Waiting and Watching for Jesus’ Return
July 15th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
WAITING AND WATCHING FOR JESUS’ RETURN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-15-84 10:50 a.m.
The sermon today is the last in the series on the second coming of Christ. There are two great parts and appeals in the message: one, that we be ready when He comes; and the other, that we work while we watch and wait. I would suppose that more tears have fallen on the page of the fourteenth chapter of John than upon any other leaf in human literature. Our Lord said to His sorrowing disciples—when He announced that He was going away, He said:
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 you may be also.
Jesus is coming again! “If I go away,” and He did, “I will come again.” And in 1 Thessalonians 4:16:
For the Lord Himself—
Jesus Himself, this same Jesus—
shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain unto 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 be together 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 life’s trials behind them.
Meeting the Lord In the air.
Sinners like me will be present,
Saved from sin’s blackness and night.
Fill 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 grace.
Sunrise will come in the morning.
Oh, what a day that will be!
Jesus is coming in glory.
Jesus is coming for me.
I have often thought, if the Lord God in heaven were to announce Jesus is coming tomorrow, what kind of a response would it find in the earth? In Matthew 24:36, our Lord Jesus said, “No one knows that day or that hour,” no man, nor even the angels of heaven, “but only God the Father.” But if in His elective purpose and choice, God were to announce that like a thief, softly, furtively, clandestinely, with sandaled feet, Jesus is coming tomorrow; what if it were headlined in every newspaper of the earth? What if it were emblazoned in every radio announcement? And what if it were spoken of on every televised program: “Jesus is coming tomorrow”? What kind of a response would it make in the earth?
As I think of that, I can think of a poor, miserable, poverty-stricken mother living in a hovel on the edge of the town. And when she hears the news: “Jesus is coming tomorrow”—she lifts up her hands in gratitude, and worship, and praise, and expectancy: “Lord Jesus, come, come, come.”
I can think of a lonely girl in a lonely room; betrayed, taken advantage of and cast aside like a sorry rag, a piece of flotsam and jetsam, and she hears the wonderful announcement, and she raises her hands in praise and expectancy: “O Lord Jesus, come.”
I can think of a stricken man on a bed of sickness and invalidism and pain, and his days are wearisome, and the nights are long and burdensome, and he hears the wonderful announcement: “Jesus is coming tomorrow.” And I can see him lift his feeble head and his weakened hands, and looking up, cries: “Come, Lord Jesus, blessed Jesus.”
I can think of a man blind or one that is stricken and crippled—and there are no blind in heaven, and there are no crippled in glory—and they hear the wonderful announcement: “Jesus is coming tomorrow,” and they lift up their hands in expectancy and victory: “Tomorrow, I’ll be able to see. And tomorrow, I’ll be able to walk. God’s name be praised. Jesus is coming tomorrow!”
I can think of a godly family, and when they hear the glad refrain, the father gathers the children, and with the mother, they lift up their hearts, and lift up their eyes, and lift up their heads: “Jesus is coming tomorrow! And we’re here to welcome You, blessed Savior.”
I can think of the singles who have no home and no family. And I can imagine well their gathering here in the sanctuary and in the church. And when the announcement is made, “He is on His way, He is coming,” they lift up their hearts and their hands in welcome to Jesus who is coming again.
On the other hand, the tragedy of the reception of that most glorious announcement in the hearts of those who are not ready—I can think of a big corporate executive in one of these offices in a high-rise building in Dallas, and he hears the announcement over the radio, and he sees it on television: “Jesus is coming tomorrow.” And sitting beside his mahogany desk, that heavy, florid man looks at his stocks and his deeds and his bonds, and he thinks of his wealth. To him, he’s lost all to which he’s given his life. Jesus is coming tomorrow!
Or I think of a bar, dark, ill-lit, ill-savored, where they’ve gone to drink and to pick up a prostitute, and the announcement is made on the television screen and on the radio: “Jesus is coming tomorrow.” What a dread! What a horror! What an ill-fated fortune!
Or I can think of these who have given their lives to worldliness, and all of their hopes are in these days and in this place and in these hours. What an unhappy, unwelcome word from heaven: “Jesus is coming tomorrow.”
If Jesus should come in the rise of the morning
When all of 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 have eyes that 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 was departing,
Could you meet your Lord in the air without fear?
Jesus is coming again!
Always in the background of Scripture is the imminent, i-m-m-i-n, always in the background of Scriptures is the imminent return of our Lord. It is universal. When Peter preached his sermon in Acts, chapter 3, he spoke of the coming of the Lord:
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence—
from the parousia, from the coming—
of the Lord; And He shall send Christ Jesus, who was preached unto you; Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets from the beginning of the world.
