Watching and Waiting for Jesus’ Return


Watching and Waiting for Jesus’ Return

July 15th, 1984 @ 8:15 AM

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 14:1-3

7-15-84     8:15 a.m.


Now may we deeply bow our heads before the Lord for our 2 Corinthians 13:5 commitment, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.  Know ye not . . . how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”  And this is our covenant and commitment.  We are going to pray.  We are going to listen to the Word of God.  We are going to ask God to save the lost and to add to His redeemed family.  We are going to search our own souls and ask the Lord to be with us and to bless us.  And we will stay here in prayer and in faith through that blessed soul-saving, Christ-honoring invitation.  And thank You Lord for the wonderful answer in Thy glorious name, amen.

In the providences of our life, this is the last sermon in that section on the second coming of our Lord.  And I pray that it will be a triumphant one.  It is entitled Watching and Waiting for Jesus

I suppose more tears have fallen on the page of the fourteenth chapter of John than any other leaf in all literature:


Let not your heart be troubled … I go to prepare a place for you. And 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.

[John 14:1-3]


“I will come again.”  Jesus is coming again.  First Thessalonians 4:16: “For the Lord Himself,” Jesus Himself, this day:


Jesus shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 

Then we who are alive and remain—

until the coming of the Lord—

shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall all of us…

without loss of one—

so shall all of us be with the Lord.

[1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]


Victory will come in the morning;

Victory will come from on high;

Victory eternal, resplendent;

Jesus will come in the sky.


Clouds of believers will gather;

Loved ones I’ve known will be there,

Leaving their trials behind them,

Meeting the Lord In the air.


Sinners like me will be present,

Saved from sin’s blackness and night,

Filled now with jubilant worship;

Bathed in God’s radiant light.


Brilliant, the rays of that sunrise,

Streaming from Jesus’ dear face,

Filling the skies with His beauty;

Speaking of love and of grace.


Sunrise will come in the morning.

Oh, what a day that will be!

Jesus is coming in glory.

Jesus is coming for me.

[author unknown]

The response of the glorious announcement that the Lord will soon come is for us who have found refuge in Him an infinitely precious and glorious reality.  I realize that the first coming of our Lord will be without announcement.  It will be unexpectedly, it will be surreptitiously, clandestinely, furtively. 

Our Lord said in Matthew 24:36, “Of that day,” when He comes, “knoweth no man, no, not even the angels of heaven, but the Father only.”  But I have thought, if in the providences of God, the Lord should choose to announce that Jesus, coming as a thief [1 Thessalonians 4:2], silently, with sandaled feet, Jesus is coming tomorrow—I have thought the reaction in this world, if the headline of the newspapers and the blaring announcement on the radios and all of the commentaries on television, if they were to announce to the world, “Jesus is coming tomorrow,” what a reaction it would be in this world, as groups gathered, as people spoke to one another, and as the realization came to the hearts of those who were waiting for Him: “Jesus is coming tomorrow!”

I can think of a poor mother, living in poverty and in misery in a hovel, and the announcement is heard by her, “Jesus is coming tomorrow!”  And she lifts up her arms in expectancy and gratitude; “Jesus is coming for me!”

I can think of a lonely girl in a lonely room, betrayed, taken advantage of, thrown away like so much flotsam and jetsam, and she hears the wonderful announcement, and she raises her hands in expectancy: “Jesus is coming tomorrow!”

I can think of a man lying on a bed of affliction, hurting each day, sick unto death, and he hears the glad word, “Jesus is coming tomorrow!”  And he raises his head in the small strength that he has and lifts up his arms in expectancy and gratitude: “Jesus is coming for me.”

I can think of a blind man; I can think of one tortured and crippled, and the announcement is made, “Jesus is coming tomorrow.”  There are no blind, there are no cripples in heaven.  And they lift their arms in gratitude and expectancy: “Tomorrow my eyes will be opened; I’ll be able to see.  Tomorrow I’ll be able to walk; I’ll be whole and strong again.  Jesus is coming tomorrow.”

I can think how it would be with a godly family; they gather their children around them—father, mother, all of the family—and they bow in expectation: “Tomorrow we’ll be with Jesus.” 

I can think of the singles who don’t have any home and don’t have any family.  I can think of their gathering here in the sanctuary of the Lord, in the church, and all of them together lifting up their hands in praise and expectancy: “Jesus is coming tomorrow.”  Oh what a day!  What a day that will be! 

