The Presence of the Lord
January 19th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-19-75 8:15 a.m.
On the radio we welcome you to the services of our First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor preaching on the parousia. That is the word the inspired apostle uses, parousia, The Presence of the Lord, usually translated, “the coming of the Lord.” This will be the last message from the general, the Catholic Epistles. It closes a very long series. James 5 verses 7-9:
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the parousia—
the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman—
Spell that out in English letters, and it is George; if a man is named George, he is named farmer, husbandman:
Behold, the farmer 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.
Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth before the door.
In that three verses, all three times does he speak of our waiting patiently for the Lord: verse 7, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord” [James 5:7]; verse 8, “Be also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” [James 5:8]; and the ninth verse, “Lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth at the door” [James 5:9].
In my reading, I read a book by a learned professor, and the book concerned the Revelation. The thesis of the professor concerning the book is this, that it is not a book of prophecy; “For,” he says, “how would a book that foretells events long, long years hence be of any comfort to the persecuted Christians of the Roman Empire who were suffering under the iron heel of Caesar?” So he says that all of those prophecies and promises in the Book of the Revelation would have no comfort to those who were suffering. Therefore, it is not a book of prophecy, does not foretell things, but it has to find its meaning in something that would comfort those Christians who were suffering at that time.
I wonder what the professor would think about my text. The pastor of the church in Jerusalem, James, the Lord’s brother [Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3], is pleading with his people, his congregation, for patient waiting in view of the coming of the Lord [James 5:7]. Now it has been two thousand years almost and the Lord is not here yet. Yet, the pastor of the church, this inspired James, is pleading with his people for patient yieldedness on the basis of the coming of the Lord.
This is not different or peculiar or unique from all the other things in the Bible. On the basis of the imminency, ‘imm,’ the imminency of the return of the blessed Jesus, we are exhorted to, and then there is a multitude of things; to love the brethren, to bow before God in expectancy, to be true to the faith [James 5:7-9]. All of us, in every generation, are to live in the promise of the coming of Christ. To us it may be long, but not to God, to Him a thousand years is as a day [2 Peter 3:8]. In that event our Lord has been gone but two days, maybe the third day He will return; therefore, all of our life, all of it, is to be encouraged and strengthened and lived in the presence of the Lord. He is coming soon, so the apostle James writes, “Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” [James 5:8].
Now, I want to look at that word patient. When he speaks of, “we be patient,” there is a turn to that appeal that is very pertinent to us. For example, in the fourth chapter of Philippians and the fifth verse, Paul will write, “Let your epieikes be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand [Philippians 4:5]. Jesus is coming soon.” What is that epieikes? In my King James Version it is translated “moderation” [Philippians 4:5] Let me take the word and using two English words just translate it exactly. “Let your yielded, gentle, surrenderedness be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand,” which is another way of using the word patient waiting. Yielded, gentle surrenderedness; that is the Christian spirit, and the Christian faith, and the Christian life, bowing humbly in the presence of the Lord, living our lives in yielded surrender to God, waiting for the coming of the great King [James 5:7-9].
I came across, in my studying, an unusual thing. Some devout Christian wrote a parody on William Henley’s “Invictus.” Invictus is a Latin word meaning, “unconquerable,” “invincible.” Now, I am going to read the “Invictus” first, then the parody that is written upon it.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but not bowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
[“Invictus,” William Ernest Henley, 1875]
There is not a schoolboy but that has studied that in his English American Literature. Now the parody, the Christian spirit:
Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be
For Christ—the Conqueror of my soul.
Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under that rule which men call chance,
My head with joy is humbly bowed.
Beyond this place of sin and tears,
That life with Him and His the Aid,
That, spite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and shall keep me unafraid.
I have no fear though strait the gate;
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate!
Christ is the Captain of my Soul.
[“Conquered by Christ,” Dorothea Day]
This is the spirit of the Christian who lives his life in gentle yieldedness and quiet surrenderedness before the Lord; “For,” says the apostle Paul, “the Lord is at hand” [Philippians 4:5]. And James, the pastor of the church, also called an apostle, reverberates and reflects the same beautiful refrain: “Be patient therefore, brethren: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” [James 5:8]. And he uses an illustration in the inspired text. “Look,” he says, “behold, the husbandman, the farmer, waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receives the early, the early and latter rain” [James 5:7].