In the background of every message is the Word, the imminency of the coming of our Lord. It is in the preaching of Paul: “This I say, brethren, the time is short” [1 Corinthians 7:29]. Then, He closes: Maranatha, “Jesus, the Lord, is coming” [1 Corinthians 16:22], an Aramaic word, maranatha. Apollos, who I think wrote the Book of Hebrews—Hebrews 9:27:
As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear away the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time apart from sin unto salvation.
Always, in the background of the preaching of the men of God, is that theme: Jesus is coming again. It is in the preaching of James in the fifth chapter, “Stablish your hearts: the coming of the Lord draweth nigh” [James 5:8]. It’s in the preaching of Jude, Jude, verse 14, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” [Jude 1:14]. And it is the theme and the text of the Apocalypse, the Revelation that closes the Bible; the text of Revelation is Revelation 1:7:
Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who crucified Him, who pierced Him; and all the families and tribes of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.
The theme of the Old Testament is: “Somebody is coming.” The theme of the four Gospels is: “Somebody is here.” And the theme of the Epistles and of the Apocalypse is, “Somebody is coming again.” Jesus is coming again, listen to the word of our Lord as in the poem, He speaks:
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.
When 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 that must be done.
Remember that I may be next
To come in at the door
To call you from your busy work
Then the Christian heart replies,
So I am watching quietly
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 my appointed task,
I lift my head to watch the door and I ask
If He is come;
And the Angel answers softly
In my home:
“Only a few more shadows,
And He will come.”
[“Coming,” Barbara Miller Macandrew,1867]
Always and ever, the admonition of Scripture is that we be ready, and watching, and waiting. The Lord said, recorded in the apocalyptic discourse of Mark, chapter 13—He said:
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 find you unprepared.
And what I say unto you I say unto all: Watch.
When Jesus comes, said—wrote, blind Fanny Crosby:
When Jesus comes to reward His servants,
Whether it be noon or night,
Faithful to Him, will He find us watching,
With our lamps all trimmed and bright?
Oh can we say we’re ready, brother?
Ready for the soul’s bright home?
Say, will He find you and me still watching,
Waiting, watching, when the Lord shall come?
[“Will Jesus Find Us Watching?” Frances J. Crosby]
Now, the second part of the sermon: we are to be ready, waiting, watching for our Lord. Our heavenly assignment, while we wait and while we watch, is to work.
In Luke, chapter 19, our Lord said—He spake a parable because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear [Luke 19:11]:
Jesus 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—
and the King James Version is—
Occupy till I come.
Occupy till I come.
Now why in the world they wanted to translate it “occupy,” I don’t know.
Pragmateia—pragmateia means “a business,” an occupation, what a man does for a living. And the verbal form of it is pragmateuomai: “to transact business, to trade, to give yourself to your occupation.” Our word pragmatic, pragmatic, comes from it, having to do with our work here in this world. He goes away and He is coming back; and while He is away, He gives these gifts, these talents, these abilities, these assignments to His people. And He says, pragmateuomai, “Do business, work until I come” [Luke 19:12-13].
Our great incentive, according to the Word of God, is our working in His name and in His presence because He is coming again. That’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve found in the Bible, and I never saw it until I prayerfully prepared this message. Back of everything we do, the incentive, the encouragement is work because 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 the return of Jesus—He is coming again—in the light of the return of our Lord, we are exhorted in Matthew 24:42 “to watch, to wait,” to be ready.
- In John 14:1-3, we are exhorted to lift up our hearts. We are going to win—no matter how dark the time, or how impossible seems our assignment, or how defeated we are in our work, lift up your hearts. We are going to win! We will not fail.
- In 1 Corinthians 1:7, 10, we are exhorted to be united in the faith with no divisions between us because Jesus is coming again.
- In 1 Corinthians 4:5, we are exhorted not to judge one another because Jesus is coming again.
- In 1 Corinthians 11:26, we are told to observe the Lord’s Supper because Jesus is coming again. We’re to observe it until He comes back.
- In Philippians 4:5, we’re exhorted to be moderate, to be kind, because Jesus is coming again. That’s an unusual thing. Let your epieikes, translated, in the King James Version, “moderation,” the word means gentleness, kindness, mildness, graciousness, “let it be known to all men, for the Lord is at hand.”
- In Philippians 3:20-21, we are told to look forward to our new body because Jesus is coming again:
For our politeuma, our citizenship is in heaven; from whence we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus:
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.
