Essay / Theology

Ask Dr. Torrey

Are we in the time of which our Lord speaks when He says, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh?” (Luke 21:28).

There are many things that would seem to indicate that we are. Certainly men’s hearts are “fainting for fear and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world” (v.26). Certainly, there is upon the earth “distress of nations with perplexity” (v. 25). But it is never safe to conclude that because in some ways our times closely resemble the picture of the last times as given in the Scriptures (see, for example, 2 Tim. 3:1-5) that therefore our Lord will immediately come.

Time and time again in the history of the world since the ascension of our Lord, many things have seemed to indicate the very near approach of our Lord. Martin Luther, for example, in his day saw many things that were then occurring on the earth what appeared to him to be indications that the coming of the Lord was very near. So have many other mighty men of God thought throughout the centuries. And they were not mistaken; the ones who were mistaken were those that thought that the coming of our Lord was so far away that they let it have no practical effect upon their lives.

There is reason to hope that the coming of our Lord is very near, but we are not warranted on that account in saying that He will come within a certain specified time, nor even in teaching positively that He will come during our lifetime. The entire matter of setting dates is strictly forbidden in the Word of God (see, for example, Acts. 1:7). In the light of what our Lord says in Acts 1:7 anyone who tries to set times or seasons is going directly counter to the revealed will of God. There is reason to hope that our Lord will soon come and certainly every intelligent Christian heart must cry, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). But there is no ground for prophesying that He will come at once or even that He will come in the lifetime of the present generation.

How may we know that the soul of the unregenerate is immortal (in the sense of never ending, conscious existence) in view of 1 Timothy 6:16 and the fact that eternal life is promised only to believers in Jesus Christ?

The soul of the unregenerate is not naturally immortal, but all men get resurrection and endless existence in Christ. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” which clearly means, when taken in its context, that as all descendants of Adam lost life in Adam, so in Christ shall all the same persons be made alive, i.e. they shall all be raised (as the context shows).

Whether this resurrection is a resurrection unto “eternal life” or whether it is a resurrection unto everlasting shame and contempt (see Dan. 12:2); or to put it in another way, whether it is a “resurrection of life” or a “resurrection of judgment” (see John 5:29) depends altogether upon what those who are raised have done with the Christ in whom they get resurrection. We must furthermore remember that “eternal life” does not mean merely endless existence; it has to do with the quality of existence as much as with its duration (see John 17:3). Existence is not life (in this sense). We are told in 1 Timothy 5:6 that “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” She exists bust she has not life. All persons, good and bad, believers and infidels, get endless existence in Christ, only believers get “eternal life” in Christ.

Was Cornelius a saved man before Peter was sent to him? In other words, would he have been lost if Peter had not gone to him?

Cornelius was not a saved man before Peter went to him. He was distinctly told when he was directed to send for Peter that Peter would speak to him words “whereby thou and thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:13, 14). Cornelius was a sincere seeker after truth and as such was “acceptable to God” as one to whom the way of life should be revealed.

It is utterly futile to ask what would have become of him if Peter had not gone to him; for Peter did go to him. Cornelius was seeking light; he went to God for light, his prayer was heard (Acts 10:4), as the prayer of every sincere seeker will be heard, and God sent Peter to him and he was saved, and so God will send some messenger to declare the Gospel to every one who is in Cornelius’ position. The trouble with men out of Christ is that they are not seeking the light. Indeed, as a rule they are doing their best to avoid the light.

Originally from The King’s Business “Questions and Answers” by R.A. Torrey, July 1914, pp. 402, 418

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