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Attitude and Preparation

Delegates to the PRYP’s 1981 Convention,

Beloved Young People and Friends:

 

First of all, we wish to express our deep appreciation for having been chosen to be one of the speakers to this convention. This honor we have enjoyed several times before when we were in the active ministry. But we want you to know that we consider it a great honor to be called for this task out of retirement. That the committee for arrangements asked the oldest living minister to speak was by itself a most inspiring incentive to respond favorably. And when we relate this request to the theme chosen for this convention, the call to speak became all the more inspiring. We remind you that youth is certainly not out of step when it honors its elders.

In the second place, we wish to compliment our young people on your choice of a theme for this convention. It seems to me that you could not have chosen a more appropriate and timely subject. It augers well that our young people living in these last days are concerned with the implications of your theme. In the last years of our active ministry we not only called attention in our preaching to those signs that speak of the nearness of Christ’s coming, but we stressed the proposition that in our view all preaching must have but one objective, namely, to prepare God’s people for the coming of the Lord.

In the third place, from all that has been said by the three previous speakers to this convention, it must have become very evident to you that the signs of Christ’s coming are indeed abundant. I consider it part of the duty of the last speaker to briefly summarize what has been said, and then to draw a final conclusion of the matter. As the first speaker pointed out, there are many signs of Christ’s coming evident today in our world. And, as the second speaker stressed, there are also many important signs in evidence today in the church world. All of which, as the third speaker emphasized, should prevent us from being deceived.

And now in the fourth place, we wish to point out that in spite of all the signs of Christ’s coming, the striking thing is that no one knows the precise hour of the Lord’s coming. It is especially this that the Lord stresses in the last part of Matthew 24, which has served as the Scriptural basis for the theme of this convention. Already in verse 36 the Lord informs us that the Father has reserved the knowledge of the hour of Christ’s coming Himself. In a parallel passage in Mark 13:22, the Lord informs us that even He did not know the hour while He was pointing to the signs of His coming. The text reads: “But of the day and the hour knoweth no man, no, not angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” Without getting into a long doctrinal dissertation respecting the natures of Christ, let me say that we simply conclude from this statement that Christ, according to His human nature, and as He was speaking to His disciples, did not know the precise hour of His return. But notice again in two more places how Christ stresses the ignorance of us to know the hour. In verse 42 He states, “Ye know not the hour your Lord doth come.” And in verse 44 He states, “For in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.”

This, of course, raises the question: Why didn’t the Father inform us precisely as to the exact hour of Christ’s return? Would not our covenant God have done us a great service if He had given us this information? Now it will be the burden of the rest of our speech this evening to show to you the divine wisdom in withholding from us this knowledge, and this will lead us to set forth positively the subject that was assigned to me.

OUR ATTITUDE TOAWRD THESE SIGNS

  1. What that attitude must be.
  2. How the Lord illustrates what that attitude will be.
  3. The blessedness of assuming the proper attitude.

 

  1. What that attitude must be.

The key attitude toward the signs of Christ’s coming as expressed by the Lord is announced in verse 42. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” Watchfulness is the key word. The antonym of watchfulness is: carelessness, heedlessness, inattentiveness, unmindfulness; all of which terms indicate the very opposite attitude of watchfulness. If you are not watchful with respect to the sign of Christ’s coming, you will be careless, indifferent, unmindful of His coming. Watchfulness, on the other hand, implies that you will be wide awake and alerted by the signs, and you will be constantly vigilant and expecting Him. With respect to the signs of Christ’s coming, it means that you will be constantly looking for them. And that implies that you know those signs, and that you are able to detect them when they appear. It implies that you are constantly on the look-out for them. There is not a moment when they are not on your mind and in your thoughts. You are able to detect them as soon as they appear. You are able to associate them with Christ’s coming, and they are as so many soundings of the footsteps of the Saviour as He makes His approach to us.

The second attitude, related now to the actual coming of the Lord, is expressed by the Lord in verse 44. There we read: “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Preparedness follows quite naturally watchfulness, and must be understood as a result of it. If we are not watchful, it follows that we will be wholly unprepared. On the other hand, when we are vigilant we will be constantly preparing ourselves, and therefore ready for His appearance. Preparedness implies first of all that we get ourselves ready for His coming. And when we consider ourselves in terms of householders, stewards, as the Lord speaks of them in our passage, it implies that the household which belongs to the Lord will also be made ready. The housewife who loves her husband, and expects him to return home at any moment, does not greet him at the door wearing a sloppy and grimy dress; nor will she allow him to find her with her hair disheveled, and the house into which he is about to enter looking like a pig’s sty. Nor will we who are seriously watching for our Lord’s return allow ourselves to be found wholly unready for His coming, or the things over which He has placed us in charge to be found by Him in disarray and confusion.

