Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
The "Second Coming" is a hot topic in many Christian circles today, giving rise to much speculation of when it will occur and the order in which certain expected events will happen. One reader expressed a desire to know more about Fox's view of these matters. The following is not an exhaustive listing of all the material available.
"Vol. ?? refers to a designated volume of the Works of George Fox. Nickalls is the editor of an edition of Fox's Journal. The material from Vol. III is arranged in Principle (P) and Answer (A) format.
Some of the following material is taken from Lewis Benson's Notes on George Fox. In a couple of the quotations, Fox refers to Hebrews 9:26-28, which I have added for your convenience.
P. And as for your speaking of judging, and not to judge before the time, until the Lord do come,' &c.
A. That was spoken to the Corinthians, and the apostle adds, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart.' Now the same apostle said to the same Corinthians, ' that God would dwell in them, and walk in them,' and they were not to judge before the time until that he did come. And he told them the saints should judge the world; and the world should be judged by them. Now where the Lord is come, such as have the son, and the Father, and bring this doctrine, they are to he received; and they know where sin and transgression are finished, and where it is standing. So if any man have an ear to hear this, and can receive it, let him.And as for the rest of the things in your book, your silence might have covered your shame, for every man's words shall he his burden.' Therefore, he that hath the word of God, speaks that which shall be so, which now comes to be richly known, and is known among the saints and believers, the true church which is come out of the apostacy, since the days of the apostles, to that the apostles were in.
...at the great day of judgement...the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels...when he shall come to be glorified with his saints [IMPORTANT PASSAGE FROM LETTER TO GOV. OF BARBADOES]
Richardson Manuscript, p. 534
who...hath appeared the second time without sin unto salvation
NOW in the end of the world hath he appeared [mark, the end of the world] once to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself: so was Christ once offered to take away the sins of many. And unto them that look for him shall he appear a second time without sin unto salvation. Heb. ix. And this we believe, and blessed are they whose eyes see this, and receive Christ Jesus, according to his promise, who said, after he was risen, he would 'come and dwell in them,' to his believers.
These two previous quotes refer to Hebrews 9:26-28, quoted below from KJV:
Heb:009:026 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of
the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he
appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Heb:009:027 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this
Heb:009:028 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto
them that look for him shall he appear the second time without
sin unto salvation.
Christ...said unto his disciples he would come again unto them, and dwell in them; and this we witness that he dwelt in his saints, and in us his people; and God hath made us sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
See also Lewis Benson's essay on The Antipathy Between Prophecy and Religion, p. 30-31 where he says:
Universal salvation through the faithfulness of God’s people is not something that we wait for. It has come. (John the Baptist said, “Now is Salvation come on all flesh.” (Luke 3:6, quoting Is. 52:18)) The day of the Lord or “acceptable year of the Lord” or “year of God’s favor” is not an event in the future; but it is an event which has taken place, not at the very end of history, but in the middle of history. “The last days” or “the day of Christ” or “the day of the Lord” is the whole period in which God will redeem history through a community ruled by Christ. Holy history since Christ is the story of gathering people to Christ and of realizing in history a universal community that lives under God’s and Christ’s rule. The coming of Christ does not bring history to an end. Jesus changed the identification that the Jews made between God’s day and the end of history. He proclaimed the acceptable year of the Lord, but not as a day in which God would then and there destroy his enemies, justify his faithful people, and bring history to an end. His omission of the phrase, “and the eternal vengeance of our God,” [Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2] was noted by his hearers and it was because he proclaimed God’s day without proclaiming it in these terms that they were offended. The day of God did not come at the end of history as the Jews expected but in the middle of history. Christian eschatology sees the time of the new covenant as the time of “eschatology in the process of realization.” [Jeremias(1958), p. 75] This means that “the missionary task is a part of the final fulfillment, a divine factual demonstration of the exaltation of the son of man.” [Jeremias(1958), p. 75] The day of the Lord has come but the final consummation has not come. Does this mean then that the Christian community has merely inherited from the Jews the role of waiting for God’s final disclosure of his will and purpose for history. No, the Christian believes that God has revealed himself fully and finally in Christ. We do not wait for a revelation that is greater. Our task is to realize in history the righteousness and community that are made possible under the new covenant.
The final consummation is not a time of fuller revelation but a time of judgement. We have no clue as to when this end will come, and our response to God is not conditioned by some belief or expectation or speculation about when the end will come. Jesus says this is something about which man knows nothing and about which he will never know anything in advance of the event. It is of the nature of the end that it will come unexpectedly, “like a thief in the night.”
