"At evening time it shall be light."
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light" (Zechariah 14:6,7). The expression "evening light" suggests the thought that there was at one time morning light. The New Testament dispensation is sometimes called the gospel day. Like the natural day, this gospel day has its morning and evening.
When the New Testament church was first set in order; when this Holy Ghost dispensation was ushered in; when the gospel day began there was a wonderful outburst of light and power from the glory-world. "The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up" (Matthew 4:16). As a result of this mighty flood of power and light, the place where the saints were assembled was shaken (Acts 2:1-7), the dead were raised to life, the blind were made to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak the lame to walk, all manner of diseases were healed, thousands upon thousands were converted to God, and many signs and wonders were wrought in the name of the holy child Jesus. We also read of Paul's wonderful conversion, of Peter's deliverance from prison, and of many who were delivered from devils. Oh, what wonderful light God shed upon the hearts of men at that time!
The shining of this glorious light not only enlightened the minds of those who received it; but it also revealed the effects of past traditions and brushed them away. The light also revealed the New Testament life and experience, far exceeding the standard under the law. The word says, "Light makes manifest"; so under the gospel rays every one's condition was revealed. The light not only showed the people their sins, but also showed them how to get rid of them, and then how later to get sanctified wholly. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thesselonians 4:3).
This, of course, is a much higher standard than was raised under the law. The law was, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, love your neighbor and hate your enemy; but when the gospel light revealed God's will in this dispensation, all people became so responsible because of the knowledge of divine truth revealed to them and the unmeasured divine power bestowed upon them that it was consistent to raise the standard where people would love their enemies and do good to those who despitefully treated them. Nor did their love stop with that; it so increased toward one another that "all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" (Acts 2:44,45).
In many particulars far too numerous to mention can it be shown that the New Testament standard was raised far above the law standard, showing God's compassion to fallen man. For example, consider the woman taken in adultery. The law said, "Stone her to death"; but Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more." Notice also his compassion toward the Syrophenician woman, who was considered a Gentile dog; toward the people when he performed the miracles of the loaves and fishes; toward the multitude when he fed enemies as well as friends. Again, when the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy some who had opposed them, Jesus said, "I am not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." Jesus loved the people so well that he healed even the man in the tombs who was possessed with a legion of devils, and also the ear of the servant of the high priest who was then helping to arrest him. It was his compassion that sent out the disciples to heal the sick, to raise the dead, and to cast out devils. All these things were a result of the burning light that shone forth in the morning of this gospel day.
We see that God's church in the beginning was a mighty moving power -- a means in God's hands to bring deliverance and salvation to souls, and healing to afflicted bodies. The work done and the signs wrought all so far exceeded what had been done before that the people were made to exclaim, "We never saw it on this fashion." Jesus summed it up well when he said, "The blind received their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me" (Matthew 11:5,6). If from the morning time until now the light had continued to shine with unclouded brightness, who knows how much might have been done toward the salvation of the world! But, alas! the prophecy must needs be fulfilled: "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day" (Amos 8:9). In Paul's time he said, "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work" (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
It was not long until the people began to drift away from God, to substitute outward form for inward experience, and penance for faith. Heresies sprang up. Men lost sight of the church of God, and began to form creeds, and to build up man-made institutions. The first creed was formed in A. D.
325. Men drifted farther and farther away from the way of the Lord, and plunged into gross darkness, until they could even kill the saints and think they were doing God's service. They also fell to worshiping images after the manner of the heathen, and doing many other like things. This departure from light brought about a serious state of affairs; so great was the persecution of God's true children that they were hunted for their lives, and had to hide in dens and caves of the earth. History tells us that death was the penalty for having in possession a New Testament. With such a penalty hanging over the people of God, not many would be professing that did not have the experience. It doubtless took a martyr's consecration to keep a real Christian experience in those days, and it is equally as much needed in these perilous times.
This reign of gross darkness continued hundreds of years. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). But God had designed to bring again his children out of darkness. He proceeded to do so by giving light to such men as Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, and others. History tells us that when light came to Luther, he was steeped in Catholicism, so much so that he was trying to gain favor with God by various acts of penance. On one occasion while he was climbing the "holy stairs" at Rome on his hands and knees, the Lord thundered in his soul that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. We have no account of Luther's getting light beyond justification, but the reformation did not cease with him. Later the Lord gave to the Wesleys, Fletcher, Hester Ann Rogers, and others, greater light on his Word, showing the privilege not only of justification but also of sanctification. As the departure from the light and whole truth in the morning of the gospel day was a gradual process, so the return to the light has been gradual. The Lord shed some light on the world through Huss, some through Luther, and some through the Wesleys and others, thus restoring the full light according to his own plan.
