A. T. Schofield
Plain Papers for Young Believers
A careful study of the attitude of the believer toward his absent Lord, as spoken of in various parts of the Word of God, will show that it may well be divided into three distinct parts. He WAITS, he WALKS, and he WORKS. His heart waits for Christ, his feet walk, and his hands work; thus his heart, feet, and hands are all occupied for the Lord in view of His coming. These distinctions are by no means arbitrary; on the contrary, it will be found that wherever the coming of the Lord is spoken of, it is in connection with some one of these aspects. In Matthew 25, we get the waiting and the working; in Luke 12, principally the waiting; in Thessalonians and Revelation, all three; in 1 Corinthians 15, the work; and in 1 John 3, rather the walk.
Waiting, Walking, and Working
In the book of Revelation we observe that the Lord says three times over, “Behold,” or “Surely, I come quickly .” The first is in Revelation 3:11, and is manifestly in connection with the Christian's walk; the second is in Revelation 22:12, and will be seen to be connected with work here and rewards hereafter; the third, as is so well known, is in verse 20, and is solely in connection with the heart waiting and watching for Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians, again, it is beautiful to observe the closing thoughts of the first three chapters. In chapter 1 we get the Thessalonians waiting for God's Son from heaven. In the close of chapter 2 we find the Apostle speaking of the Lord's coming in reference to his work among them, and the reward which he will get in them in the glory; while in chapter 3 we find the return of the Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints is placed in connection with a holy and God-pleasing walk (4:1).
Having then shown that these are three scriptural distinctions, let us for a moment consider the Christian as waiting for Christ.
It is the Heart That Waits for Christ
Where this is spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 1, we notice one thing most particularly, and that is, that those who thus earnestly looked out for Christ, knew so little about the doctrine of the way and manner of His coming, that it had to be made a subject of a special revelation in the close of chapter 4. But they did not wait till that chapter before they looked out for Christ. We are thus clearly taught that waiting for Christ is not a matter of intelligence, but of heart. And this, beloved reader, shows us where we fail. For in these closing days God has wonderfully opened up His Word to us, so that there are thousands now who know a very great deal more of the Lord's coming than did these Thessalonians of old; but of how many of all these can it be truly said, They are waiting for Christ?
How We Are to Wait
It is an important and deeply interesting fact that our Lord has detailed the precise attitude in which He wishes us to await His return, so that any uncertainty is not possible. In that wonderful passage in Luke 12, when Jesus seeks to prepare the hearts of His disciples for His coming departure, He also speaks of His return. Those who wait for Him during the long dark night are to be characterized by girded loins and trimmed lamps, and they themselves are to be like men that wait for their Lord. And then follows that wondrously blessed promise that those who are thus girded and watching here, shall there sit down at table while the Lord rises, girds Himself, and serves them!
Now the girded loins, in other words, are the Christian's walk, carefully keeping his garments from the defilement around, and declaring by his tightly girded dress his position as a traveler, and as a pilgrim; while the lights or lamps burning, speak of his work, and his testimony in this world for Christ, both of which we hope to touch on in future papers, so that it is the emphatic, “Ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord,” that most occupies our thoughts here.
Like Men that Wait for Their Lord
One thing about this waiting is clear. Although it surely leads to self-examination and carefulness in walk and ways, it is a waiting with joy, not with fear. While a certain solemnity surely attaches to the thought of that sublime moment when we first behold our Lord, He would have our hearts anticipate it with joy. In order to do this, it is clear we must know something of Christ; for it is certain that it is just in proportion as we know Christ, not truth, that we long to see Him. And this leads us in many ways to walk more worthy of Him; as our hearts get more occupied with Christ, insensibly one thing after another stands revealed in its true light. We distinguish the substance from the shadow, our eyes get cleared from the mists around, our hearts freer for Him, our lives more separated, more devoted, more unworldly; in short, altogether we become—like men who wait for their Lord.
Worldly Christians Cannot Wait for Christ
To truly wait for Christ we must be unworldly. If we love this world and the things which are in it, how can we look out for the One who is to take us from it forever? But if we have learned to dread and dislike the world, to see through all its tinsel, and to discern the power of its god and prince that is behind, hurrying all on to destruction, we long to leave it, and thus doubly to welcome Christ—first, for His own sake, and next, for taking us away from it all to the Father's house.
I shall never forget some time ago when I had to get a dear old lady from a boardinghouse, where she had been badly treated, seeing her sitting in the little dark underground room in which she had been kept, in a large armchair, with bonnet, boots, cloak, and gloves all on, earnestly awaiting my arrival. Although I could not come before twelve, so anxious was she to leave the place, that she had insisted on getting up between four and five o'clock that morning, and being fully dressed; and she had been sitting thus in that chair for six or seven hours, all ready and waiting to go. I cannot describe her look of intense joy and satisfaction when I entered the room just as she was thinking herself quite forsaken, and her delight when at last she found herself going away with me. What a feeble picture this is of what our attitude ought to be, and what our joy will be at Christ's coming!
Christ's Coming Draws Near
Everything, too, bespeaks its nearness. Vain though it must be for us to attempt to fix an hour, which the Lord says no one knows but the Father, still in many ways He has indicated His approaching return. First, in the remarkable spread of gospel preaching and work among young and old throughout Christendom, thus rapidly gathering in the number of His elect. Second, in the fact that the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him,” that was unheard prior to the last century, is now sounded everywhere; and, third, in that the signs of the last times, spoken of in 2 Timothy, etc., are to be seen on every side of us. Many, however, think that unless it is quite sure that Christ will come in our time, it is no use waiting for Him, because it will be in vain . This is a great mistake . In no sense is it in vain. As regards ourselves, it exercises its purifying influence on our lives, draws us nearer to Christ, and keeps us more separate from the world. With regard to Him, it is just as precious to His heart as if He came. Unlike the queen who can only see those who are waiting at the moment she passes, He has watched and recorded the names of every “watcher” whose watchful heart has communed with Him through the long dark night— not one is forgotten. And if you thus patiently look out and watch for Christ, you will be among those in glory whom Christ will specially come forth to serve. Oh, may He speak to each of our hearts in power, that many sleepers may henceforth become watchers to His praise and glory.
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