The farmer takes the golden grain and plants it in the earth. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? I saw a picture where the United States had sent grain for the famine stricken in India, and the picture showed the hungry hordes of people tearing apart the bins and taking the grain to feed their starving mouths. I could understand it, but also know that the famine and the starvation will be aggravated because the seed has been eaten; there is nothing to plant in the ground.
The farmer takes the golden grain and sows it into the earth. Then, he looks to heaven and asks God to speak to the clouds that they distill rain, and God, that He speaks to the seed that it quicken and germinate. Then he waits for the harvest; he tills the soil; he plants the seed; he cultivates the crop, and he waits in expectancy for the harvest. Our lives are to be lived like that, with our faces lifted upward—our redemption draweth nigh [Luke 21:28]—in hope, in expectancy, and between now and the coming of the Lord, our work of yielded surrenderedness to Jesus, getting ready for the great and final day.
In those times when there was slavery in America, the master died and someone was talking to the old slave and asked him, “Did your master go to heaven?” And the old slave replied, “No, sir. No, sir. Whenever my master made a journey he always prepared for it. He packed his clothes, and he outlined his trip, and he prepared for the journey. He never prepared for this one. He never said anything about heaven. He never mentioned it. He didn’t get ready for it, and my master didn’t go to heaven.”
This is the way the Christian is to live, in expectancy, in hope, in promise [James 5:7-9]; like a farmer waits for the rain, and the seed to grow, to sprout, to germinate, and the harvest finally to come. We are to work, and we are to live in the imminency, the soon return, of our Lord [James 5:8].
One other thing, he says, “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be kata krithēte: for the kritēs comes soon. Lest ye be judged, kata, down, because the Judge is standing at the door,” just right there, just there [James 5:9].
There are several judgments in the Bible. There is a judgment upon sin at Mt. Calvary, 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” We are not going to be judged whether we are lost or saved at some future date. That judgment is already now; it is done! As John 3:18 says, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, now, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” We are not going to be judged as to whether we are lost or saved, that judgment is now. Our sins were paid for on the tree [1 Peter 2:24] and we are to accept that sacrifice of our Lord [Hebrews 5:1-10], and I am either saved or lost now, according to whether I accept the grace and pardon of God now [1 John 4:14-15]. That is the first judgment.
Another judgment in the Bible is the judgment of the Gentile nations in Matthew 25, when all of the Gentile nations are gathered before the Lord Christ as He sits upon His throne of glory [Matthew 25:31-46].
Another judgment is the judgment upon Israel, delineated in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, when Israel is in the land, and God judges them before they enter into the millennium [Ezekiel 20:33-38].
Another judgment is the judgment of the wicked dead, their works at the great white throne [Revelation 20:11-15]. That is in the twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse.
There is also another judgment. All of us shall stand; all of us shall stand one day at the judgment seat of Christ. In the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter, Paul says, “For all of us who are Christians shall stand at the judgment seat of Christ; to give an account for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be bad” [2 Corinthians 5:10]. This is our judgment of rewards: how have I done? How have I worked? How have I striven and tried? How have I served? What have I done for Jesus? This is the great judgment of the Christian, when the church, when His people are raptured away, when the dead are raised and all of us are translated, immortalized in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1Thessalonians 4:14-17]. We shall all be caught up, and we shall stand in the presence of our great Christ and Savior who shall judge us and give us the reward of our works [2 Corinthians 5:10].
Why isn’t that reward? Why isn’t that judgment when we die? Because a man doesn’t die when he dies; he lives on. His influence continues on, and God shall unravel the scheme of the influence of the man’s life through the years and the years. And when God sums it up, it will be his reward at the end of the consummation of the age. So, he says, do good, serve; “Behold, the Judge standeth at the door” [James 5:9]; just right there, just right there, just right there!
You know, sometimes when I am seated here and listening to men who stand in the pulpit, I think lots of things. Lots of things go through my heart and mind as they stand here to speak. Here is an instance of last Sunday. Last Sunday morning, at both morning services, Mr. Pat Zondervan stood here and made appeal in behalf of the Gideons to buy Bibles to spread over the earth. And one of the Bibles that he held up was a little white New Testament about that big. And as he held it up, he said, “One of the things the Gideons do is to give to all of the nurses in our hospitals a little white New Testament like that.