I can also think of what that means to people who are not Christians.  The announcement, “Jesus is coming tomorrow,” in one of these offices, in one of these high-rise buildings here in Dallas; behind a mahogany desk sits a heavy, florid man, and he hears the blaring of the radio, “Jesus is coming tomorrow,” and he looks at his stocks, and at his bonds, and at his deeds, and at his lands, and at his possessions.  “Jesus is coming tomorrow, then what of this?”  All of his life, all the work of his days, counting for nothing, now left behind as trash to be thrown away.

Or I think of these who go to the bars for a pickup, for a prostitute, and the announcement is made on the radio and the television in the drinking place, “Jesus is coming tomorrow.” 

Or I think of these whose lives are filled with worldliness and forgetfulness; “Jesus is coming tomorrow.”  Oh, what a difference that announcement makes in the hearts of humanity!

If Jesus should come in the rise of the morning

When all the world is engrossed in its care,

How many of you, your Master discerning,

Could turn in your accounts and welcome Him here?


Or if He should come at the bright hour of noon day,

With the light far more glorious than that of the sun,

How many eyes could gaze on His glory,

And hearts that could say, “Even so, Let Him come”?


If deep in the night when the third watch is starting,

A cry should go forth, “The Bridegroom is here!”

If upward in rapture the bride were departing,

Could you meet your Lord in the air without fear?

[author unknown]

Jesus is coming again.  Always in the background of Scripture is the imminent return, I-M-M-I-N, is the imminent return of our Lord.  It is the preaching of the apostles, like Simon Peter in Acts 3:19-21; like the apostle Paul again and again; like Apollos, who I think wrote the Book of Hebrews; like the preaching of James; like the preaching of Jude: “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, He cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 14]; like John in the Revelation [Revelation 1:7].  Always in the background of what they preached and what they wrote is the imminent return of the Lord.

Throughout the Old Testament the theme is “Someone is coming.” Throughout the Gospels, “Someone is here.”  And throughout the Epistles and the Revelation is the theme, “Someone is coming again.”  “It may be,” this is our Lord speaking:

It may be in the evening

When the work of the day is done,

And you sit in the twilight

And watch the sinking sun.


While you hear the city children

Passing along the street,

Among those thronging footsteps

May be the sound of My feet.


It may be in the morning

When the sun is bright and strong,

And the dew is glittering sharply

On the neat-trimmed lawn;

. . .

With the long day’s work before you,

When you rise up with the sun,

And the neighbors come to talk awhile

Of all the work to be done:


Remember that I may be next

To come in at the door,

To call you from your busy work

For evermore.

Then the waiting Christian replies:

So, so I am waiting quietly

Every day.
Whenever the sun shines brightly,

I rise and say,
“Surely it is the shining of His face!”
And I look unto the gates of His high place

Beyond the sea,
For I know He is coming shortly

To summon me.

And when a shadow falls across

The window of my room,
Where I am working at my appointed task,
I lift my head to watch the door and ask

If He is come;

And the Angel answers softly

In my home:
“Only a few more shadows,

And He will come.”

[“He Shall Come,” Barbara Miller MacAndrew]

Ever, always, is the admonition of Scripture to be ready, watching and waiting. In Mark 13:34-37:

For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.

Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning:

Lest coming [suddenly] He finds you unprepared.

And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

[Mark 13:34-37]

“When Jesus,” so blind Fanny Crosby wrote:

When Jesus comes to reward His servants,

Whether it be noon or night,

Faithful to Him, will He find you watching,

With your lamps all trimmed and bright?


Oh, can we say we’re ready, brother,

Ready for the soul’s bright day?

Say, will He find you and me still waiting,

Waiting and watching for the Lord, when He comes?

[“Will Jesus Find Us Watching?” by Frances J. Crosby]

Our heavenly assignment, then, is to work while we watch and while we wait.  In Luke 19:11, the Lord tells a story of Himself.  He added and spake a parable because they thought that the kingdom of heaven should immediately appear:

He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 

And he called his ten servants, and delivered unto them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.

[Luke 19:12-13]

Now that word “occupy” is a translation of the Greek word pragmateuomai, pragmateuomai.  [Pragma] is the Greek word for “business” or “occupation.”  And pragmateuomai is the word for “do business, trade, carry through your business assignment,” translated here, “occupy.”