While God wonderfully used these men to shed light on the world in their day, yet many effects of the apostasy were clinging to them. Divine healing in their day was almost unknown or known to but few, and likewise the gifts of the Spirit. Wesley himself testified that he did not possess any of the gifts of the Spirit, and did not think that any one else did. No one in Wesley's time, so far as we know, discerned the one body and the unity of God's children. The one who perhaps came nearest to discerning the body of Christ was either Wesley or Fletcher. In their correspondence with each other, one said in substance the following: "In searching the Word on the unity of God's children, I see that the Scriptures relating to the gathering of God's children into one body must be fulfilled before the end; but I scarcely think we are yet on the threshold of that period." He expressed his desire to see that time by saying, "God hasten the day." No doubt if these men were living today, and walking in the light as they were at that time, they would readily fall into line with the church in this evening time.
"At evening time it shall be light." That this scripture might be fulfilled, God in his wisdom saw fit to shed more light on the one body and divine healing, not upon one person alone, but upon a number of his people in different parts of the world. This light began to break forth about 1880. I wish to call your attention here to the way in which God shed forth the light on the church of God. In making a new sect, some man becomes the hub and center, and round him or his ideas revolves the organization. But God did not center this reform in one man, but gave the light to different ones in various parts of the world about the same time. The work of the Holy Spirit upon their hearts in sanctifying them, caused them to see and flow together. It might be said that the giving of this glorious light was in one respect similar to the second coming of the Son of man: "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." The fact that many persons in different parts of the world saw this light independently of each other and at about the same time is one evidence that this movement is God's work and not man's. Truly this is the evening time, and it is light.
God's will, order, and plan are more fully revealed to his children now than at any other time since the days of the apostles. The Lord enables us more clearly to discern the one body and its operations, and to know our place in it. The gifts of the Spirit are now recognized as belonging rightfully to God's children, and are sought, obtained and used to the glory of God. It is now understood that the same purity of heart and life enjoined by the church in the morning time is not only our privilege to enjoy, but also the standard to which we must measure, and the doctrine that we as ministers must both live and preach. The old Babylon doctrine, "Sin you must," is exposed as a doctrine of devils. The doctrine and practise of trusting the Lord for healing and at the same time using drugs and remedies to help the Lord out is cast aside as false, and the true doctrine of entire trust in God for healing is taught and practised instead. Truly the prophecy is fulfilled which says, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold" (Isaiah 30:26).
At the same time that God is shedding more light on his Word, his plan, and his holy bride, he is also giving us more light on the workings of Satan and his deceptive power. As the light shines brighter, of course the battle waxes hotter between God and the devil, between light and darkness. As the light reveals the hiding-places of the devil and exposes his works, he is becoming more and more enraged and is making a desperate fight, for his time is short. This means much to the true saints in these perilous times. The enemy is not only doing all he can to hold those who are already under his power, but is doing all he can to spot the pure bride. Since he already sways his scepter over the sectarian world, he needs waste no time on them, but can direct all his energies against the holy remnant.
The harder Satan works, however, the brighter shines the church of God, the one body, the bride of Christ, the more glorious her splendor and beauty. Let us beware. Let us watch and pray, that we may be kept pure and clean. The Lord is the same today as ever, and his promises are as far-reaching. While it takes more grace to live a holy life at this time, yet the dear Lord has provided a sufficiency. As a result we have more to enjoy, and more facilities for doing good. The heavier the responsibilities, the greater the grace.
It is a thing indeed to be thankful for, that instead of the reign of conferences and synods, priests and popes, we have the blessed privilege of living under the loving rule of the holy Trinity, with Christ himself as the head of the church, and all we are breth-ren. "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Revelation 19:6)
Truly we are highly favored among men. While we are now living in a time of great spiritual peril, and have to encounter many dangers by the way, yet we have more to enjoy, and God is more perfectly revealing himself now, than at any other time since the apostles.
"Brighter days are sweetly dawning,
"Misty fogs, so long concealing
"Oh, what golden glory streaming!
Do you not think we should be very thankful since we are the most highly favored people on earth? "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Colossians 3:15). Those of us who have been delivered from the dark night of Babylon confusion, and translated into this glorious light, surely have every kind of reason for which to be thankful. Therefore "let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (Daniel 7:27). Read Daniel 7:15-28.