We speak of time as past, present, and future; but what a mystery it is! The present moment is all of time that actually exists. All past time ends in the present moment. All future time begins in the same point. To use the experience of the past so as to shape the future aright is to redeem the time. This gives to every moment of time a tremendous importance. It makes the thought of it the most practical of all things. It is from this extremely practical point of view that I wish to look at this otherwise most abstruse of subjects. I wish to look at Christ’s relation to time, in order to determine our own relation to it. He is here spoken of under the aspect of a past, a present, and a future Christ. The relations of Jesus Christ to time span the whole of time. They are commensurate with the whole purpose of God in time. It is only as our lives run into the line of Christ’s life, as stretching through all time, that we can be saved. The life that flies off at a tangent from that line, or that crosses, contradicts, or reverses it, is a lost life.
I. THE CHRIST OF THE PAST. It is very evident to a spiritual reader of the Bible that Christ runs through the whole of it, from the beginning to the end. But what I want specially to notice here is that the Christ of the past represents three great facts that are for ever settled and done. First, that one, and only one, perfect human life has been lived in the world; second, that one, and only one, atoning death has been died in the world; and third, that one, and only one Person, in virtue of the life He lived and the death He died, is the conqueror of sin and death. Those are facts that belong to the past history of this world. They are eternally consummated and complete. Moreover, they are thoroughly well authenticated facts; and it is not easy to see how there can be any real justification of doubt concerning them. You cannot separate the one from the other. You must believe in a whole Christ or not at all. What the age wants is of a diluted Christ — not a mere spectre of Christianity, or ghost of morality, but a whole Christ.
II. THE CHRIST OF THE PRESENT. Christianity is much impeded by the want of progress in the Church. There is not that growth and robustness in our modern Christianity which there ought to be. Why has Christ not remained the Christ of the past alone? Why has He not remained in the grave? Why is He at the right hand of God in heaven — at the very goal of the ages? Because He would not have His people live in the past. He is the Christ of the present, to be with His people to-day, to lead them on to far higher things than they have yet realised. The present ought to be full of Christ. For what does this belief in a living Redeemer imply? It implies three things: First, that in Christ, as seated on the right hand of God in heaven, we have an actual Person in whom might and right are absolutely one. Further, this Christ who exists to-day in the face of all the tyrannies and inequalities of the world, as the absolute embodiment of might and right, is not sitting aloft in heaven in passive contemplation of the conflict here. He is actually ruling over all worlds for the accomplishment of a Divine purpose. There is a third idea here belonging to the Christ of the present. Believing in Him as the actual embodiment of might and right, and as that One who is ruling over all things for the accomplishment of a Divine purpose, we are called upon to co-operate with Him in the present, and we have the promise that just as we intelligently do so will we receive of the power of the Spirit to enable us to do the work to which we are called. He rules in heaven to shed down power upon His people. He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, and holds the seven stars in His right hand.
III. THE CHRIST OF THE FUTURE, What, then, are the certainties in connection with the Christ of the future in which we are called to believe? There is, first of all, the certainty that the Word and Spirit of Christ will prevail throughout the whole earth. There are tremendous obstacles to be overcome. There are false principles at work everywhere in human society. There is scepticism of first principles altogether. There are the disintegrating forces of a shallow and self-elated criticism. And beyond all these there are the dense masses of pure heathenism. But in view of what we have already considered, we cannot possibly have one atom of doubt as to the result. Who can doubt what the future will be? It must be the legitimate sequel of the things which, in the name of God, have been accomplished in the past, and are being wrought out and applied in the present. Having once got an intelligent hold of these things, we can no more doubt them than we can doubt our own existence. But it follows also that the Christ of the future is that One whom we have individually and personally to meet. There is just one other thought lying in the Christ of the future, and that is the relation that is destined to exist for ever between Christ and His own people — the relation of the heavenly Bridegroom to His bride, the Church. In that sublime relationship we have the consummation of felicity.