly appalling."
This, of course, put me in rather a difficult position, for I was a much younger man than he was; yet I felt I had to be faithful, and I said, "I do hope you do not mean that a man could have been a clergyman for, say, fifty years in the great historical Church of which you are a member, and have taken all the various ecclesiastical and academical degrees, and received ecclesiastical recognition in so many different ways, and yet had never been washed from his sins in the precious blood of Christ? Surely you do not mean that. You know, doctor, if you have, as I hope you have, and as I trust you have, been washed in the blood of Jesus, well, when the saints are caught up, you will be caught up as well; and you will get great light in prophetic truth all in a moment."
There are lots of people like that man; and I am thinking of those who love the Lord, but who, somehow or another, have never looked into this subject; and I am not surprised. Some of them think that it is largely either a kind of fanaticism on the one hand, or else just a wild emotionalism on the other. Yet what doctrine is there that has the place in the Word of God that this doctrine has, or what doctrine has a greater place in the Word? Some years ago Dr. A. J. Gordon collated the texts in the New Testament on this subject, and he found that one verse in every twenty-five has to do with the Second Coming of Christ. When I read thatand it was about forty years ago—I said, well, if that is true, from now on I must preach at least one sermon in twenty-five on this subject; that is the least I can do. I started to try to do that, and I soon found that there were so many hungry folk who wanted to know more about it that I found myself pressed to preach on it a great many more times, and some people began to think that I was a kind of crank on the Second Coming. But I am not; I am perfectly sober; I am not a fanatic, but some folks thought I was because I preached on the subject in about one sermon out of five; and I have never felt like apologizing, because I am trying to make up for so many of my brethren who never preach on it at all; so you cannot be surprised if I say more about it than I would do ordinarily. To me it is not just a doctrine. The reason I love to speak of it is this. My friend of Calvary is coming back again, the One who loved me even unto death, the One who sticketh closer than a brother, who went to the Cross and died that He might put away my sin, and who said before He went away, "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." He won my heart forty-seven years ago; He saved my soul, and I will never be fully satisfied till I see Him as He is. And I am waiting for that day when "the heavens shall glow with splendour" and the Blessed Lord "will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, and we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air."
I want to speak to you on three verses in Matthew 21:42-44. Our Lord Jesus Christ was already within the shadow of the Cross. In a few more days He was to be rejected and crucified; He was to die for our sins. And, of course, He came into the world for that very purpose. He said, "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." Nevertheless, man is guilty before God for His rejection. The apostle Peter, you remember, said afterwards: "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." The Lord Jesus knew exactly what was to take place; nothing ever took Him by surprise. I went into a book-store in Philadelphia one day, it was a Christian book-store, and I picked up a book that shocked me. I turned over a few pages, and I came across a sermon on "The Rashness of Jesus." The preacher pointed out that young men are very much inclined to be rash, and unduly to put themselves into places of danger. He was preaching on Jesus setting His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem. It seemed such a pity, according to this preacher, that the Lord should have done that. He had a group of friends about Him in Galilee, and the people were becoming more and more acquainted with Him, and learning to love Him. And if only He had been content to stay there in Capernaum, why He might have founded a college there, and He might have had students come, not only from all over Palestine, but eventually from all over the world; they would have thronged there. They came to sit at the feet of the various philosophers, and they might have come and sat at His feet. And suppose He had lived to be sixty, seventy, or eighty years of age, and had become a venerable and respected Teacher, and had instructed thousands of people, why the history of the world would have been changed! These students of His could have gone out to carry His message of goodwill to men all over the globe. And then, too, if He had only settled down, as He grew older and became more mature, He could have put His thoughts into writing, and He might have produced a wonderful literature, and all the libraries of the earth would have been enriched by books which Jesus had written, for He could have written such wonderful things. But no, He could not be content; He was so rash. The very fact that He knew they wanted to kill Him down in Jerusalem was a challenge to Him, and He felt He must go and face it out, and, perhaps, make them come to His way of thinking.
I thought of the blasphemy, and the wretched delusion of it. Why, He knew all things. He came all the way from the glory to the manger at Bethlehem for the express purpose of "giving His life a ransom" for our sins; and He said, "No man taketh My life from Me. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." And until His hour had come no weapon formed against Him could possibly have prospered. Yet, you know, although that is true, it does not do away with the sin of those who rejected and spurned Him, and hurried Him to the Cross, even though He went voluntarily there to die on our behalf.
