1 THESSALONIANS 5
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
We see from this, the class upon whom the coming is as a thief it is upon them who are in darkness. While the Perfect Man is being developed, the Dragon, the Beast, and the Roman Prophet, will be saying, "Peace and safety;" and the last especially, as the organ of Catholicity, in heart saying,
"I sit queen and no widow, and shall see no sorrow".
These are all in the dark, doting upon speculations none of which Will be realized, but only the reverse.
But, when, where, and how, is the Perfect Man apocalypsed, or revealed? As to the when, the answer is, in the interval between the arrival of the Lord Jesus, and the coming in upon the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet as a thief, after the type of Cyrus and his companion kings.
..."Behold, I come quickly: and my reward is with me to give back (apothounai) to every one as his work shall be"
as his work shall on inspection be found to be.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Peace and safety. The world has been sounding this cry during all its troubles and blood-stained history. After every war, there is to be everlasting peace; and every war is a "guarantee" of the general repose.
Notably is this the case in our own day, when the world is armed to the teeth, as it never was before, and trembling in the uncertain balance of peace or war. Notwithstanding the most unpromising situation of things, every potentate, statesman, diplomatist, politician, and paper writer talks complacently of peace as a thing to be secured.
"Peace" has been on their lips while war is in their hearts, and the heedless throng, anxious only about business, have caught up the strain. The saints are not of those who cry Peace and safety, except to such as fear God and keep His commandments.
Yea, verily, the Lord Jesus is "the Prince of Peace;" [Isa. 9:6] and therefore, no peace society can give peace to the world. It is He alone, who can establish "peace on earth and good will among men;" [Luke 2:14] for He only is morally fit, and potentially competent to do it...
"In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endures. His enemies shall lick the dust; all nations shall serve Him and call Him blessed"
(Psalm 72:4, 7, 9, 11, 17; Rev. 11:18).
Then shall He judge among them, and rebuke them, and speak peace to them (Zech. 9:10); "and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4)
But the Father did not send Jesus with the idea of bringing about this mighty revolution among the nations by preaching the gospel; neither did He propose to effect it in the absence of His Son. When He appeared in humiliation He came to take away peace from the earth, as both His words and history prove.
"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but rather division. I am come to send fire upon the earth; and what I wish (is) that it were already kindled" (Luke 12:49, 51).
"I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his nearest dearest relations. So that a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:34-36).
This is the way the Prince of Peace spoke when on earth. The doctrine He taught is distasteful to the natural mind, and, by the purity of its principles, and astonishing nature of its promises, excites the enmity and incredulity of the flesh. Loving sin and hating righteousness, the carnal mind becomes the enemy and persecutor of those who advocate it. The enmity on the part of the faithless is inveterate; and where they have the power, they stir up war even at the domestic hearth.
If the believer will agree to be silent, or to renounce his faith, there will then be "peace and love" [Jude 2; cf 2 Cor. 13:11] such as the world, that "loves its own," [see John 15:19] is able to afford. But the true believers are not permitted to make any compromise of the kind. They are commanded to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3); and so long as they do this, they may lay their account with tribulation of various kinds...
The world wants peace, that it may find a respite from the judgments of God for its iniquity; and that it may enrich itself by commerce, and enjoy itself in all the good things of life...
It [Peace and safety] is the world's cry, as the cry of a woman in travail, which has been extorted by sudden and tormenting pains. It blows a trumpet in the wise and understanding ear, sounding the approach of "the day of the Lord as a thief in the night;"...
It is the cry of the world, which echoes in tones of thunder in the ears of the true believers. It is a cry in the providence of God, which is a great "sign of the times;" [Matt. 16:3] announcing that "the Lord standeth at the door and knocks" (Rev. 3:20), and is about quickly and unexpectedly to appear (Rev. 16; 22:7, 20).
Elpis Israel 1.4.
4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
The people will not know that he is coming; they will be asleep. Jesus Christ comes as a thief. Thieves make their appearance to break into houses in the dark. There is one thing however, Jesus Christ will not come as a thief to that class of society who are preparing themselves for his reception
...Now, no one can watch for anything in the dark if it is very dark, and you are going to watch for anything you must have a light. It is equally true of things intellectual, moral, and spiritual. For anyone to watch for things set forth in the Scriptures the watcher must have light, and, as the light of an oil lamp will throw no light on spiritual or intellectual matters, so it is necessary that the light to discern spiritual objects must come from the Scriptures.
