Is this not a question we are all asking? We are in the second decade of the new millennium already, and the Rapture still has not taken place.
Last modified on Thursday, 12 January 2012 10:34
Did you think fifteen years ago, in the midst of the 1990s, that we would still be here after the year 2010? I imagine many of us speculated about the Rapture and thought it must be imminent, and that we would not even live to experience the beginning of the new millennium.
“Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” (James 5:7-8).
“The coming of the Lord draweth nigh,” it says here. Since James wrote these words, almost 2,000 years have passed, and the reality is that we are still here on earth and not in the heavenly Jerusalem. Are you disappointed? Or, even worse, are you maybe even annoyed with the Lord? Are you annoyed that the return of the Lord has taken so long? Do you belong to those even who say in complete disillusionment, “The Lord won’t come for a long time!”
There was once a man in a certain unsatisfactory situation, who was waiting for the Messiah, that is, for His powerful appearance on the scene. And then, out of sheer impatience, when nothing seemed to be happening, he asked the Lord Jesus, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). John the Baptist, for he was that man, thought perhaps, “It’s time for the Lord Jesus to come and set up His Messianic kingdom.” I do not want to go any further into this occurrence, but rather speak of the reply of the Lord Jesus, i.e. that which the Lord said to this impatient and desperate man, John, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (verse 6). The Lord Jesus did not say to John the Baptist, “I will come and set up my kingdom at such and such a time!” No, he left John completely in the dark concerning the further course of spiritual history. But He told him what really mattered. To put it in my own feeble words, “John, do not sin! Do not doubt Me! Do not be offended, but persevere! Be patient, in whatever situation you find yourself, and let Me do everything in My time. Trust Me and believe Me!”
In James 5 we read of patience, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.” To nobody, not even the apostles, the first Christians or the Church fathers, did the Lord Jesus reveal when the day of Jesus Christ will come. What did the Lord Jesus say instead? “But of that day and hour knoweth no man…” (Matthew 24:36). One thing is clear: the Lord will return. The question as to whether He will come is not open for discussion. The Bible is full of these promises, and the verse in James 5 is only one of many that speak of the fact of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all the letters of the New Testament, the return of the Lord is mentioned. This is not a thing of secondary importance, therefore, or an insignificant event. On the contrary, it is a central theme, and we do well to mention it and to draw attention to it. The apostles apparently awaited the coming of our Lord at any time, even if they never maintained that the coming of the Lord would take place during their lifetimes. This makes them different from many end-times fanatics who think they can put a certain date to the return of the Lord.
How should we live, in view of this justified expectation of the return of the Lord? What consequences does this have? The consequence is certainly not, “Let’s just spend our time waiting till the Lord comes,” but rather, “Let’s attempt to carry out our commission by that time!” Or, to put it in the words of Titus 2:11-13, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Have we understood this correctly? Verse 13 gives us a vision of the imminent meeting with our Lord, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” and the consequence of this is, “…denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (verse 12). We need to persevere in all sobriety and righteousness, to live godly lives and to pray. “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7). Soberly means without speculation and juggling around with dates or years. It also means that we should not neglect our original commission, in spite of our expectation of the imminent meeting with our Lord. We should live with this imminent expectation as the apostles and the first Christians did. The return of the Lord is a reality. The Lord Jesus Himself says to us, “Behold, I come quickly” in Revelation 3:11, or as it says in the NIV, “I am coming soon.” We could also say, “I am coming in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, then when you least expect Me!” This “I am coming soon” does not mean “I am coming tomorrow,” but, “When I do come—and the Lord alone knows when—then I will come in a moment of time, quickly.” There will be no time to do anything, no time to say goodbye, no time to justify ourselves or put anything in order—no time! We should speak of this, encourage each other with this fact and admonish one another, and above all we should live accordingly, in all sobriety and godliness.
James speaks of patience. He gives us a good example of this, the example of a farmer, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain” (James 5:7). What does this example have to say to us? The farmer does what he can. He sows, plants, ploughs, harvests, etc. There are things, however, that the farmer is unable to do; he is powerless and dependent on the weather, for instance, which is described here as the early and latter rain. In this sphere, there is nothing to do but trust and believe that the Lord will do it, as it says in Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” And even if the harvest is late—for whatever reason—the farmer is not idle and he does not let himself be discouraged, but he carries on with his work.
This example is a beautiful picture of the spiritual harvest. We of the Church are required to do what is in our power and what we are able to do, and that which we are responsible for in accordance with our gifts and our strength. This should all take place with patience, with sobriety and godliness, and above all with much prayer. As a church, we have a commission and we must carry this out. The commission is, to worship the Lord, to preach the Word and to teach it, to edify and admonish one another, but also to give financially to the Lord’s work, to support it, pray for it, make intercession and give thanks, and to have fellowship. As a church, we are required to witness to those outside—we are, after all, Christ’s ambassadors on earth. A church, and in particular the elders and deacons, should care for the weak, the sick, the widows, orphans and needy, and accept those who are weak and wavering in their faith. A church is truly more than a Sunday gathering. The commission which we have as a church and church members does not end at the end of the year, but has its validity until the Lord, in His grace, takes the Church to be with Him, and that in His time and not when we want Him to come.
We are called to sow, to plough and till. Whether it will bring fruit we may leave to the Lord. The Lord God will reach His goal with His Church, and therefore also with you and I, but in His own time! With this in mind, let us continue to speak of the Rapture and the meeting with our Lord Jesus Christ, completely relaxed and with inner joy, without speculating or with a calculator in our hand. And above all, do not be disappointed; do not doubt the Lord if He continues to tarry, and we are still on earth at the beginning of next year. Rejoice rather over every day that the Lord gives us in which we can worship Him, praise Him and glorify Him. The important thing is that we are watchful and prepared, that we do not worry but rejoice, that we do not doubt Him but trust Him. And let us in all that not lose our vision for the people around us, for that is a part of our task. May the Lord bless you!