Back to home page
Back to Bible Digging archive list Back to this month's Bible Digging
"Daily Expecting the Return of Christ" (posted October 3, 2022)
[Jesus said,] "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
- John 14:3
If you take the trouble to search the Scriptures, you will find that, of the twenty-seven sections of which the New Testament is composed, no less than twenty-two speak to you of the return of the Lord Jesus. All the gospels, the Acts, every epistle of Paul (saving three), James, Peter, Jude, John (except his two minor epistles), and the Revelation, testify to it. Thus in almost every part of the New Testament Scriptures His return is always presented to us as that which should be daily expected.
But why the exceptions, and what are they? The exceptions are these: the epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Philemon, and the two minor epistles of John. These do not refer to the Lord's second coming, and the reason, I think, is not far to seek.
Why not the Galatians? Because they did not understand the value of His first coming. They were not clear about the gospel, about redemption. They were going to be saved by law, by works, and therefore Paul has to begin de novo [that is, from the beginning], and tell them the value and efficacy of Christ's first coming.
Then why not the Ephesians? Because you are exactly at the other end of the line of truth. The blessed truth brought out in the Ephesians is this, that the believer is already "accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6); for, as Ephesians 2:4-6 says, "God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." The Christian, the believer, is viewed, according to the truth of Ephesians, as now being in Christ, where Christ is, in heavenly places.
Then Philemon is a loving little pastoral letter from the beloved apostle to a master about a runaway slave, whom he sends back to his duty. A very nice, good thing to do, and therefore I should not expect Paul to refer to the Lord's second coming in such a case. The two minor epistles of John, similarly, are occupied with specific instructions addressed to an individual.
The teaching of the book of Revelation, above all, is, that the Lord is coming back, and that He is coming back for His people first, and then to set the earth right. I know that the general thought abroad is that, when the Lord comes back the next time, it is for the purpose of judging the world. There is no doubt He will judge. There is no doubt that the return of the Lord Jesus to deal with the earth is perfectly certain; but let me say this about it-- and it was a great help to my own soul when I saw this point-- that the return of the Lord, in that character, is connected with what Scripture presents as prophecy. That is not the Christian hope.
The Christian hope is totally distinct from the "sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1:19). We find plenty of prophecy in the Old Testament Scriptures; but, observe, all prophecy relates to the earth, whereas the Christian hope relates to heaven. Now the Lord Jesus Himself has gone, as man, into heaven, and He proposes to take up to Himself there those that belong to Him.
I repeat, then, that the hope of the Christian is not the earth being set right-- although, thank God, it will be set right-- but the hope of the Christian is Christ Himself, and Christ as coming for His blood-bought people. Why have we the Lord presenting Himself to us as the "Bright and Morning Star" in Revelation 22:16? Every person understands what the morning star is. It is not daylight. You never saw a man wakened up in the morning by the morning star. You must get up early to see the morning star. What wakes people up in the morning is the sunlight-- it is daylight.
What you have in this passage is that the hope of the Christian is Christ, now known in heaven as the Savior and as the One who is coming back for His own people. The manner of our going up to be with Him is most blessed. The Morning Star is Christ for the watching Christian, while the world is buried in slumber.
Walter T. P. Wolston