While we wait and while we watch in daily preparation, ready for our Lord’s return, He has given us an assignment.  We are to work; we’re to do business; we’re to carry on for Jesus.  And when you look at the Scriptures, the great incentive, the word is that our Lord is coming.  I never had seen that before until I prayerfully prepared this message.

The great incentive for our working is that the Lord is coming. 

  • In Revelation 22:12, He says, “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” 
  • And in the light of His return, Scripture exhorts us in Matthew 24:42 to be watchful. 
  • In John 14:1-3, to be lifted up in heart.  We’re going to win; we’re not going to lose. 
  • In 1 Corinthians 1:7-10, to be united in the faith with no divisions between us.
  • In 1 Corinthians 4:5, not to judge one another. 
  • In 1 Corinthians 11:26, to observe the Lord’s Supper in the light of His coming. 
  • In Philippians 4:5, to be moderate and kind, “Let your moderation,” epieikes, let your kindness, gentleness, “be known to all men for the Lord is at hand.” 
  • In Philippians 3:20-21, we’re to look forward to a new body because the Lord is coming. 
  • In 1 Thessalonians 2:19, we are to rejoice in one another.
  • In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, to love one another.
  • In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we are to comfort the sorrowing because Jesus is coming. 
  • In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, we’re to be faithful in preaching the Word of God because Jesus is coming.  Let me read that one: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the word—because Jesus is coming.” 
  • In 2 Timothy 4:8, we’re to love His appearing.
  • In Titus 2:12-13, we’re to live godly lives because Jesus is coming.
  • In Hebrews 10:25, we’re to go to church, we’re to assemble ourselves together, because Jesus is coming.  Isn’t that an unusual exhortation?
  • In James 5:7, we’re to be patient because Jesus is coming.
  • In 1 John 2:28, we’re to abide in Christ; Jesus is coming.
  • In 1 John 3:3, we’re to be pure in life because Jesus is coming.
  • And in Revelation 22:7, we’re to be faithful to keep His sayings and the words and the commandments of Jesus because He is quickly coming. 

So while we are watching and while we are waiting and while we are praying, God has given us an assignment to do; each one of us.  And we are to work, pragmateuomai, at our task until Jesus shall come for us. 

Our assignment as a congregation and as a people is spelled out minutely and emphatically, designatedly, statedly in the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20]Matheteuō, we’re to make disciples; we’re to win people to the Lord.  Baptizō, we’re to baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; didaskō, we’re to teach them [Matthew 28:19-20].  We have an assignment to win the lost, to make appeal to the families that they, their children, that they find strength, and refuge, and hope, and salvation in Jesus.  We’re to win them to the Lord; we’re to baptize our converts into the body of Christ, members of the family of God, and we’re to teach them [Matthew 28:19-20].

We have our Sunday school, our Training Union, all of our Bible classes.  We have our academy.  We have our preacher’s school, didaskō, teaching them the wonderful things, the treasures of God, and we are to be faithful, each one of us, in our separate assignments.  And we’re to work in hope and in expectancy and in victory.  We are not going to lose.  There is no work for Jesus that will ever fall to the ground. 

Every kind gesture in His name, every gracious word spoken for Him, everything, however humble that we’ve done for Jesus, is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and it becomes our reward forever [Hebrews 6:10].  And the reward is based upon our faithfulness to Jesus [Revelation 2:10]; not upon our resplendent success, or affirmation and recognition and accolades from the world, but how faithful we have been in our separate places and in our separate assignments.  I try to remember that in my own work [1 Corinthians 4:2]

While I was over there in England, on television I watched Billy Graham in his crusade.  He’s over there now.  I watched Billy Graham.  I ate dinner in a home right next to the great big park, soccer stadium, where he held the glorious meetings in Bristol.  And I looked at the paper yesterday, and there was a picture of Billy Graham in the paper yesterday, and the caption underneath spoke of the fact that he had had already sixty-seven thousand—sixty-seven thousand, sixty-seven thousand—converts in Britain already. 

And as I looked at the picture of Billy Graham and as I read the caption, I remembered some time ago I held a revival meeting in England and had never had a convert; not one.  Only meeting I’ve ever held in my life—I held it in England—never had a convert.  Billy Graham, over there with sixty-seven thousand already, and I hold a meeting over there and never had one; not one.

