The promise of John 14: 3 is on the eve of being fulfilled, the threefold summons of 1 Thessalonians 4: 16 will soon be heard, and the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25: 1–13 are about to be eternally separated—in short, the Lord Jesus is coming again. That promise, first coming from His own lips in John 14, formed the substance of a special revelation given to Paul (1 Thess. 4: 15), and was repeated three times in the last message which the glorified Christ sent down to His waiting bride (Rev. 22: 7, 12, 20).
Now the Lord did not intend these words to be an empty sound, devoid of meaning, power or effect upon the hearts of His loved ones—they were uttered to kindle there a responsive flame of joyous expectation. Certainly this was the effect on the early believers. The Lord’s return was to them a “blessed hope” (Tit. 2: 13). It was no dry and distant prospect, but a reality which commanded their affections and was expressed in their daily lives. They waited for “the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1: 7), they looked for God’s “Son from the heavens” (1 Thess. 1: 10), and they “went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Mat. 25: 1). It was this that made them practically a heavenly people. Likes with earth were broken, connections with the world were severed. Earth’s wealth and splendour, its gilded attractions, all its bewitching enticements, have lost their charm and power over a man who knows the Lord Jesus and who is continually expecting His voice to translate him in a moment to endless glory. He is so dazzled by the bright visions which pass before the eye of faith that the world’s glory seems dull and dim. Thus the early Christians were a separate and an unworldly people. Their hearts had been toughed by a Saviour’s love—they knew that His precious blood had washed away all their sins, and they were fired by the expectation of seeing His face and being with Him and like Him forever.
Their heavenly character drew upon them the scorn, contempt, and violence of men. By their separation from the world they testified against it that its deed were evil, and the world hated, despised and rejected them, thus affording them the high honour of fellowship with their blessed Master. They could afford to “have patience” knowing that His coming drew nigh (James 5: 7), when His smile would more than compensate for all the contradiction of sinners they had to endure. The Lord’s coming was not to them a doctrine, or a theory, but a hope of strengthening, sanctifying and transforming power. Satan sought by every means to quench their testimony. The sword of persecution was unsheathed against them with relentless severity, until Satan found that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church and the more he afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew. So when violence failed he tried corruption, and began to seduce the Church by offering her the very things which he Lord had refused—the world and glory. Would she have them? Would she accept flattery and aggrandisement at the hands of the world, those very hands which were stained with the blood of here rejected and murdered Lord? Alas! She left here “first love” (Rev. 2: 4) and laid aside the gory crown of martyrdom for the glittering tiara of earthly grandeur. As the world crept in, so the hope of the Lord’s return died out. The hope which had burnt with such an ardent flame gradually grew did. The heart ceased to long for Him, the eye ceased to watch for Him. Solemn words: “Now the bridegroom tarrying, they all grew heavy and slept” (Matt. 25: 5).A worldly Church could not cherish the truth of the Lord’s return. Theologians wrote of His coming it is true—but only as a judge. His coming as a Bridegroom—coming that He may receive us to Himself—was quite forgotten. Believers ought to know that there is no judgement for them (John 5: 24), but this truth was also lost, and so the thought of the Lord’s coming became a terror for the conscience rather than a delight to the heart.
Centuries passed, and then, God rescued the truth of the hope of the Lord’s coming from the obscurity into which it had been driven and the midnight cry began to ring out: “Behold, the bridegroom; go forth to meet him” (Matt. 25: 6). How many slumbering ones were aroused by that cry! What a trimming of torches and what a girding of loins ensued! Thousands will have cause to bless God throughout all eternity that the cry reached their ears. Professors who had but an empty lamp, were led to obtain a supply of the precious oil of which they were destitute, and ignorant believers were aroused to await God’s Son from the heavens. It was at once felt that conformity to the world’s fashions and conversation was inconsistent with the hope—in fact, as it was cherished it exerted its purifying effects upon the hearts and lives of those who had it )1 John 3: 3), and they were marked by separation from the world, by simplicity in life, and by godliness in conversation. Their watchword seemed to be “let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5: 6). They were a holy, happy, heavenly people.
Many years have passed, and though the “blessed hope” remains unfulfilled, precious and true as ever is the Lord’s closing word “Yea, I come quickly” and He continues to look for the fitting response “Amen; come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22: 20). So is this the actual, present response of the Bride? Are you waiting and watching? Is such the character which is expressed by your life? Very loathe should we be to give up the doctrine of the Lord’s coming, but do we know the reality of it as a hope? Do our words, our ways, our surroundings bear testimony to the truth that we have “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and await his Son from the heavens” (1 Thess. 1: 9, 10)?Does He who reads our hearts know that we dearly cherish this precious truth, possess in power this blessed hope, and day by day eagerly await its fulfilment? Oh beloved saints let us awake to the fact that He is just about to return! Let us re–trim our torches, and let us possess, enjoy and exhibit the effects of this hope in living power.