We must be the recipients of the unction by which John said that those in his day knew all things, and which taught them all things. So if we have the understanding of the truth in us, we are answered with that truth. And our earthen vessels, that is our bodies, our material organisations are as a lamp, as an oil vessel. Apart from the Scriptures of truth, our material organisation is a very empty vessel; for the natural man does not know the things of God as the result of the thinking of the flesh.
Whan a man has, by the study of the truth, come to understand the truth, then his earthen vessel contains the spirit, or the oil, or the unction, and he has just so much of the unction in him as he has of the truth, affectionately received and obeyed. This is the light within the man which he does not bring with him into the world. If we have any of the light, it is from the Scriptures of truth. Therefore, the apostle says-
"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16).
When, therefore, we have that unction in us, it teaches us all things that God considers necessary for us to know. This is the light, then, whereby we are enabled to watch; "Behold, I come as a thief; blessed is he that watcheth."
Bro Thomas reproduced from Shorthand Notes
The Christadelphian, Jan 1888
5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
... it will come as a thief--unexpected and undesired --upon the world, but not upon you, for ye are all the children of the light and of the day."
Paul's second letter to them found them expecting the immediate manifestation of Christ. But that this was the wrong construction of his words, appears in what he said in his second letter to the same ecclesia. He says (ch. ii, 1),
"We beseech you. brethren... that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: FOR THAT DAY SHALL NOT COME, EXCEPT THERE COME A FALLING AWAY FIRST."
... "It is not necessary for me to write about times and seasons, for ye are the children of the light, and ought to know about them." Why should Paul assume they knew all about it? He gives us his reason in the 2nd Epistle:
"Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I TOLD YOU THESE THINGS?" (verse 5).
If they were ignorant, it was because they had forgotten what Paul told them; for Paul had told them that Christ could not be manifested until certain events foretold in the prophets had transpired.
At the same time, it cannot be denied, that their ideas of the times and seasons would, necessarily, be more imperfect and confused than ours: first because of the great distance of time which divided them from the end; and, second, because of the then impending visitation of divine judgment upon Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, foretold by Jesus, which had the effect of concentrating their interest to some extent upon their own generation, and in many cases, of creating the expectation that as God was about to come on the scene in judgment, He would not leave it without effecting their deliverance, the more especially as Jesus associated the latter with the former, as regards the succession of events, though, as time has shown, not as regards chronological sequence.
Christendom Astray - Times and Seasons
7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
Subjects are never treated as matters of theoretical interest.
Mere knowledge is never placed high. On the contrary, it is disparaged. Knowledge in this sense is said to "puff up" (1 Cor. 8:1). It is taught that a man may understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and yet be "nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2). It is the right use of correct knowledge that is the burden of all Scriptural exhortations to wisdom.
The tendency in connection with the truth in our day to exalt knowledge over the love of God and His service, is due merely to the popular extreme in the opposite direction from which we have all more or less suffered.
It is difficult, in the presence of the universal revolt against the knowledge that brings salvation, to exercise that wisdom which, while holding fast the truth as the foundation, aims to build on that foundation the fabric of holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Yet it is this at which we must constantly aim. A constant study of Paul's Epistles will help us.
"Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober."
Here is something to be avoided that is common; something to cultivate that is rare. What are we to understand by this sleep which is the common habit of "others"? It is important we should know, for how otherwise shall we know how to steer clear of it?
...Now, as Paul observes:
"They who sleep sleep in the night."
"Let us who are of the day be sober."
Here we have the idea suggested by the figure of sleep further carried out. There is a day and a night to be considered. The day, we are told, is at hand, but not yet arrived. It is the day of Christ, introduced by him as the rising sun. In his absence it is night.
The night, we are told, is far spent, but still lingers; and because it is night, an almost universal sleep prevails in which men are oblivious to the real facts of life, unconscious of the actual situation, and dreaming their time away with thoughts and pleasures and aims that are all illusions at the root, and will disappear before the dawn of the day of Christ as completely as the dreams of the sleeper fly before the rising of the sun.
There is one about to break into the house of these dreamers, even Christ, who comes to take all things to himself; but they are unaware of the fact. They prefer their dreams. They will awake to find desolation.
Paul says we are not to "sleep, as do others." What is this but saying that we are to keep the facts of our situation in constant memory? These facts are the truth. They are facts that the natural man is most liable to "let slip."
That the earth is the Lord's; that He has made it for his pleasure; that this pleasure principally consists in the enlightened appreciation and praise and faithful obedience of man.
11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.
Bro Thomas' visit to Britain
The reading was of itself a treat unutterable. It was not merely that the enunciation was melodious and clear, but there was an inflection and emphasis which of itself seemed to convey the whole sense of the word without comment.