We’re going to have a new body, one in which we don’t grow old. Jesus is coming again.
- In 1 Thessalonians 2:19, we are to rejoice in one another because Jesus is coming. It’s the strangest thing: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” We’re to rejoice in each other because Jesus is coming.
- In 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, we’re to love one another because Jesus is coming.
- In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 18, we are to comfort the sorrowing in death because Jesus is coming.
- In 2 Timothy 4:1-2, we’re to be faithful in preaching the Word because Jesus is coming. You remember the passage? “I charge thee,” talking to young Timothy, Paul writes, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His coming and His kingdom; Preach the word.” Jesus is coming.
- In 2 Timothy 4:8, we are told to love His appearing.
- And 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. That’s the beatenest thing
you could read, we’re to go to church because Jesus is coming. Let me read it: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”
When Jesus comes, we’re to go to church.
- James 5:7: we are to be patient, because Jesus is coming.
- In 1 John 2:28, we are to abide in Christ because He is coming.
- In 1 John 3:3, we are to be pure in our lives because Jesus is coming.
- And in Revelation 22:7, we are to be faithful to keep the sayings of our Lord because He is soon coming. The whole fabric of the revelation of God is left to us because Jesus is coming, Jesus is coming.
So while we are waiting and watching, we are to work for our dear Lord.
Our assignment, as a church, is spelled out statedly, emphatically, clearly, plainly, imperatively in the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20]. Matheteuō: we are to win the people to Jesus. We are to make disciples, converts of the people. Baptizō, we are to baptize them into the family of God, into the body of Christ. Didaskō, we are to teach them the things the Lord hath taught us to keep. “Go ye therefore, and make disciples, matheteuō, of all the people, baptizō, baptizing them in the name of the triune God, didaskō, teaching them all the things that I have given you to keep [Matthew 28:19-20]. And what a glorious sharing, not assigned to angels, but assigned to us, poor, mortal, feeble creatures made of the dust of the ground. We are His fellow workman, joining with our Lord in the building of the kingdom of God. What a blessed, blessed assignment!
Here we are, fast at our task until Jesus comes—while we wait, winning people to the Lord, and didaskō teaching them in our Sunday school, Training Union, Bible classes, in our First Baptist Academy, in our school for the preachers, teaching them the way and will and Word of the Lord.
And one other glorious thing, when we do God’s work, and when we accept His assignment, and when we strive to carry out His will for us, we are to do it in hope and in expectancy: God is with us, the victory is ours, and whatever our assignment, it is great in His sight. No word for Jesus, no kind gesture in His name, no humble ministry of the Lord is ever lost; it never falls into the dust of the ground—God writes it with a pen of diamond, indelibly in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and it becomes our reward forever and ever and ever [Revelation 21:27].
The humblest ministry, God sees it, takes note of it, writes it in His book, and it’s our reward in that beautiful world that is yet to come. And I think, “Lord, Lord, could it be that God cares anything about what I do? And could it be that God notices what I do? Lord, Lord, the lack of gift, and the lack of ableness, and the lack of talent, and the assignment that I have is so small.” There is nobody, there is no one but who can compare himself to somebody else and feel, “I am worthless in the kingdom, I can’t do anything like he can.”
We were in England a few days ago, and as you know, Billy Graham is there. I watched him on television, and I looked at the unbelievable response that he had speaking to those English people. We ate dinner in a home that the back of their yard was next to the great soccer field, and the front of the yard faced a park on the other side; he not only filled that soccer field, the whole stadium, the whole field, but they were thousands of them there in the park on the other side, looking at a screen.
And I saw a picture of Billy Graham yesterday, in yesterday’s paper, and the caption underneath his picture said, “There thus far have been 67,000, 67,000 who have given their hearts to Christ under the ministry of Billy Graham. And as I looked at that, I remembered sometime ago when I held a revival meeting in England, and I never had a convert, not one, the only meeting I’ve ever held in my life where nobody was saved, nobody responded. For a whole week, nobody! And I looked at the picture of Billy Graham; 67,000 have found the Lord. Nobody responded to a week, a solid week of my appealing.
Last Sunday night in this very pulpit, stood Pastor Paul Cho of Seoul Korea. He baptizes by immersion, he baptizes more than 100,000 every year! One hundred thousand every year! With our twenty-two chapels and all of us in this church, we baptize barely 1,300 in a year, and this man baptizes 100,000!
No matter who we are, we can compare ourselves to somebody else, and come to the conclusion, “I don’t know of anybody more worthless than I, more full of inability and unableness and unsuccess than I. My assignment is so small, and my abilities are so limited, and my work is so circumscribed.”
