“Ready and Waiting” for the Return of the Lord.
In the last days of His ministry His return to the world largely occupied His own thoughts, and He kept it prominently before the minds of His disciples.
During His last journey to Jerusalem He foreshadowed His own history in the parable of the nobleman going into a far country to receive a kingdom and return, who left His servants behind with the command, “Occupy till I come”(Luke 19:12,13). One evening during the last week He sat on the Mount of Olives, looking down no doubt upon the massive buildings of the temple, the total destruction of which He had just foretold. The disciples gathered about Him with the request:
“Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3.
It is evident from the form of this question that His coming was no new thought to them. It was occupying their minds already. They knew that He was coming again, and they wished to know how to recognize the approach of that event. In answer to the question, the Lord unfolded a panorama of intervening history, and emphasized the need of watchfulness because the time of His coming would he uncertain.
The apostles taught their converts to wait for the coming of the Lord. All the New Testament churches have the expectant attitude. No matter in what part of the world or in what stage of development they are found, they have this characteristic in common.
The conversion of the Thessalonians is described as “turning to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven” 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10.
The Corinthians “come behind in no gift, waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 1:7.
To the Galatians Paul writes, “We through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness” Galatians 5:5
To the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” Philippians 3:20.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews the same attitude is disclosed, for there we read: “Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation” Hebrews 9:28
It is evident that the early Christians not only looked back to a Saviour who had died for them, but forward to a Saviour who was to come. There were two poles in their conversion. Their faith was anchored in the past in the facts of the death and resurrection of the Lord, and also in the future in the assured hope of His return. It is manifest, therefore, that the second coming of the Saviour occupied a most important place in the Gospel which the apostles preached, and which these Christians received.
The whole life and work of the New Testament Church has the coming of the Lord in view. All the lines of her activity and experience lead to this event. The sanctification of the disciple is a preparation for the coming of the Lord.
Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly, and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
John puts the same thing in his own tender way: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” 1 John 2:28. Christian service gets its encouragement in the same inspiring issue.
Paul exhorts Timothy to fidelity, charging him to “keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Timothy 6:14.
Peter writes to his fellow elders: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, and when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” 1 Peter 5:2,4.
James – The patience of the early Christians in suffering and trial is hounded by the same event. “Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” James 5:7,8.
“Let your forbearance be known unto all men, the Lord is at hand” Philippians 4:5. Their life of fellowship and brotherly love reaches its holy consummation at the Lord’s return.
“The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you, to the end He may establish your hearts un-blameable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints” 1 Thessalonians 3:12,13.
Their acts of worship; as for example, their observance of the Lord’s supper, have the same end in view. “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come” 1 Corinthians 11:26.
Thus, whatever aspect of the Church’s life and work we consider, we find it to be a stream which moves on towards one glorious future –“The Lord Jesus Himself fills the whole horizon.”