The Christian era is therefore not a mere “interim” in which men are left waiting for a fuller and better revelation of God than the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not a people drifting and struggling along with “interim ethics” and “interim churches” until God gives us a fuller revelation in the end of time. As far as the revelation is concerned, we have had it and it is therefore of crucial importance whether or not we respond to it and by responding bring into history the righteousness and community that are made possible by the gospel. Either the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all that believe, or it is not. If it is such a universal power, then this power will make itself felt in society and in history, which is the field where God has chosen to reveal himself and make his power felt.
We, then, who have been called by God into God’s holy community under the new covenant, are engaged in a demonstration of God’s power of the greatest possible social and historical significance.
In Vol. I there are 8 instances of the words "Christ is come",
Vol. II--3, including pp. 88-89:
SOUND, sound abroad, you faithful servants of the Lord, witnesses in his name, faithful servants, prophets of the Highest, and angels of the Lord ! Sound ye all abroad in the world, to the awakening and raising of the dead, that they may be awakened and raised up out of the grave to hear the voice that, is living. For the dead have long heard the dead, and the blind have long wandered among the blind, and the deaf amongst the deaf. Therefore sound, sound, ye servants, prophets, and angels of the Lord, ye trumpets of the Lord, that you may awaken the dead, awaken them that are asleep in their graves of sin, death and hell, sea and earth, and who lie in the tombs.\ufffdSound, sound abroad, ye trumpets and raise up the dead, that the dead may hear the voice of the Son of God, the voice of the second Adam that never fell, the voice of the light, the voice of the life, the voice of the power, the voice of the truth, the voice of the righteous, and the voice of the just. Sound, sound the pleasant and melodious sound. Sound, sound ye the trumpets, the melodious sound abroad, that all the deaf ears may be opened to hear the pleasant sound of the trumpet to judgment and life, to condemnation and light. Sound, sound your trumpets all abroad, you angels of the Lord, sons and daughters, prophets of the Highest, that all that are dead and asleep in the graves, who have been long dreaming and slumbering, may be awakened and hear the voice of the Lamb, who have long heard the voice of the beast, that now they may hear the voice of the bridegroom, the voice of the bride, the voice of the great prophet, the voice of the great king, the voice of the great shepherd and bishop of their souls. Sound, sound it all abroad, ye trumpets, among the dead in Adam ; for Christ is come, the second Adam, that they might have life, yea have it abundantly. Awaken the dead, awaken the slumberers, awaken the dreamers, awaken them that are asleep, awaken them out of their graves, out of their tombs, out of their sepulchres, out of the seas ! Sound, sound abroad, ye trumpets ! ye trumpets that awaken the dead, that they may all hear the sound of it in the graves, and they that hear may live and come to the life, that is, the Son of God. He is risen from the dead, the grave could not hold nor contain him, neither could all the watchers of the earth, with all their guards, keep him therein. Sound, sound, ye trumpets of the Lord, to all the seekers of the living among the dead, that he is risen from the dead ; to all the seekers of the living among the dead, and in the graves that the watchers keep ; he is not in the grave, he is risen ; and there is that under the grave of the watchers of the outward grave, which must be awakened and come to hear his voice, who is risen from the dead, that they might come to live. Therefore sound abroad, you trumpets of the Lord, that the grave might give up her dead, and hell and the sea might give up their dead ; and all might come forth to judgment, to the judgment of the Lord before hiS throne and have their sentence and reward according to their works.
Away with all the chaff and the husks, and contentions and strife, that the swine feed upon in the mire, and in the fall ; and the keepers of them of Adam and Eve's house in the fall ; that lies in the mire, out of light and life. G. F.'.
In Vol. III there are 19 instances of the words "Christ is come," some instanced below.
pp 166-167 Note Fox's use of the imagery from Revelations that is generally held in reserve for "the second coming."