Then as I thought on these things, I read of my Lord in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 25:14-46]. There He gives talents to His servants. And to this servant He gave many talents, and to this servant He gave a few, gave two, to another one, just one [Matthew 25:15]. And for the first time in my life, I don’t know why I never saw it before, for the first time in my life; our Lord says the exact words of love and appreciation and commendation to the man who had two talents as He did to the man who had many talents. Just the same! He said to this man with many talents, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” [Matthew 25:21]. That’s what he said to the man with many talents. And it sounds glorious. You look at it. He said the exact and identical thing to the man with two talents, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, two things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” [Matthew 25:23]. I may not be able to do anything but to sweep out the floor of God’s house or to be a doorkeeper standing at the door of God’s house. I may be very limited, but if I am faithful, I am in God’s sight as though I were the greatest archangel in the world. Just the same. Just the same. Just the same.
As many of you know, for years when I began as a minister of the gospel, I was a country preacher. I was single and I lived with the people. I got to know them so intimately, and to me, beautifully and dearly. They were cotton farmers, and it was amidst of the depression. They worked so long and so hard. I’ve even walked up and down with them in the field as I talked to them. Dragging that heavy sack with their back bent to the ground, pulling those bolls of cotton, one at a time, one at a time, and when they took it to the market, they were paid five cents a pound for their cotton. That’s why this poem found a repercussion in my heart, those dear, dear people, struggling, striving, and working.
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 reigned with saints and angels when He comes.
They’ll be shouting Hallelujahs, Hosannas to the Man they crucified,
And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes.
When He comes!
When He comes!
He’ll be reigned with saints and angels when He comes.
And they will shout with loud Hosannas to the Man they crucified.
and I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes!
[from When He Comes, French E. Oliver, 1921]
I’ll be at my task. I’ll be working for the Lord in whatever assignment He has given to me; I’ll be hoeing cotton when He comes.
O Lord, dear God, help us to be like that; in self-effacement and self-denial, working with just one ultimate love and hope, that we might please the Lord Jesus—not depending upon the accolades and the praise of men, but looking to God for our ultimate reward. And whatever assignment the Lord gives to us, teaching little children, speaking a good word for Jesus, coming faithfully to church, praying for those in the ministry, working in a Vacation Bible School, bringing a glass of water to a thirsty child, giving a poor man a piece of bread, Lord, whatever our assignment in life, may God find us hoeing cotton when He comes. “And I’ll kneel among my cotton when He comes, I’ll be at my place, I’ll be at my task.” O Lord, what a heaven would await our Savior in the hearts of His people, if we were just like that, working, loving, serving, following our wonderful Lord.
And precious Savior, in this moment, when we wait before Thee, give us souls; somebody to accept Jesus as Savior, somebody to come into the family of God, somebody to say, “Today, I’m answering God’s call for my heart and life.” Please Lord; honor Thy word with a gracious response, and we’ll love Thee for the harvest, in Thy dear and saving name, amen.
And while we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you to put your life with us in our church, “Pastor this is my wife and these are my children. We all are coming today.” A thousand times welcome. A couple you, you and your wife, you and your friend, or just one somebody you, “The Lord has spoken to me today, and I’m answering with my life.” Some to renew their vows for the Lord, “In His grace and strength, I’m going to start anew with Jesus.” As God shall make the appeal, in the balcony round, down a stairway, in the press of people on this lower floor, down an aisle, “Here I am pastor, I’m on the way.” May angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
AND WAITING FOR JESUS’ RETURN
I. What if we knew He was coming
A. Rapturous gladness
B. Dread, fear, terror
II. Anytime He may come
Theme of the Old Testament is “Somebody is coming”
Theme of the Gospels is “Somebody is here”
Theme of the Epistles and Apocalypse is “Somebody is coming again”
are to be ready and watch (Mark 12:34-37)
III. Our heavenly assignment while we wait
A. Our great incentive
to work (Luke 19:12-13, Revelation 22:12)
light of His returnâ€¦ (Matthew 24:42, John 14:1-3,
1 Corinthians 1:7-10, 4:5, 11:26, Philippians 4:5, 3:20-21, 1 Thessalonians
2:19, 3:12-13, 4:13-18, 2 Timothy 4:1-2, 8, Titus 2:12-13, Hebrews 10:25, James
5:7, 1 John 2:28, 3:3, Revelation 22:7)
assignment as a church spelled out in Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20)
We are to work with expectancy and hope (Matthew
Poem, “When He Comes”