Then he illustrated its blessedness; he said, “There was a nurse who had one of these little, white Gideon New Testaments in her pocket. And there was a very lost and unbelieving Christ-rejecting man who was ill in the hospital. And seeing the outline of that little Testament in her pocket, he thought it was a package of cigarettes. So he said to the nurse, ‘What brand do you use?’ She reached in her pocket, Mr. Zondervan said, and held up the little white New Testament before his eyes and said, ‘It is not a package of cigarettes; it is the Word of God. Could I read of it to you?’ He acquiesced and she read to him out of the little, white New Testament. And as she read to him, and then again as she read, and then again still as she read, conviction entered the man’s heart. He confessed his sins before God. He asked Jesus to come into his soul, and he was saved; he was wonderfully saved.”
Then Mr. Zondervan said, “Upon a day the nurse somehow felt impelled in her heart to go to the bedside of the man. She went into the room, and just as she entered into the room the man sat up, and, as though he were looking at someone standing at the foot of the bed, he reached out his arms like that and said, ‘My Lord and my God,’ and fell back, translated to heaven.”
Mr. Zondervan told the story to illustrate how God blesses the little white Book, the Word of the Lord, in saving souls. And when he told the story, I just felt so glad, and rejoiced. I thanked God that such a thing could be, that it happened, that God used His Word for the saving of a wicked man. But you know, I could not help but think something else. In my rejoicing that he is saved, that he is with Jesus in heaven, that that lost man found life and the Lord, I could not help but also think he goes empty handed. His life is wasted. The years that he lived are all lost. He is saved, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “as if by fire,” just by the skin of his teeth. But there is no reward; the life is wasted and gone, and he brings just a shell to Jesus.
Oh! How infinitely better it is, not only to offer up soul to Christ that we be saved, but to offer a life to Christ that we might be blessed. The Lord said, “Wist ye not, knew ye not, know ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” [Luke 2:49]. When did He say that? On the cross? No! In His Galilean ministry? No! In His Judean and Perean ministry? No! In the strength of His manhood? No! When did He say that? “Wist ye not I must be about My Father’s business” [Luke 2:49]. He said that when He was a boy, twelve years old [Luke 2:42].
Not only dedicating a soul to Christ, “Lord, save me from the fires of perdition, Lord, have mercy upon my soul”; but also, “Lord, I dedicate to Thee my life, bless my years, however many they may be, bless my days, however God shall multiply them to me, Lord, make my life a blessing, for the Judge standeth at the door [James 5:9]. And if I have done somewhat for Jesus, it may be that He will write it in His book, and it could be my reward and my crown in glory” [2 Corinthians 5:10].
Ah, how infinitely better it is to give to God your life as well as your soul! To do it early in life, in childhood and through all the years, live as unto the Lord. “God bless my days, bless my hands, bless my children, bless the work I seek to do; Master, make me a blessing.” This is the preciousness of loving Jesus and living for the glory of His wonderful name.
Our time is spent. We tarry now just for a moment for you, to give your heart to Jesus, to give your life to Him, to come into the fellowship of His church, to join hands with us who pray in His name, who sing His praises, who worship here together, as the Spirit of holiness shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up singing, you stand up coming; “Here I am, pastor. Here I come,” while we stand and while we sing.
COMING OF THE LORD
I. Appeal for patient waiting
on Revelation – there is no prophecy in the book
States it would be meaningless, of no comfort to the suffering Christians if it
was a thousand years from them
in James exhorts his people to be patient unto the coming of the Lord
1. It has been 2,000
2. To us it may be a
long time, but not to Him (Psalm 90:4)
1. William Henley’s Invictus
2. Christian parody of Invictus
husbandman in patient waiting(James 5:7)
1. Planting the seed
Picture of starving in India consuming the seed
2. Looking up to
3. Patient waiting for
4. Praying, working in
II. The day of Christian judgment(James 5:9)
Upon sin, at the cross(John 3:18)
the Gentile nations(Matthew 25:31-46)
Upon Israel(Ezekiel 20:33-38)
Upon the lost, their reward for their work (Revelation
– rewarded(1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians
4:15-17, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 22:12)
Zondervan’s story of nurse with New Testament
Tragedy to spend influence and life serving mammon and bring just a shell,
chaff to the Lord
a. Poem, “Must I go,
How much better to bring Jesus a life and soul(Luke