THE CHRISTIAN AND THE SECOND COMING
R. H. Boll
The doctrine of Christ’s return from heaven holds a high and important place in the teaching of the New Testament. It is of especial meaning and interest to us in its bearings on the church and individual Christians. Wonderful promises, solemn warnings and exhortations are wrapped up with it. Let us study together some of the things the word of God teaches concerning the sure promise of the coming of Christ.–What is the Christian’s right attitude toward this wondrous prospect–how we should receive it, how it should affect us, how we should live and act with reference to it.
The most obvious reaction to the doctrine of Christ’s Coming and the events connected with it, is that we should believe it. “Why certainly” some one may say–we all do if we are Christians; “of course we believe it.” Well we do and we don’t. It is one thing to accept it as an article of the Christian faith (thank God for those who do so)–but one can do that and give his assent to it, yea even preach and teach it and contend for it, and yet not have a real heart faith in it. If I believe in Christ’s imminent return from heaven, my life will be lived in the light of that event; and whatever cannot stand in that light will be abandoned. We see at once what a profound influence such a faith in the coming of Christ must have upon a man who believes it–on his aim, his work, his conduct, and the whole tenor of his life. But let us see what is the specific teaching to Christians with reference to the Lord’s return.
1. The Christian is taught to wait for Christ’s coming. Under the apostles’ teaching the primitive churches of Christ were left in an attitude of waiting–not for death, but for Christ’s return. Thus the early converts of Thessalonica turned unto God from idols to serve the true and living God, and to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead. The church at Corinth was in this waiting attitude. “So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:7). To the church in Philippi Paul says, “For our citizenship is in heaven, whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20.) Paul includes himself with them, as one of those waiting for Christ’s coming. Again in Heb. 9:28 we read–“So Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time apart from sin to them that wait for him, unto salvation.” The Greek word is very emphatic. In 1 Cor. 1:7, for instance, it is “Apekdechomai” which means “eagerly awaiting.” The same term is used in Phil. 3:20 and Heb. 9:28. The waiting attitude implies a certain unsettledness–a feeling that present things and circumstances are only temporary, and an expectancy of the real, final condition, which will be ushered in for us by the Lord’s return from heaven.
2. Even stronger than the word “wait” are the terms “looking for,” and “watching.” The latter word is used more especially in the first three gospels. In Mark 13 the Savior says, “Take ye heed, watch and pray for ye know not when the time is. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:33-37). The parable of the Ten Virgins is pointed with the same admonition; “Watch, therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.” (Matt. 25:13). In Luke, warning against the life of self-indulgence and pre-occupation with earthly cares, He says, “But watch ye at every season, making supplication that ye may escape the things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36). To the careless church in Sardis, the Lord sends this message by His servant John: “Be thou watchful and strengthen the things which remain, which are ready to die; for I have found no works of thine perfected before my God.” “If therefore thou shalt not watch I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Rev. 3:2, 3.) Whatever more these words may signify, they certainly declare the great importance of watchfulness in view of Christ’s coming.
3. At the close of his last solemn charge to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:8) the apostle Paul says, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.” Not to them that dread His appearing, not them that ignore it or have forgotten it, nor to those to whom it is a matter of indifference, but to them that love His appearing, does the Lord the righteous Judge award a crown in that day. They who love His appearing are those who will be glad when He comes. They look forward to His coming, they love to think about it, and to speak of it. Like John, the beloved disciple, on the isle of Patmos–when they hear the announcement of Jesus, “Behold I come quickly”–they respond from the heart and say, “Amen; even so, come Lord Jesus.” This again, when it becomes a real factor in the Christian’s life, must profoundly affect his thinking, his attitude, his work, his conduct.
4. Last, but not least, is the fact that the Christian is to look forward to the Second Coming of Christ as his hope. “Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. . .” (Tit. 2:13). Now hope, as everyone knows, consists of two elements: namely, Desire and Expectation. Where there is no expectation there is of course, no hope. Again, where there is no desire there can be no hope. Merely to expect a thing is not the same as to hope for it. Unless the thing is also good and desired as well as expected, there is no hope. Also mere desiring of a thing when there is no chance or prospect of getting it, is not hope. Hope both desires and expects. If you expect the Coming of Christ, and desire His Coming, you have the hope. If you do not expect Him to come, or if the thought of His Coming fills you with dread and misgivings, so that you would rather not have Him come–at least not right, now–something has blacked out your hope.
The earnest Christian (and I am speaking of no other class here) finds himself face to face with a difficulty at this point. He loves the Lord, he wants to be right with God in all things, he wants to be acceptable in the day of Christ’s appearing–and yet there are doubts and fears that darken the outlook. I am far from perfect, he feels, and how can the Lord own me when He comes? It becomes evident now that no man–no, not the best Christian on earth can base his hope on his own goodness and merit. The coming of Christ can not be a hope to anyone unless he knows the grace of God, and is standing in this grace, not only as to his original salvation, but in his Christian life, and in his outlook for the future. When God deals in grace He does not take account of our worth and desert. He accepts of us “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” And in that we have our assurance, and the inspiration to lay hold on the hope set before us. “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your mind” says Peter, “be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:13.) Will a sincere soul grow lax in conduct and careless of sin because he stands in grace and sets his hope on it? (Paul discusses this question in Rom. 6). Far from it. Grace is the secret of a holy life. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God. . . . Beloved now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that if he shall be manifested we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is. And every one that hath this hope set on him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3.) The hope of Christ’s coming is a purifying hope. Let every man in Christ boldly take hold of it.
The electronic version of R. H. Boll’s The Christian and the Second Coming ([Louisville, KY: Word and Work, 19–]) has been produced a copy of the tract from the Hans Rollmann Collection. The date of publication has not be determined.