So, foreseeing all that, He related this parable, and He pictured something of God's dealings with the nation Israel throughout the centuries. The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts was His people; He hedged it round, and tilled the ground, and then let it out to husbandmen, the rulers and kings, and those who had authority over His people, and who were to care for them. And from time to time He sent His prophets, His messengers to look for fruit; but the people who had been so richly blessed stoned one, and killed another, and maltreated another, until at last He said, "I have one Son; I will send Him; it may be that they will reverence Him when they see Him." They had been looking forward to the coming of the Messiah through the years, and you would have thought that they would have been so glad when He came. But no. He was not the One whom they had expected. They looked for a great warrior Messiah, who would deliver them from the Roman yoke. In the words of George Macdonald: "He came a little Baby thing that made a woman cry." And they did not recognise in the Babe of Bethlehem the promised Messiah. And when He grew up to manhood's estate, and went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed of the devil, they did not see in Him the promised Saviour. So they said, "This is the heir; come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours." And they cast Him out of the vineyard. And the Lord Jesus turned to the Pharisees who had gathered about Him, and He said, "What do you think the Lord of the vineyard will do to those wicked husbandmen?" And, taken unawares, and not realising for the moment the full import of the parable, they said, "He will miserably destroy them; and he will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their season." "Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." You go back to that Psalm, and there you have portrayed the Saviour coming into Jerusalem, and the people crying "Hosanna" to the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; and almost immediately following, there is the stone that the builders rejected. The people were familiar with that Scripture; it was a favourite Scripture among the Rabbis. They had a legend attached to it which may, or may not have been true. They said that that verse referred to a stone in connection with the building of Solomon's Temple. You remember that temple was built on the top of Mount Moriah; and in order to make a level platform it was necessary that great stones should be brought up from below, and placed in order upon the mount; and those stones were quarried out of the caverns below Jerusalem and all prepared for the building of the temple; and that temple went up silently. There was no sound of a hammer. It was God's picture of His present glorious temple, the temple not made with hands, the temple composed of living stones in which He Himself dwells.
"View the vast building, see it rise,
The work how great, the plan how wise!
Nor can that place be overthrown
That rests upon the living stone."
So the temple was built of stones cut, and shaped, and brought up to the top of the mount, rolled over and lifted up into their place. It is said by the Jews that as those stones came up from below there was one for which the workman could find no place; it was different from the rest; so different that they could not see that there was any place for it, and after a good deal of questioning they said, 'It is only in the way; we had better get it out of the way,' and so they rolled it over the edge of the cliff and down into the valley below. Years went by. Solomon was many years building the temple; the men worked in relays six months at a time, and there were very few working in the later years who were there in the beginning; and the time came for the chief corner-stone to be fitted in its place, and a message was sent, "Send us the chief corner-stone," and the reply came back, "It was sent up long ago; and you have it there at the top of the mount." "It is not here," they said. "Well, we sent it up," came the reply. But they could not find it. And an old workman who had been with one of the early relays said, "I remember now; there was a stone, now I come to think of it; it was different to the rest, and I believe it was the stone which would just have fitted in there as the chief corner-stone. We did not realise it at the time, and we threw it over the cliff, and it must be there still; we did not understand what we were doing." So they went down, and there in the valley, covered by debris, they found the rejected stone; and with a great deal of difficulty they hoisted it up again to the top of the rock, and fitted it into its place. The stone that the builders rejected had become the head of the corner. Jesus said, "Did ye never read that?" and He applied it directly to Himself. He was looking on to the Cross; He was the rejected stone. He foresaw Pilate's judgment hall as the people cried, "Away with Him; crucify Him." And the words of Pilate, "Shall I crucify your King?" and their cry, "We have no king but Caesar." They rejected the One whom God had sent; they rejected the promised Saviour; they rejected their Messiah. They did not understand. The apostle Peter said, "I know, brethren, that through ignorance ye did it." Even Pilate, as the agent of the Gentiles, did not understand, for the apostle Paul says, "that the prince of this world has blinded their eyes." They rejected Him when He came in lowly guise as the sinner's Saviour. But he came, too, as the King. He said, "The Kingdom of God is among you." But they did not recognise the King, and they refused Him; and He said, "The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof," a regenerated nation, a people who had been born again of the Spirit of God, and who would, therefore, value the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Saviour refers to two other Old Testament scriptures. He says, "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." We have a reference to this stone in Isaiah where, long before, the prophet said in verse 8:13: "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken." This prophecy was just about to be fulfilled. Every word that God has written will have its fulfilment. He is the stone of salvation; He is the One that