Last Sunday night Paul Yonggi Cho was speaking here in this pulpit.  I visited with him for hours.  Every year, every year, he is baptizing over one hundred thousand souls that they won to Jesus; one hundred thousand souls.  We here in our church, with all of our twenty-two chapels, we baptize hardly thirteen hundred.  And his one church there baptizes over one hundred thousand. 

My sweet friend, no matter who you are, you can compare yourself to somebody else and say, “I think I’m a failure.  I don’t think God even knows that I’m living or that He knows my name or what I’m trying to do.”  I don’t care who you are; you can compare yourself to somebody else and come to a despair in your work. 

Isn’t it a glorious and marvelous thing?  As I read in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew, when the Lord gave the differing talents to His people, to His servants [Matthew 25:14-23], when they came back with a report of their work, He uses the same identical word of appreciation and commendation to each one of them, even though they greatly differed in their assignments, in their talents, and in their work.  To this man who had been the most gifted and all, He said, “Well done good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.  You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things” [Matthew 25:20-21].  And He said the same, identical word; you read it.  He said the same, identical word to that man who had just two talents [Matthew 25:22-23].  He said the same word of love, and appreciation, and commendation, and reward to the man who did just little, according to his ability, as to this man who did much, according to his ability.  In God’s sight, we’re no some of us big and no some of us little; some of us account for something great and some of us count for nothing, not in God’s sight.  It is all our love and faithfulness where we are in the assignment God has given us, however humble and however unobtrusive and unknown [1 Corinthians 4:2; Revelation2:10, 22:12]

This particularly was impressed on my heart in a poem that I read.  The reason I noticed it so much: for the first years of my beginning pastoral work I was in the country with cotton farmers, cotton farmers.  I was not married, and I lived with those dear people, godly people, saintly people, people who lived next to the dirt and the soil and looked to heaven for rain and sunshine.  It was in the days of the Depression, and I’d watch them; sometimes walked up and down in the fields with them.  They worked hard, hard, hard, picking cotton, picking cotton, backbreaking, pulling that long sack and gathering those bolls of cotton, one by one, putting them in the sack and taking it to the market and sell it for five cents a pound, five cents a pound.  They labored so hard for nothing, and that’s why the poem meant so much to me.

There’s a King and Captain high

Who’ll be coming by and by,

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton

When He comes.


You will hear His legions charging

In the thunders of the sky,

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton

When He comes.


When He comes, when He comes

All the dead will rise in answer to His drums,

While the fires of His encampment

Star the firmament on high,

And the heavens are rolled asunder

When He comes.


There’s a Man they thrust aside

Who was tortured till He died,

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton

When He comes.


He was hated and rejected,

He was scourged and crucified,

And He’ll find me hoeing cotton

When He comes.


When He comes, when He comes,

He’ll be reined with saints and angels

When He comes.

They’ll be shouting loud Hosannas

To the Man that men denied,

And I’ll kneel among my cotton

When He comes.


When He comes, when He comes

He’ll be reined with saints and angels

When He comes,

And they will shout out loud Hosannas

To the Man they crucified,

And I’ll kneel among my cotton

When He comes.

[fromWhen He Comes,” by French E. Oliver in 1921]

And my task with my assignment, the best faithful I can be; they find me at my appointed station, hoeing cotton, doing my work when He comes.

Our Lord, we pray for all of us—not personally ambitious, not striving in vainglory, not full of ourselves, not egotistically lifted up, not striving for advancement or recognition, but wherever God hath sent us and whatever assignment He has given us—that we be faithful [Revelation 2:10], and we’ll depend on God for the reward.  We’ll leave that in the Lord’s hands. 

And when time comes for that one to be chosen to be seated on the right hand of our Lord and the left hand of our Lord, it may surprise us.  These so-called world great ones may be forgotten in preference to a sweet, humble mother or a precious, humble Sunday school teacher who took care of little children. 

O Lord, that in any station or place to which God hath called us, may He find us faithful, hoeing cotton when He comes; doing our work when He comes; watching and waiting, but working till He comes [Luke 19:11-13; Revelation 22:12]

Now, our Lord, bless now this appeal.  May somebody be saved; may somebody give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10]; may somebody come into the fellowship of our dear church; may somebody reconsecrate his life to Jesus.  Give us a gracious reward, Lord.  In Thy wonderful and saving name, amen. 

Now in a moment we’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, today I’ve decided for God [Romans 10:9-10].  The Lord spoke to my heart and here I am.  I’m coming,” a family, a couple, or just one somebody you, while we stand and while we sing.