The Lord Himself

Language is built on words. Words carry meaning. There are no redundant words in God’s Book. Every word has its place. Each carries its own weight. Some words are used many times, others few. Some words are employed only once, giving them a peculiar distinction afforded to no others. There are words that are only to be found within the sacred page, words that are entirely absent from the secular writings of the time. Such words have a peculiar force. Every word in Scripture is divinely inspired and each is needed to convey the exact meaning of a passage.

   The words that form the title of this paper are taken from v16 in a passage (1 Thess. 4: 13–18) that speaks of the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ. History tells me He came once; prophecy tells me He will come again. The Bible is full of detail about this great event and yet it is largely absent from the current theology of Christendom! It was far from absent among believers that formed the early Church. On the contrary, it dominated their thinking. The final cry of Christians in Rome’s arenas before being mauled to death by savage beasts was “Maranatha”—the Lord cometh. Death was imminent for them, but the Lord’s return was their expectation. Death is never presented in the Bible as the hope of the believer. He may have to die, multitudes already have, but his hope is always the return of the Lord. Yet the Christian’s hope is not exactly the event as such. You can be occupied with the event in prophecy and lose sight of the Person. It is an event, but hope is in the One who returns. Sadly, the hope of many believers is little more than heaven when they die. This is never what Scripture presents. What was Paul looking for? It was “being with Christ” (Phil. 1: 23). It was a Person, not a place. Heaven will only be heaven, because He is there. In this very passage before us Paul says, “and thus we shall be always with [the] Lord” (1Thess. 4: 17).

   Now who is coming? You say ‘The Lord’. That is true, but it is not quite what Paul says in the passage before us. You have left an important word off and you have lost a wealth of meaning as a result. Yes, we are back to words again. It is “the Lord himself” (v16, my emphasis). In Greek the order is “himself, the Lord”. In Greek, as in English,  himself is a very common word, but when it is used it introduces definiteness, distinction and certainty. Look at the emphasis it gives to a passage, see the force it exerts when used. It completely eradicates any doubt of identification. It is the Lord HIMSELF who comes. He does not send an angel or some other heavenly representative. In the United Kingdom, the Queen may send another member of the royal family to represent her at some important event. That will enhance the occasion and underline its importance. But it is not the same as the Queen herself being present. If she is present, its importance cannot be increased further.

   Let us stay with this word himself. I read of “God himself” (Rev. 21: 3), of the “Father himself” (John 16: 27), of the “Spirit itself” (same Greek word, different gender, Rom. 8: 16) and of the “Son also himself” (1 Cor. 15: 28). The Lord said “I am coming again and shall receive you to myself, that where I am ye also may be” (John 14: 3, my emphasis). This is the selfsame One who “gave himself” (Gal 1: 4; 1 Tim. 2: 6, my emphasis) and will finally “present the assembly to himself” (Eph. 5: 27, my emphasis).

   Forgive me, but I must linger a little longer on this word for I want you to grasp all that it implies. You have some appreciation of what it cost the Lord to die for you, you gladly acknowledge that it was something no other could do. You see something of the force of that word when it says He has “given  himself for me” (Gal. 2: 20). You realise that in giving Himself, He could give no more. I read in Eph. 5: 25 that “Christ also loved the assembly, and has delivered himself up for it”. That is true and very precious in its context, but it is not the same as what we have in Gal. 2: 20. Multitudes form the Church, but in Gal. 2: 20 we come down to an individual, to a single person, to one who says “the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me” (my emphasis). In both cases the love is His love, so there is no difference there. The difference is this: in Eph 5 it is His love to a company, the Church; in Gal. 2 it is His love to an individual. The Lord’s love comes right down to the personal level: He loved ME. You will notice that when it speaks of His love for the Church, the title used is Christ and not Lord—words yet again! Names and titles, like the words that describe them, are never confused in Scripture. The Son of God does not stand as Lord in relation to the Church. Lord is His title of authority in relation to the individual. Yes, in 1 Thess. 4 He comes for the Church, but that is not how it is presented. The Church is not spoken of as such in that passage. The word is “The Lord himself …” (my emphasis) for He comes for the individual. He comes for you. He comes for me.

   Suppose that you had bought something, something that was very costly, something that cost you everything you possessed. How precious and valuable it would be to you! When the time came for you to collect that purchase, who would you send? Into whose hands would you commit that assignment? ‘No one’ is the answer, as you well know. You must go yourself, for the purchase is too precious to engage another. The example is really too feeble and but a hazy shadow of the glorious reality I want it to illustrate! Dear fellow–believer, you are so precious to the Lord, you have cost Him so much that He could never entrust that mission to anyone but Himself. He MUST come HIMSELF for YOU. This is what is conveyed by these simple but wonderful words “The Lord himself …”.