The 2nd Advent – “In this matter we slumber and sleep.” (J. C. RYLE)
Of all the doctrines of the Gospel, the one about which Christians have become most unlike the first Christians, in their sense of its true value, is the doctrine of Christ’s second advent. I am obliged to say this of all denominations of Protestants. I know not of any exception. In our view of man’s corruption, of justification by faith, of our need of the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the sufficiency of Scripture — upon all these points I believe we should find the English believers were much of one mind with believers at Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, or Rome, in former times. But in our view of the second advent of Christ, I fear we should find there was a mighty difference between us and them if our experience could be compared.
I am afraid we should find that we fall woefully short of them in our estimate of its importance: that in our system of doctrine it is a star of the fifteenth magnitude, while in theirs it was one of the first. In one word, we should discover, that compared with them in this matter, we slumber and sleep. I must speak my mind on this subject, now that I am upon it. I do so most unwillingly. I do so at the risk of giving offence, and of rubbing against the prejudices of many whom I love. But it is a cross I feel it a duty to take up And speak I must.
I submit, then, that in the matter of Christ’s second coming and kingdom, the Church of Christ has not dealt fairly with the prophecies of the Old Testament. We have gone on far too long refusing to see that there are two personal advents of Christ spoken of in those prophecies: an advent in humiliation, and an advent in glory — an advent to suffer, and an advent to reign; a personal advent to carry the cross, and a personal advent to wear the crown. We have been “slow of heart to believe ALL that prophets have written” (Luke 24:25). The disciples went into one extreme: they stumbled at Christ’s sufferings. We have gone into the other extreme: we have stumbled at Christ’s glory.
We have got into a confused habit of speaking of the kingdom of Christ as already set up among us, and have shut our eves to the fact that the devil is still the “god of this world”, and served by the vast majority: and that our Lord, like David in Adullam, though anointed, is not yet “set upon His throne”. We have got into a vicious habit of taking all the promises spiritually, and all the denunciations and threats literally.
The denunciations against Babylon and Nineveh and Edom, we have been content to take literally, and hand over to our neighbors. The blessings and promises of glory to Zion, Jerusalem, Jacob and Israel, we have taken spiritually, and comfortably applied them to ourselves and the Church of Christ. To bring forward proofs of this would be waste of time. No man can hear many sermons, and read many commentaries, without being aware that it is a fact.
J. C. RYLE The Second Advent