Surely it is a good thing to be amongst those who “love His appearing.” (2 Tim.4:8) How many dear souls have yearned for Him in later life, saying, “How long, O Lord, is Thy chariot in coming?” But now, at the end of the year, the decade, the century, and the millennium, we seem to be living in an atmosphere electrically charged, and bristling with anticipation. What shall we say to this? The following points may be of comfort, and yet also of instruction at this season.
1. Many are trying to calculate and tie down the DATE of the Lord’s return, but the Lord said, “No man knows the day or the hour, not the angels in heaven, nor even the Son of Man, but only the Father.” (Mark 13.32) Many have been disappointed in the past, as in 1917, 1933, 1988, to mention but a few fondly held dates.
2. One hears much about the significance of festivals in connection with the Lord’s return, such as Rosh Hashanah, or Tabernacles, but as Jim Bramlett has significantly pointed out, the Lord said that His return would be “as in the days of Noah”, when there were NO such festivals. To initiate a search for a “significant time” could become a counter-productive venture. Treat each day as a need for readiness.
3. Our Lord encouraged us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” rather than “Thy Coming come.” This is not a battle of semantics, but a very real issue. Whatever it means to say “Thy Kingdom come” may still be a matter of interpretation, but I somehow get the impression that the actual coming of the Lord will not be exactly as many are anticipating. Men have their agendas, their time-tables, and their expectations, but the actual establishment of God’s Kingdom may occur in a manner quite different to any of these expectations.
4. There are several clear indications in the N.T. to the effect that we should be READY for the Lord’s return, rather than mere SPECTATORS in the stalls. It should not be a matter of saying, “Let’s wait and see whether anything happens on such-and-such a day.” It should rather be a matter of “he who has this hope purifies himself, even as He is pure,” (1 John 3:3) and prays that the Lord will enable him to be ready.
5. All ten virgins were excited, watching and waiting for the coming of the bridegroom, but five of them had not attended to ALL the preparations beforehand. That is the crunch-line of the parable. (Matt.25)
6. The “faithful and wise servant” of Matthew 24:45, when his Lord comes, should be found “giving his fellow-servants meat in due season.” In other words, even though there may be an air of expectancy and excitement surrounding him, he will continue to do those pedestrian, every-day things which form the “discipline of the commonplace”, as someone once put it. “To sweep a room as by Thy laws, makes that and the action fine.”
7. The wicked servant finds his date passing without anything happening, and in his depression takes uncalled-for action against his fellow-servants, abusing them, scorning them, and generally making himself a nuisance. The Lord said that such a man would be “cut asunder” from his expectations, and left behind. It is very sad to realise that there WILL be such as these on that climactic day, who will end up weeping and gnashing their teeth in sheer frustration at the so-called “injustice” of the Lord’s decision to exclude them.
8. “Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” (Rev.16:15) The watchman on the walls MUST NOT slumber, lest the Senior Watchman prowl round and find him asleep, and steal his guard-uniform. On waking from his slumber he will realise that he has been sleeping on duty. His embarrassment and shame cannot be hidden. The sense of this passage is clear enough. Note the suddenness with which these words appear in the book of Revelation, and at what juncture.
9. Although the angels said that the Lord would return to the Mount of Olives, the Lord spoke about His light “shining from the east to the west.” There is no need to sell up and camp on Olivet. To all those who are ready and waiting, “every eye shall see Him” whether living in Israel, or its antipodes.
10. To be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air” is not necessarily to be understood in a literal manner. The air is a symbol of the middle heaven, where at present Satan is “the prince and power”. But the Lord will descend from the highest heaven to meet us as we are caught up into that middle heaven. When the symbolism is unlocked, and the great and glorious event occurs, we shall find ourselves in resurrection bodies HERE ON EARTH in readiness to serve in His Millennial Kingdom. It is right here that we shall be needed, not sitting on insubstantial clouds strumming harps.
11. All the Lord’s warnings engender a sense of godly fear, and dispel complacency. “Take heed lest you become burdened with the anxieties of life . . . Be watchful in every season (not just when “millennium fever” sets in) praying that you may be ACCOUNTED WORTHY . . . to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36) This “worthiness” is not therefore a matter of human sweat and achievement, but the result of prayer that the Lord, who “began the good work in you, will bring it to completion.” (Phil 1:6)
12. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night . . . See then what manner of persons you ought to be in ALL HOLY CONDUCT AND GODLINESS, looking for and hastening the Day of God.” (2 Peter 3:10-12) Has it ever been properly understood that our conduct can affect the timing of Christ’s return, either to delay it or to hasten it?