Now it must be pointed out at this juncture that both of these attitudes, namely, of vigilance and preparedness, are stressed by the Lord in the light of the fact that we do not know the day nor the hour of Christ’s return. Notice this in the text. “Be watchful therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” and again, “on account of this be ye also ready, for in an hour when ye think not, the Son of man cometh.” You may be sure, beloved, that if the Lord had revealed to us the hour of His coming, the danger exists that we might be slothful and indifferent. Need I remind you that though we are children of God, we are that in an old nature? And according to that old nature, we do not want the Lord to return. When Christ shall return, our old nature will be destroyed along with the present world that always fans the evil lusts of our nature into a flame. So our corrupt nature does not want Christ to return. You can understand that, Moreover, if God had revealed to us the hour of Christ’s return, you can bank on it, our old nature would take advantage of us and make us to be slothful and indifferent. That is evidently the reason why God has not revealed to us the hour of Christ’s coming; in order that the new man in Christ in us may subdue that old nature, and cause us to be watchful and ready, and to live in the expectation that at any time Christ may return. Now we know, of course, that Christ cannot return at any moment. We are not Premillennial or Dispensationalists, who say that Christ may come at any time. Christ can come only after all the precursory signs of His coming have been fulfilled or realized. Our calling is to be constantly looking for these signs; and it is incumbent upon us that we are always ready. Such are the proper attitudes we are to assume with respect to the signs of Christ’s coming, and with respect to the Parousia itself. But the question arises: will these be the attitudes we will assume? This leads me to my second thought.

 

2. How the Lord illustrates what that attitude will be.

You will observe that in the last part of Matthew 24 the Lord speaks parabolically. The parable begins with verse 43, where the Lord speaks of the good man or master of the household, who will not suffer the house to be invaded by the thief. If he is true to his calling, he will be vigilant and ready to prevent an invasion by the intruder. The parable continues in verses 45 to the end of the chapter, where the Lord speaks of the master of the household whom his Lord has made to be ruler over his household. That master or ruler over the household is further described by the Lord in terms of his being a faithful and prudent servant, and in terms of his being an evil servant. If he is a faithful and prudent servant, he will be diligently providing food for the household, and he will be so doing when his Lord returns to inspect his labors. If, on the other hand, that servant is an evil man, he will conduct himself in the manner the Lord describes in the parable. His evil conduct is motivated by the evil thoughts of his heart, according to-which he imagines that his Lord delays his return, and therefore he begins to smite his fellow servants instead of feeding them, and he begins to eat and drink with the drunken. Such are, briefly speaking, the elements in the parable.

The point of comparison in the parable is the attitude of the householder with respect to the return of his lord, when that householder is a good and faithful servant, and when that householder is an evil servant. If he is a good and faithful servant, he will be performing his duties faithfully until his lord returns. On the other hand, that same servant if he is an evil man, will be conducting himself as the Lord describes him in the parable.

Now it would be a serious error in our opinion to spiritualize the elements in this parable. This is done by some, when they explain the household to be the church, and the servants to be the office-bearers of the church. With this explanation of the parable we find it difficult to agree. Though it is true that the Lord is speaking here to His disciples, there is no suggestion in the entire context that the Lord has in mind the particular calling of these disciples with respect to the church.

Rather, we believe, the point of comparison in the parable is the attitude of every man with respect to the return of Christ. No man, whether he be a disciple of Christ or  not, has a right to ignore Christ’s lordship. Every man, whether he be a child of God or a wicked man, has a calling to serve Christ. Every man, whether he be righteous or wicked, is accountable to Christ, and will give that account when Christ appears. In one word, what the Lord describes in the parable is the attitude of all men with respect to Christ’s

coming with a two-fold description. Either that man will be faithful and prudent, and therefore vigilant and prepared for Christ’s coming; or, that man, occasioned by Christ’s apparent delay, will be eating and drinking with the drunken, inattentive in respect to Christ’s coming, misusing his calling by assuming the position of lordship, and thus smiting his fellow servants. And when the Lord comes that man will be caught with complete surprise. You see, in the end both are confronted by the appearance of Christ. That makes the parable to be most significant.

There is something here of a doctrinal nature and of great significance to us that we wish to call to your attention.

Generally in our view of the covenant idea we are inclined to limit that conception to the generations of the believers and their seed. And that seed in its development is then composed two-fold, in elect and reprobate seed.

However, there is a broader conception, which embraces the world and all men. To understand this, we must keep in mind that when God created the world and man upon it, He established with that man a covenant-friendship relation. Adam was created God’s covenant friend-servant. As such he was mandated by the Lord to cultivate the earth and to care for God’s world.

We know, of course, that man did not remain in his state of rectitude. Through the temptation of the devil and by the act of willful disobedience he rebelled against Jehovah his God, assumed the position of lord in the creation, confiscated as it were God’s creation to himself. All this in opposition to Jehovah. And all his posterity followed him in the rebellion, refusing to serve the living God. So all men stand in the midst of God’s creation with fists raised in rebellion against God, using all the tools of God’s workshop to their own advantage.

