In the Epistle of the Romans, we have the words:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:18-23)
Then if you will also turn to Philippians:
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21)
The Christian has a wonderful expectation. Our Lord Jesus Christ while He was here on earth had a great deal to say about His second coming. I have never been able to understand why some persons who profess to be Christians (and I would not dare doubt in some instances but they are really such) seem to have no interest whatsoever in the truth of the return of our blessed Savior. I have often heard people say, “I am not interested in the second coming of Christ. The only thing that concerns me is to be ready when He comes.”
Of course, it is very important that we should be ready when He comes, but to say, “The only thing that concerns me is to be ready for that event,” seems to me to be the quintessence of selfishness. Am I only concerned about my personal readiness? Do I not have a deep, warm expectation in my soul, looking forward to that glorious day when the Savior shall return? Am I not longing to see Him?
He has said that He is coming back, and He told us to watch and to wait for His coming, to be like men that wait for their Lord when He will return from the wedding. And surely if we have learned to love Him, if we know Him as the One who died for us and washed away our sins in His precious blood, we certainly ought to be looking eagerly for His return.
EXPECTATION IS NOT FEAR
Some people think of the second coming of the Lord as though it were a dreadful event, an event from which we might well shrink, because they confound the second coming of Christ for His people with the day of judgment for a godless world; but these are two very distinct events.
When He said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” He was not referring to the final day of judgment. He was speaking of the time when He will come back and raise the dead and change the living, those of His own redeemed people, and take them up to be with Him in the Father’s house. Surely there is nothing to dread about that. It is no fearful portent, the thought of the Lord’s coming.
On one occasion, I was asked in a certain Canadian city to give an address to the ministerial union on the second coming of the Lord Jesus, and so I went down with a heart and mind full of the subject, and found nearly seventy of the city’s preachers gathered together. It was my privilege to talk to them for about forty minutes on what I believe the Word of God teaches concerning this great expectation of the Church. When I had finished, the moderator of the meeting, who was a Presbyterian minister, rose and said, “My friends, I want to give my personal testimony concerning this subject. I was a minister for a great many years before I ever took the time to study what the Bible has to say about the second coming of the Lord, but some years back I became deeply interested and I searched the Scriptures for all references to the subject. You know, as that truth opened up to me, I got a new Bible. It just seemed as though my Bible was entirely different. So many things were plain that had been dark before.” Then he said, “Now I would like to have you tell us how this subject appeals to you.”
There happened to be present a very venerable old gentleman, an Anglican clergyman, who had received a great many honors because of his scholarship and ability. He had written a great many books, and I had read all of them, so I was quite interested when he was pointed out to me. The moderator knew he was in the audience that day and because he seemed in a certain sense to be a dean of them all, he turned to him and said, “Doctor, wouldn’t you like to speak to us on the subject?”
The dear old gentleman stood up and in that fine, cultured way that is so characteristic of Anglican clergyman, said something like this: “Well, my dear brother, I am really sorry that you referred to me at all, because I never like to take issue was a visiting speaker. I would far rather have just said to our brother at the close, ‘Thank you,’ and left it at that; but since you put me on the spot, it is necessary for me to express myself, and I regret to have to say that I do not find myself at all in agreement with the speaker who has addressed us today. Of course, I think there is something in the Bible about the second coming of the Lord, but just what it is I do not know, and I do not think anyone else does. I have listened carefully to what he has presented, and I have been thinking that if his presentation of the subject is the correct one, it must be an awful thing to believe, as he says he believes, that Christ may come back at any moment. Why, if one believed that, it would unnerve him completely. Suppose I were out making pastoral calls and the awful thought came to me that Christ might come today! I would not be able to continue my work, but would want to get back to my study and read the prayer book and try to get ready for that awful event.”
Well, you know it was a little difficult for me. I was much younger than he and I did not want to be discourteous, but I said to him, “Doctor, I hope that you do not mean us to infer that one could have been a member of the great church to which you belong and have taken all the ecclesiastical and academical honors that you have and yet never have been washed from his sins in the precious blood of Christ! For Doctor, if you have been saved through what the Lord Jesus did when He was here the first time, whether you realize it or not, you will be ready when He comes the second time.” Because it is not our understanding of the doctrines of the Lord’s return that makes us ready to meet Him, or our growth in holiness, but the fact that Another has, in the blessed will of God, shed His blood and died for us, cleansing us from all sin.
THE FOCUS OF OUR EXPECTATION
To me, the expectation of the Lord’s return is one of the most precious hopes I have, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope.” He was looking for the coming of the Savior, and he said, “I do not want to be ashamed. I want to be found, while I am watching for him, laboring always for His glory, endeavoring to bring others to Him, and seeking to manifest Christ in my daily life so that I can always say, ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’”
This poor world needs the coming Savior. Suppose our Lord had come ten years ago. [This booklet by Dr. Ironside was written in about 1940, during WW II.]Then the world would never have known the dire conflict that is prevailing at the present time. Why do we see the nations engaged in bloody conflict one with the other? It is because when the Prince of Peace came here to dwell amongst men in lowly grace He was not recognized. He was rejected. He came to bring peace, but men said, “We will not have this man to reign over us”; and so, according to Hosea He said, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” He has gone back to the Father’s right hand and is there preparing a place for His redeemed.
This is one aspect of it, but the other aspect is this: He is coming back to this poor world, and He is going to reign in righteousness for a thousand wonderful years, and then will be fulfilled the prophecy, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Micah 4:3). Oh, how the world needs Christ, who is that “blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15)!