God sent but because of unbelief, and because of eyes blinded by sin, instead of bringing salvation to Israel, He became a stumbling stone. And He says, "Whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken." They rejected Him; they fell over the stumbling-stone, and they have been broken. Oh, how they have suffered through years! Our hearts are rightfully pained as we think of their present suffering. And as we look back over the centuries, has ever a people suffered as they have suffered? No wonder Jeremiah, speaking for the nation, could say, "Is it nothing to you all ye who pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger." We may rightly apply those words to the Blessed Saviour, remembering that He stood in Israel's place, and bore for every believer the judgments of God upon the Cross. But if you take them in their full context they refer to Israel after the flesh, God's earthly people. They fell over the stumbling-block, and they were broken to pieces. That explains their history through the years. That explains why everything is out of joint among the nations. If they had only received Him, and recognised in Him their rightful King, how different things would have been! The angels sang at His birth, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men." But nineteen hundred years have gone by, and there is no real, lasting peace yet; and He knew that it would be so, for He said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword." The Prince of Peace was rejected, and all the warfare, and all the trouble, and all the sorrow that Israel and the nations have gone through during the past nineteen centuries have been the result of the rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A number of years ago, out in San Francisco, we had that princely man of God, Henry Varley, holding a series of meetings, and I always feel that the two months I spent in intimate association with him when he was with us were my theological seminary. I had been preaching as a young man. I put in six and a half years as a Salvation Army officer, and then preaching as an evangelist for a year after that, but there was very much I needed to know. Henry Varley was very kind and fatherly, and he took me in tow. He always called me "Cromwell" because my name was "Ironside." He was such a fatherly man, and we had a delightful season together. During the time of his great meetings in what we called the Metropolitan Temple, a building seating over three thousand people, and which was filled night after night for a month, it was my privilege to have charge of the open-air work, and of the ushers. We used to have eight open-air meetings every night. One would begin about a mile away from the hall, another one two or three squares further up, and so on, and so on, and the last one right outside the Temple. When the time came it was my duty to go down to the most distant meeting and make the announcement concerning the large inside gathering, and then, singing a Gospel song, we would march up to the next meeting, make the announcement there, and pick them up, and then go on to the next, and do the same thing there. And by the time we reached the Temple there would be about four to five hundred of us in the procession. One night, I remember it so well, we had come to the last open-air meeting, we had made the announcement, and had urged the people to come into the Temple and hear God's servant. And just as we were turning away a fussy little man put down a box, and got on it, and said, "My friends, if you will wait a minute I have got something worth while to talk about. You have been listening to these religious fanatics who have been trying to tell you about the way of salvation, the way by which you may get into some mythical heaven after death. I will show you how we may make a heaven of this world. You do not need heaven after death; you want heaven down here. These religious people are just the agents of the capitalists; they keep you out of what is due to you; you must save yourselves." A lot of people stood and listened, and I said to our crowd, "You go on in, and I will stay outside here, and get the benefit of what this man is saying." He repeated a miserable bit of doggerel; you could not call it poetry; even the title was not grammatical. "They tells us there's a God; why don't He lend a hand?" He repeated verse after verse describing the dreadful conditions prevailing in various parts of the world, winding up each verse with the refrain," They tells us there's a God; why don't He lend a hand?" The verses were truly pathetic; one verse described two little children trapped in a burning building crying for help, but no help came, and they were burned to death. Another verse described men in battle killing one another, for no real reason. And again there came the question, "They tells us there's a God; why don't He lend a hand?" When he had finished, and had stepped down from his box, I said to him, "Are you sure of that?" "Yes, I am," he replied. "Will you lend me your box?" "All right," he said, and I got up on his box, and the crowd was a large one by now. I said, "My dear friends, if I can I want to try and answer the Coming of questions of this infidel tonight, 'They tells us there's a God; why don't He lend a hand?' We have an answer to that question in the Bible. God looked down on the earth, and He saw the misery and wretchedness of mankind, and all that sin had wrought. It is all the fruit of sin. War is the fruit of sin. Sickness, and disease, and death, are all the fruit of sin. He saw all the wretchedness that man was enduring, and His great heart was moved, and He said, I am going to lend a hand. I am going to do something for wretched humanity. I will send My Son. That is what He did. He sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, His only Son." I said to those standing around, "What are you doing tonight with the One whom God sent to lend a hand? What did Israel do with Him? What have the Gentiles done with Him, the anointed One of God, Jesus of Nazareth, who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed with the Devil? Those blessed hands of His were always raised in mercy, and in loving kindness; and yet men deliberately rejected Him, and cried out, "Away with Him; crucify Him." That is what the world