This, of course, is not merely accidental, but all this takes place under the decree and all-wise purpose of God, Who from everlasting determined to realize His covenant through the way of sin and grace. Hence, as we are informed in John 3: 16, God, Who love His world, gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him might have eternal life. Those who believe on Him do not do that of themselves; it is given to them of grace. Out of the mass of fallen humanity there are those who were given to Christ in sovereign election. who are redeemed by Christ through His blood, who are regenerated

by Him through the Spirit. They are restored to God’s covenant, are made to be once more His covenant friend-servants. In hope these covenant friend-servants look for Christ to return in His Parousia with the reward of grace, according to which they shall inherit with Christ all the blessings of God’s covenant in the new creation.

All the rest, who have been reprobated by the Father, will develop in the way of their sin to destruction. They deny the lordship of Christ. They deny the efficacy of the cross and the resurrection, as well as the lordship of Christ. They live and act as though Christ shall never return; and when He shall return, they shall be caught with surprise, and shall be cut asunder and their portion shall be with the hypocrites, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is really the significance of the parable.

Everyone is pictured in the roll of steward. God in Christ is Lord over every man. God is the Lord because He is Creator and Sovereign. Christ is the Lord as the reward of merit, and appointed to rule over all. No man has the right to ignore His lordship.

The steward never becomes lord. According to his fallen nature he assumes that prerogative. Nevertheless, man, as he comes from the loins of Adam, is never more than a servant. He must acknowledge that God is the Lord, and that Christ is His vice- Gerand by God’s appointment. In one word, everyone is required to serve God and to give account to Christ for all that God in Christ has entrusted to him.

Now the point in the parable is that apparently the Lord delays His coming, and over against this the steward reacts. He reacts either as a good steward, or, he reacts as an evil steward. Thus the Lord illustrates what the attitude of every man will be with respect to Christ’s parousia.

If he is a good steward, he will be faithful and prudent. He will be conducting his Lord’s business properly; caring for his Lord’s house hold, providing faithfully meat for his Lord’s servants. Whether the Lord tarries or should come suddenly, it makes no difference to him, – always he is ready, and living in anticipation of his Lord’s return.

On the other hand, if the steward is wicked, he will be conducting himself in the manner and according to the attitude described in the parable. He will say in his heart: My Lord delays His coming. He will begin to smite his fellow servants; assuming his Lord’s lordship. He will be eating and drinking with the drunken. And all this he will do until he is caught with surprise by the suddenness of his Lord’s return.

 

3. The Blessedness of Assuming the Proper Attitude.

Of course, if the steward conducts himself evilly, – he must experience the Lord’s wrath.

Such a steward is said by the Lord to be evil in his heart. And that means he is thoroughly corrupt. In his heart are evil thoughts, and from those evil thoughts he produces evil deeds. His thought is: My Lord delays his coming. Therefore, I will give vent to my evil lusts, and put out of my mind entirely my lord’s coming. I will use my Lord’s substance to satisfy my evil lusts. Consequently, he neglects his calling to feed the household as he was required. He beats his fellow servants instead of feeding them. And he uses his Lord’s substance to eat and drink with the drunken. Indeed, this evil servant shall be caught with surprise. Just as the inhabitants of the earth in Noah’s time, and as the citizens of Sodom, who had filled their measure of iniquity. When the Lord of that servant comes in an hour when he is not looking for Him, being unconverted and hypocritical, he does not live in the hope of Christ’s return.

His lot shall be with those who shall suffer the torments of hell. He shall be cut in sunder. He shall be appointed his portion with the hypocrites. His lot shall be with those who weep and gnash their teeth eternally in outer darkness.

But blessed are those servants who are faithful to the end!

These shall not be found idly waiting their Lord’s coming. Nor will they say in their hearts: My Lord delays His coming; therefore I will just sit and wait for Him. Rather, they who are faithful and who will not be found wanting, will be diligently performing their business. They will be fulfilling their vocation in life in obedience to Him, doing with diligence the labors of those vocations God in His providence assigned to each. The king and the president in the government of his country according to the Law of God. The minister of the gospel in the administration of the Word of God. The elder in watching over the church of Christ in the exercise of Christian discipline. The deacon in the administration of Christian mercy. The parent in the provision of his family, and in the instruction of his children in the fear of Jehovah. The child in loving obedience to all in authority over him. The grave digger and garbage men in their humble task to earn their daily bread, in the sweat of his face, and to have something over for the cause of Christ in the world.

These, with respect to the coming of the Lord will be watching for the signs as they will appear. And they will be preparing themselves for the coming of the Lord.

And they shall be accounted blessed by the Lord when He comes. He will pronounce them blessed before all men and angels and devils. They shall experience this blessedness to the full forever. For to be blessed is to be full and to lack no good thing. They shall be satisfied in glory.

Is that your expectation, beloved?

Then you will not be living in fear as you see the signs of Christ’s coming multiply. Rather, you will be living in hope that presently you will see the Lord face to face. And you will be living in the expectation that you will hear from His lips: Come, ye blessed, enter into the kingdom which I have prepared for you. He who has this hope in him shall not be caught by surprise; but he is being changed into Christ’s perfect image, and will be like Him when He appears.

I thank you for your good attention.