ARE WE READY FOR THE COMING?
S. F. MOORE
"What I say unto you I say unto all, WATCH."
The problems connected with our Lord's return become ever more urgent as the event draws nearer. We see today, (amongst the vast majority of regenerate Christians), an extraordinary example of 'wishful thinking' - that all believers, including apostates and the grossest backsliders, will escape all the coming judgements and at once ascend with Christ, to rule and reign with Him, on the throne of the world. It is difficult to understand how the grave warnings of our Lord and His Apostles, which have been constantly repeated to His Church, could have been so ignored, and can still today remain unheeded. The issue at stake is far graver than a mere divergence in exposition: it is, (1) the fearfully practical issue of our plunge into the Great Tribulation or our escape: and, (2) the inconceivable glory of enthronement over the world (possibly only a few years from now), or a lost crown and throne.
Very soon the Lord is Coming. He is coming as a Bridegroom. He is coming for the Bride. He leaves ivory palaces to come for her because He greatly desires her beauty. The beauty of the Bride of Christ is portrayed in the Bridal Psalm (45) as "all glorious within." The glory of the Lord is mentioned many times in Scripture. One translation of the word "glory" is beauty, meaning the beauty of the Lord. Hence we worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness. So likewise His Bride for whom He comes from Heaven to receive is portrayed in prophetic type and anti-type, as adorned in the beauty of holiness. Her clothing is of wrought gold (Psa. 45). Christ espouses to Himself a Bride who is glorious within and without. By revelation Paul sees Christ presenting to Himself this Bride, "Glorious ... not having spot or wrinkle." John, the seer, envisions the Bride in Heaven. The one thing he emphasises is the fact she had MADE HERSELF ready.
The church of the firstborn is spoken of as a virgin, meaning a people separated from the world unto God. Paul wrote to the Christians under his ministry, "I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11: 2). Christian, are you all glorious within? Are your spiritual robes without spot or wrinkle? God abhors garments spotted by the flesh. He wants us to abhor them. Enoch is a type of the translation saints. He had the testimony that he pleased God. Christian, is your life chaste and pure? Is your walk with the Lord so attractive that He will greatly desire your beauty? If you or I have one thing in us that is contrary to His Word we cannot please Him. He measures our love to Him by the measure of our obedience to His Word (John 14: 15).
Now in this hour of His appearing the matter of making ourselves ready is the most important thing that concerns us. Many are taking for granted that they are ready. Measured by Christ's own words to His disciples, readiness for translation does not consist, as many erroneously suppose, in being saved or filled with the Spirit. We need to go to the Word of God and see for ourselves what conditions He imposes for translation and reigning with Him. In His Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24 & 25) the Lord foretells the terrible calamities coming upon the whole earth. With pointed warnings and explicit commands He cautions His disciples to escape judgements. And He tells them how. It is not without significance that His words of prudence and caution are not spoken to the Church as a Body but to individuals: "Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged." The original Greek renders "yourselves" and "your" with particular emphasis. "Watch YE therefore and pray always that YE may be accounted worthy to escape" ... "Because thou didst keep the word of my patience I also will keep thee from the hour of trial which is to come upon the whole world." ... "Blessed is he that keepeth his garments." In the Lord's emphatic admonitions to His disciples to be weary and watchful does not encourage them to rest in any past blessing; nor does He tell them that, being filled with the Spirit, they can drift along. The Lord's emphasis is laid on WATCHING, HEEDING, PRAYING. The escape according to Christ's own words is made on condition of personal effort and is wholly a reward of the effort to be ready.
What Christ says should mean everything to us. His oft-repeated command is to "WATCH." To watch means, in the original, "to be alert"; "to be aroused"; "to be awake". In this hour of His coming He has shown us in pointed warnings that the only way to escape the trouble coming upon the whole earth is to "WATCH AND PRAY ALWAYS" (Matt. 24: 42; 25: 13; Mk. 13: 35; Lk. 21: 34-36; 1Thess. 5: 6; 1Pet. 4: 7; Rev. 3: 2; Rev. 16: 15). Again the Lord says, - "Strive to enter in*... for many will seek to enter in and shall not be able" (Lk. 13: 24). The Greek rendering of "strive" is "agonise" - agonise to enter in. Paul, seeking to win Christ, as the Bridegroom, said "I press" towards the mark" (Phil. 3).
[* Well informed Christians dont strive to enter into a new heaven and new earth; they strive to enter into the Millennial Kingdom of Christ: and, as far as those who have died in the faith are concerned, that necessitates Resurrection attaining a Resurrection out from the dead.]
How great will be the disappointment of the careless, lukewarm, unready ones in the hour of the escape (Lk. 21: 34-36). Now, before it is too late, is the time for us to awake out of sleep and stir ourselves to watching and prayer, for the signs of His appearing are everywhere around us.* The tares are ripening. So is the wheat. The ingathering is near.
[* One prominent sign is apostasy: ignoring responsibility truths and conditional promises of God.]
The Lord rebuking the worldly Laodicean Christians said, - "I know your works, that thou art neither hot nor cold ... so because thou art lukewarm, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Christian, is your service for the Master, your praying, your Bible reading, the testimony of your life in private and public, cold or hot, or lukewarm? Ask yourself this question, - "Am I a wise virgin trimming my life by the Word of God, or am I a foolish one, looking for His Coming but not preparing for it?" In contrast to the ease-loving, pleasure-loving Christian of today, how different was Paul's pressing toward the goal. He put forth desperate effort to win Christ as the Bridegroom. He stripped himself of every weight; suffered the loss of all things that he might in the fervour of his effort attain to the first resurrection out from among the dead (marginal rend. Phil. 3: 11).
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord" (Luke 12: 35, 36). There is a wall of worldly separation between most Christians and Christ today which renders impossible watchfulness and prayerfulness. Our Churches are full of men and women living in slothful ease and selfish indulgence, un-watchfully gliding, drifting with the world, careless of the rigid requirements imposed by the Lord upon all accounted worthy to escape the things overtaking the world and to stand before the Son of Man.
"When he shall appear, we shall be like him: ... every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure" (1 John 3: 2, 3). "The imminent return of Christ," avers Dr. Torrey, "is the great Bible argument for a pure, unselfish, devoted, unworldly, active Christian life." According to John, the apostle, everyone who hath this hope of Christ's return, purifies himself. Beloved, the question of great moment is not, Is the Church ready? But are you ready? The Lord is preparing to take His place on the Throne; and to those who will go all the way with Him to His standard of perfection, by watching and praying always, He gives this glorious promise: "To him that overcometh I will grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame, and am sat down with my Father in his throne" (Rev. 3: 21).