Such as are turned into corruption, and are hypocrites, are gone from the higher power, which the soul should be subject to, and it is gone over them; and so for the Lord's sake the saints cannot be subject to that power, but to the power that brings down the hypocrisy, and the corruptions in magistrates; and as they come to be clothed with the power of God, they are able to put a difference betwixt the precious and the vile; and that the saints own; those are a praise to them that do well. The Jews of old time, that feared God, that lived in the law of God, could not obey the heathen magistrates, bow to their gods, nor to their commands, nor their power or authority. Nor could the apostles bow to the authority of the Jews, to their ordinances which Christ came to put an end to, nor the power that held them up, nor that among the Gentiles, held up by the magistrates. For Christ was come to reign, who had all power in heaven and earth given to him. And since the days of the apostles the saints cannot bow to that which the pope, and kings, and queens set up in the apostacy, though they call it a supreme power that commands the things. But who are in the power of God, it destroys that which defiles the flesh, and the evil speaker, and that is the dignity which the saints own and live in, and speak not evil of, but they who do so transgress the spirit of God, and go from it, and are such as Jude speaks of. Therefore have the martyrs, saints, and prophets sufféred, since the days of the apostles, by the beast, the false prophets, and the great whore, which have been in the power of the devil that went, out of truth: and that the saints were not subject to. But now Christ is come to reign, and the Lamb and the saints shall have the victory; and the higher power is owned, that is higher than all the transgressors upon earth, that reaches to the soul, and the transgressed principle of God in every man upon the earth ; for the beast's power hath set up your tithes, temples, and colleges, and compelled men to worship it, which the saints could not do, and therefore have suffered by it, who have worshipped God in the spirit and truth, that the devil is out of; and such were in the higher power.
Christ the truth, who hath pre-eminence, ' doth enlighten every man that cometh into the world,' who shall make every tongue to confess him to the glory of God. If they love the light which cometh from Christ the truth, who is the life, it will teach and direct every man to worship God in the truth, in that which untruth is out of. So every man has a light sufficient to salvation, for it cometh from the salvation ; Christ the power of God,' the salvation to the ends of the earth.' And this light will let every one see the son of God, beyond all external means, wisdom, or knowledge, whatsoever. It is that which darkness cannot comprehend, which John bears witness of, 'the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,' which the Jews and Levites stumbled at, which set all Jerusalem in an uproar, as it doth the wisest priests and professors in this age. And no one upon the earth shall ever know Christ but by the light which he hath enlightened him with. If he have all the scriptures that speak of him come already, as the Pharisees had those that spoke of him as to come; yet if they hate the light they shall all be snared, and stumble, and fall, and split themselves upon the rock. And such as are now stumbling at the light which every man that cometh into the world is lighted with, are the builders with the words, who say, Christ is come,' as the Pharisees did with the words, that said, ' he was to come.'
This phrase occurs in Vol IV--9, in Vol V--8, in Vol VI--10, in Vol. VII--2, and in Vol. VIII--2. There are other phrases that could be searched for that would be relevant to the subject, which I have not done.
After looking over this material the following seems to jump out at me: Christians in Fox's day, as Christians do in our day, confess that where two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, there He is in the midst of them. But only to the Quaker was this a reality that could not be denied even upon punishment of death. To the rest, that confession was worth no more than a theological construct to repeat on Sundays. For the Quaker, "Christ is come" resulted in tangible evidence of His working in and among those who beheld Him. What is the worth today of the assertion that Christ is present wherever two or three are gathered in His name?
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Good morning, Ellis.
I thank you again for responding to my question on Fox's second coming theology. I remember years ago when I was first reading George Fox someone saying (or maybe I read it) Christ is come suggested it was his second coming. I think I had always been unsure about that suggestion, and because I didn't read beyond the second or third chapters of Nickalls' edition of the Journal, I couldn't have learned from Fox himself to clear my uncertainty. So all of your effort in finding passages that addressed the question gave me the clarity I needed, which I greatly appreciate.
As a witness to Christ is come and the unity of those who are in union with Him and the secrets and treasures of wisdom Fox speaks of for us, one early morning worship at Red Cedar in late 2014 or early '15, Jesus opened to me that believers are in the Kingdom and walk into it, so to speak. I think I have a blog post on it.
Your comment at the end of your first post on this matter was rich indeed. Excellent points. I can only speak for myself but I have been seeking Quaker Friends and Meetings of the kind you wrote of since George Fox first convinced me. NFF might be if we weren't so scattered. The two meetings, one in Michigan and one in Pennsylvania, I had great hopes for were disappointing in that each had a fixation on something other than Jesus. You know how George Fox admonishes us to keep in Christ. Once your focus is on something other than Christ, you slide into the thinking of the carnal world. Not that anyone sets out do that, which is why I praised Jesus in my blog yesterday for showing me what I needed to do to get where I needed to go. I wonder, though, if we won't soon experience the answer to your question.
You are welcome! It is always an education for me to search through Fox's writings to follow a particular idea.