To hear Dr. Thomas read a chapter was of itself as good as a lecture. ... His style of discourse was plain and earnest, and by current standards would be considered common-place.
It was the matter that was powerful. I was in complete sympathy with all that was written in the Scriptures, and to hear these Scriptures read and made to speak in such a capable and confident way, made me feel almost in the presence of the sublime realities themselves.My days and my ways Ch 20
14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
YOU are troubled at the un-Christlike ways of some in your meeting.
You thought, when first you came among the Christadelphians, that everyone would be exemplary-gentle, kind, upright, pure. It is not strange, dear brother, that you should think thus. You have our sympathy. But do not be downcast. There is no real ground for disappointment. You have left some things out of account.
You must not forget that the ecclesias as at present constituted are not the Kingdom, but merely a collection of imperfect men and women, in a state of preparation for it, and that many of these, according to divine intimation, are destined to turn out unworthy-abortions-styled by Paul mere wood, hay, stubble, and earth (1 Cor. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:20).
Reflect upon ecclesial life in the light of this revelation, and your surprise will cease. Remember that many in the brotherhood have only just started on the road of well doing. To expect from such the ability and spirituality of an aged Paul is not reasonable. But you say that there are some who have been on the road for a long time who are far from satisfactory.
True-if it were not so something would be wrong, the Scriptures would not be fulfilled. The brethren also would be lacking in opportunities for the display of patience and long-suffering, as divinely enjoined. If there were not the unruly, the feeble-minded, and the weak in our midst, what scope would there be for carrying out such a duty as that referred to in 1 Thess. 5:14?
Think again upon the subject, and you will see that the situation of which you complain is inevitable-that it is nothing more than what the Scriptures lead us to expect. Ecclesial life, more or less, is one of trial, and will continue so to be until Christ shall come. The experience, however, will end, and that gloriously for all who remain
"stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord."
Bro AT Jannaway
The Christadelphian, March 1909
Comfort the feebleminded
We are not called upon to afflict ourselves too much, though there is less danger of our doing that than of our afflicting ourselves too little.
There is great danger that people may not afflict themselves enough; may not judge themselves sufficiently in the sight of God. Yet let us not run into the excess of some, and deprive ourselves of the true comfort of our position as heirs of the grace of life.
Some have been unduly weighed to the earth by a sense of their insufficiency, and have failed to be supported by those comforting thoughts that spring from the faith of God. Peter says to such,
"Lift up the hands that hang down; strengthen the feeble knees; make straight paths for your feet."
Let there be comfort where there is purity; repentance and supplication where there is failure. If there is no purity-if there is disobedience, let there be no comfort; let there be affliction, and mourning, and weeping, and refusal to lay hold of the joys of the truth until the purity comes. As James says-
"Cleanse your hands ye sinners, purify your hearts ye double-minded. Be afflicted and mourn, and weep, and let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness."
But if we have the answer of a good conscience; if we know that we are walking in the way Christ has marked out for us, in the many commandments he has given, entering minutely into all the duties of life-then we may take to ourselves comfort.
The Christadelphian, Apr 1872
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
Next to love in the truth, we have to cultivate kindness. We are to do good unto all men, as we have opportunity. Christ says that if we do good only to those who do good to us, we are no better than the Pharisees and the sinners. Patient commiserative benevolence must characterise our dealings with those without. In the world, from the highest politician to the meanest street sweep, retaliation is the order of the day. As soon as anybody shows the cold shoulder, the result is to resent. This must not be so with us.
Christ has given commandment how we ought to walk. John says we deceive ourselves if we say we are children of God, and do not His commandments. We are commanded to overcome evil with good, and not return evil for evil. The good deeds of those who are God's will not depend upon external incitement, or attraction, or upon personal benefit, but will bud forth as from an internal sap, and well up as from a spring. Doubtless the good things done for those who are Christ's, will be very thorough, very cordial, very delightful; at the same time, the unthankful and the evil must come in for a share of our beneficence.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, May 1868
17 Pray without ceasing.
'But in what state of mind are we to enter? "With boldness"- not timidity - not with fear, like that which Israel exhibited when the mount shook. We are to go freely.
There is no restriction; we can go any time -
"The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry."
The ears of the Lord are always open. But we must approach Him in the right way.
There are certain conditions of approach, and those are indicated here. One has already been referred to: "full assurance of faith." There is another: "with a true heart." That implies the existence of a false heart. What is it to have "a true heart"? Is it not to have our affections fixed upon Him, to love what He loves, to hate what He hates, much after the manner indicated in the salutation of Jehu to Jonadab, the son of Rechab (2 Kings 10:15)?
"Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?"