did with the One whom God sent to lend a hand. You might have thought that God's patience would have given out, and that He would have said, If that is the way they treat my Son, I will destroy them even as I destroyed the world by a Flood before. But no, instead God said, They have done their worst work; they can do nothing worse; and I am going to "make His soul an offering for sin," and through His infinite sacrifice I will proclaim redemption to every poor sinner in all the world who will trust Him as Saviour. After He died, God raised Him from the dead, and the Risen Christ ascended, and now His servants go forward everywhere preaching the Gospel of His grace to a needy world. And, my friends, because of the rejection of the Man whom God sent to lend a hand, there is still cruel warfare, there is still famine and sickness and disease and poverty and wretchedness in this world. And it is all because men refused the One whom God sent to lend a hand. But wherever men receive Him there is peace, there is joy, there is gladness, and everything around is changed. It is not simply that there is a preparation for heaven after death, but things are changed right here on earth. When men receive Him their lives are changed; their homes are changed; whole countries are changed; whole continents are changed when the Gospel is carried into them, and the message of Christ is made known to the men and women living there." "Now," I said to this man, "before you dare to stand up again and in your sneering way ask, 'They tells us there's a God; why don't He lend a hand?' you settle in your own heart what you are going to do with the One whom God sent to lend a hand. What is your attitude going to be toward Him tonight? If you repent, He will save you, and He will forgive all your blasphemies, and all your hatred of His Name, and all the evil you have done. Kiss the Son lest He be angry, and you perish from the way." I do not know how he felt, but he turned and walked away, and a great crowd came thronging in to hear Henry Varley preach that night. Yes, Christ came down from Heaven's glory to Calvary's path of woe, and there He died -the rejected King, but the glorious Saviour.
Christ died for sinners, but because of their rejection, Israel, as a people, have been broken to pieces. If they had only understood; if they had only turned to God and sought His face as a nation how different things would have been!
But the Lord Jesus not only refers to that passage, He refers to yet another passage in Daniel ii. "But on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." That refers to His Second Coming when He shall be "revealed from heaven in flaming fire, with His holy angels, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel." The reference clearly is to Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the great metallic image representing the times of the Gentiles, with its head of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its thighs of brass, its legs of iron, its feet part of iron and part of clay. We are living in the days of the iron and clay. What means this struggle today between Fascism on the one hand, and Sovietism on the other? What means this clash between Capital and Labour, between Despotism and Social Democracy? The great question is, Which shall dominate the world? Which shall dominate the nations that come out of that old Roman Empire? We can almost see the ten kingdoms federation forming at the present time, which some day will be banded together as one. You say, We already have ten kingdoms. But Daniel is speaking of ten kingdoms which will he on the earth at one time, and all under the direction of one head, as the ten toes and feet of a man are under the control of the one head. The same thing is pictured in the Book of the Revelation, in the thirteenth chapter, when the ten kings give their power and authority to the Beast. And we can see everything working up to that. I do not believe that it will take place while the Church of God is on the earth. But the fact that things are so rapidly moving helps us to realise that we will not be here much longer. We will soon hear the voice of God and the sound of the trump that shall summon us to meet the Lord in the air. Meantime men are making a last effort to bring about a lasting peace and understanding among the nations. But while the Christ of God is still rejected, of course it will end in failure, as all man's pacts end in failure while Christ is ignored. Daniel says, "In the days of these things shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed... The stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, fell on the feet of the image and it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold." All were destroyed and became the dust on the summer threshing-floor and the wind carried it away, and it was gone. Jesus Himself is the stone. God raised Him from the dead, and made Him the head-stone of the corner; and Israel was broken in pieces because they stumbled over Him. Some day He is coming again, and then it will be the Gentile powers that will be destroyed, and then "the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ."
So I think in this wonderful parable our Blessed Lord has given us a marvellous outline of what has taken place, and of what will take place when He comes back again in glory.
I wonder if we are all ready to meet Him. I wonder if everyone here has been washed from their sins in His precious blood. Listen: no one will be ready to meet the Lord when He comes the second time unless they have taken advantage of of what He did when He was here the first time. "For as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the Judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sin of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, apart from the sin question." If you have not yet availed yourself of what He did when He was here before, I would plead with you do not seek your slumber tonight until you have bowed yourself at His feet, and told Him that you repent of the sin of having rejected Him for so long, that at last you are ready to receive Him, and to trust Him, and to accept Him as your own personal Saviour. And "to as many as received Him to them gave He the power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His Name."