SOMETHING TO CHEW ON
Why did Christ not reveal the exact time of his second coming? We may find the answer to this question in three places, the first of which, though not the most reliable, is simple logic. We are Christians, but at the same time we are human beings and it is our tendency to procrastinate when we feel that this can be done without great loss or damage. God is the Creator. He made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows that many of His followers would put off the needful preparation until the last minute if they knew exactly when Christ is coming. The danger inherent in this course of action is abundantly clear, for in our weak, human nature this would be too great a temptation for many of us.
In his instruction, Christ made it very clear that one of the reasons his followers should watch and be alert is the fact that they do not know the hour when their Lord will come. To impress this on the minds of his disciples, Christ gave the illustration of the householder and the thief. “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matt. 24:43).
In one respect, there is a great difference between the coming of the thief and the coming of Christ. The thief hopes that the householder will be unprepared. Our Lord desires us to be watching and ready for his appearing. “Therefore be ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.” It is hardly possible to be alert and ready at all times for the appearance of a thief. It is possible however, to always be ready for the coming of the Saviour, and this is what Christ has commanded. It is his desire that his followers be ready at all times - not because they are fearful, not because they dread his appearing, not just because he has a reward for them, but because they love him and wish to be with him.
We are not to know the definite time for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days or for the coming of Christ. The times and the seasons God has put in His own power. Why has He not given us this knowledge? because we would not make a right use of it if He did. A condition of things would result from this knowledge among us that would greatly retard the work of God in preparing a people to stand in the great day that is to come. We are not to be engrossed with speculations in regard to the times and the seasons which God has not revealed. Jesus has told his disciples to “watch,” but not for definite time. His followers are to be in the position of those who are listening for the orders of their Captain; they are to watch, wait, pray, and work, as they approach the time for the coming of the Lord; but no one will be able to predict just when that time will come; “for of that day and hour knoweth no man.” We will not be able to say that he will come in one, two, or five years, neither are we to put off his coming by stating that it may not be for many years.
Now let us look at our third proposition, the reason why the Lord has not already come and why we are not already in his kingdom.
Christ spoke to his disciples of two servants. One he called a faithful and wise servant. The other was characterized as an evil servant. The faithful servant was following his master’s instructions. He was doing the work that had been committed to him. Of the other servant Christ said, “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delays his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looks not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:48-51).
What is the sin of the evil servant? Certainly it was wrong for him to smite his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunken. But these were the results of his downfall, not the cause. The greatest sin of the evil servant was the disregard of his master’s desires and commands; the inclination to do what was pleasing to himself on the theory that the master would not return soon and that there would be time to change his course of action before he returned. Notice that the evil servant did not proclaim to his fellow servants that the coming of his lord was delayed. This he said in his heart. This was his philosophy and his motivation, but he kept it covered up as much as possible. The inference is strong that this servant was a hypocrite. He pretended to be that which he was not.
It is easy to see the sins of the evil servant. Perhaps it is not so easy to apply the lesson in the 21st century. Let us ponder the words of the servant of the Lord as we consider the reasons why our Saviour has not already returned to this earth to take up his kingdom. Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ, because of this, may have possibly come to the earth by now, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God.
Perhaps the most important question that any Christian can ask himself is this: Am I ready for the Lord to come? If your answer, or my answer, to that question is not an unqualified yes, then there is no time to lose. God wants us in His kingdom. This is why He was willing to send His Son to die on Calvary. Too many of us may be like the boy who wanted to live with Jesus - but not just yet! As the story has it, two farmer lads walking barefoot on the dusty road met the new minister. Thinking to give them some food for thought, the minister greeted them and then asked, “Do you boys want to go and live with Jesus?” One answered in the affirmative, but the other dug his toe in the soft sand and shook his head. “You really don’t want to go and live with Jesus?” the minister inquired with a tone of disbelief. “No, sir.” “Do you mean to tell me you want to die and not be raised to live forever with Jesus?” “Oh no!” said the lad “I didn’t know you were talking about when I die. I thought you were making up a load to go to him today.”
We may smile at this simple story, but we should be sure that our own experience and attitude could not be described in a similar, though more sophisticated, manner.
Perhaps the second most important question that the Christian can ask himself is this: What am I doing to hasten the coming of the Lord? Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the world would be sown with the seed of the gospel and God’s number would be made up. Watching, waiting, and working - this is what God expects of us in these last moments of earth’s history. We should be “looking eagerly for the coming of the Day of the Lord” (2 Peter 3:12).