Let us come to God then with this "true heart" and "full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."
Bro Roberts - 'A new and living Way'
19 Quench not the Spirit.
When Paul said to the believers in the first century, "Quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings" (1 Thess. 5:19), he was referring to the gifts of the Spirit which had been bestowed on the then current generation of believers for the establishment and perfecting of the body (Eph. 4:11-14; 1 Cor. 12:4-12).
If those gifts were active among men in the present age, we should not require to debate the question of their existence: it would be a manifest fact,
"known and read of all men."
The fact is lamentably in the other direction. There is no supernatural gift and no answer from God, as was foretold.
Nevertheless, the exhortation you quote has its application. The Spirit is in our midst in the form of the Spirit's writings (the Bible), and we act wisely when we "quench not the Spirit" in this form, and "despise not the prophesyings" that grow out of it.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
"Be swift to hear, and slow to speak,"
is an apostolic rule much to be respected. James exhorted his brethren to observe it, and advised them not to become "teachers" because their condemnation would be the greater. How much more necessary is it in these times of ignorance that his counsel should be received! Foolish talking is one of the greatest hindrances to the truth in modern times. People who know little or nothing about it, are generally the most forward in delivering themselves concerning it.
They rejoice in the sound of their own voices, and imagine all the time that they are rejoicing in the truth. They desire to be teachers, not perceiving that they have need
"that one teach them what be the first principles of the oracles of God."
Such pretenders are not only troublesome, but injurious to the best of causes, which suffers more from injudicious and unenlightened advocates than from none.
The apostle indeed says, "Despise not prophesyings," and that "all may prophesy;" but then it is necessary that the things delivered be "prophesyings," and the "all" be competent to do it.
Prophesying is speaking scripturally to the edification, and exhortation, and comfort of scripturally discerning men. A man that cannot do this must be content to learn, and confine himself to the inquiry
"What is truth?"
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Dec 1853
23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Grant's chapter on "Man Triune" requires not many words to dispose of it from a Christadelphian point of view. Its object is to prove that "the physical constitution of man as defined by the holy Scriptures," comprehends three separate elements, 'spirit, soul, and body."
These he says are "three constituent parts," each of which is necessary to "the whole man." This, says Mr. Grant, "is denied on the part of those who hold-----" what? "That the body is the whole man."
We must object on the part of all Christadelphians to be confounded with these, if there are such. We are of those who recognise the possibility of 1, a body without life or mind; that is, a corpse: 2, a body with life but lacking mind, as in the case of the lowest type of idiot; neither of which would appeal to our appreciations. We are of those who find pleasure only in the combination of "body, soul, and spirit," as constituting "the whole man." In this sense, we stand as stoutly as Mr. Grant, by 1 Thess. 5:23:
"I pray God that your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We recognise no "whole man," and in the strict sense, no man at all, away from this essential combination.
Wherein then do we differ from Mr. Grant's "triune" theory of man? The difference will be found in the definition of the elements as separate elements which in combination constitute the "trinity in unity." Mr. Grant contends for a "spirit" that remains a thinking spirit when the "whole man" no longer exists to possess it: and a soul that remains an individual vital thing when there is no whole man for it to vitalise: why he does not also contend for the continued existence of a body when the partnership between "spirit, soul, and body" is dissolved, is presumably due to the ocular evidence in a contrary direction, presented in the mouldering corruption of the grave.
But for this ocular evidence, there would be as much reason for believing in the separate existence of the body in death as in the separate existence of the other two. But the ocular evidence is an insuperable obstacle to any theory of the continued existence of the body, at least with the majority of people: there is a sect of Jews reported to believe that the body is conveyed subterraneously to a place of rendezvous where it is preserved against the day of resurrection.
Mr. Grant, however, believes in the "annihilation" of the body-one "constituent element" of the "whole man;" but he insists upon the immortality of the other two "constituent elements." So far as this chapter goes, he does no more than insist. He adduces no evidence. He merely cites 1 Thess. 5:23, (quoted above), which is no evidence at all, since it merely defines the aspects of human nature, without telling us anything of the mortality of the body, or the immortality of the soul believed in by Mr. Grant.
Ought it not to occur to Mr. Grant as strange that the soul, if immortal, should sink to a low ebb when nutrition is cut off, or the atmosphere robbed of oxygen. Surely he is not above discussing food and air, since both are the work of God; and surely he cannot justly consider it "carnal" for us to take notice of the relations which God has established between these things and ourselves. Not only physical life or soul, but mental faculty fails, and fades, and disappears-(not from outward manifestation merely, but from inner consciousness)-before injury, starvation, or age.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, Mar 1857