Chapter 22 The Challenge Of The Lord's Return

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is (Mark 13:33).

The truth of God always has a practical effect upon our lives. No truth of God is given us for mere intellectual satisfaction. The root must produce fruit. The foundation is for a superstructure. No truth is mere abstract truth. Everything out from God moves in the realm of life. The Lord’s return is no mere matter of academic interest—no more than His dying on Calvary’s cross is. It is spiritual and ethical—experiential and practical—in its effect.

Thus we have some very practical exhortations. He bids us work—He gave to “every man his work” (v. 34). He bids us watch—“Watch ye therefore” (v. 35). Working is no substitute for watching and four times over He says, “Watch.” He also bids us pray—“Watch and pray” (v. 33). It is through prayer we are given power and patience to work and to watch. We can do neither without prayer.

The Effect of the Lord’s Return upon Believers

1. It inspires purity of life. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). This is the only place in this epistle where John speaks of the Lord’s return. In Exodus 19:10, 11, Moses commands Israel to cleanse themselves because the Lord would meet with them on the third day. In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul exhorts believers to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” Purification is not accomplished in one day. It is a progressive and constant work.

2. It makes for stedfastness of faith. “Stand fast in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1). His coming will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (3:21). This has His return in view. While we wait for Him we are to “stand fast in the Lord,” and the change to take place is accounted as sufficient reason for doing so. Unless we do, there is no real faith in His return.

3. It issues in compassion for souls. “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20). If our spiritual affections are warm and tender toward the Lord, we will try to share the truth and speak the truth into the hearts and lives of others.

4. It eases all pain and trouble. “Time is short.” Nothing refreshes the soul when in a tedious course of trouble—when sighs are many and loud—when the spirit is grieved and pained—as the thought of the Lord’s return. Then afflictions are seen to be “light afflictions” compared to the “weight of glory” to be revealed, and “only for a moment” compared to the endless ages of eternity in heavenly bliss (2 Corinthians 4:17).

5. It oils the wheels of obedience. How cheerfully do our souls go in the ways of the Lord when we realize that at His coming He will bring rewards. “My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12). “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (John 4:36). Even a cup of cold water served in His name shall not go without its reward. Thus by our labor in His interests do we lay up spiritual treasure, the revenues of which are far, far better than perishing silver and gold.

6. It guards against temptation. “Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33). Ephesians 6:16 speaks of “the fiery darts of the wicked,” and nothing should so inspire us to lift up the shield of faith against them than a due sense that we are soon to meet the Lord. It is our shield and safety to remember that we are soon to stand before “the judgment seat of Christ” for a full review of our work here below.

7. It fills the soul with blessed hope. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The hope of glory makes all disquietudes to fade away. The Lord Jesus has entered heaven as our Forerunner. He holds possession in His people’s name. The keys are in His hands. He beckons us forward to gloryland. The Spirit of God delights to meet us with enlightening aid so that we catch glimpses in this present of the heavenly Land. Bright indeed is our prospect. True, what that blessed hope is in all its blessedness cannot be known by flesh and blood. Its blessedness exceeds our present thought. Still, it fills the soul with anticipated joy, for we shall see the Altogether Lovely who is fairer than the children of men, and that without any intervening cloud. “We shall see Him as He is!” That will be the eternal vision and it will call forth our eternal adoration.

Lord Jesus, are we one with Thee?
Oh height, oh depth of love!
Thou one with us at Calvary,
We one with Thee above.

Our sins, our guilt, in love Divine
Confessed and borne by Thee;
The gall, the curse, the wrath were Thine,
To set Thy members free.

Ascended now in glory bright,
Head of the Church Thou art;
Nor life, nor death, nor depth, nor height,
Thy saints and Thee can part.

Soon, soon shall come that glorious day
When, seated on Thy throne,
Thou shalt to wondering worlds display
That Thou with us are one.

—J. G. Deck