For whom are you living? There are only two possibilities. Either you are living for Christ and the Kingdom of Cod to be realized in the new creation when Jesus returns, or you are living for self and the Kingdom of Anti-Christ which is rapidly developing in our world today. The answer we give to this question will determine our life-style; what we do and how we do it, our vocations, marriages, family life, recreation and entertainment. The Scriptures describe in graphic terms two contrasting life-styles. Those who live for self and the Kingdom of Anti-Christ work at their jobs, marry and give in marriage, go to school, raise children, build homes, play, eat, drink, and sleep for themselves. Their goal and motive in living everyday is self-gratification. And this is what the Bible calls very bluntly LUST. In terms of Romans 13:14 these are busy “making provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Their lives are characterized by “chambering and wantonness, rioting and drunkenness”; and because each, is concerned with self by, “strife and envying.” All this is quite evident in the world in which we live.
Those who live for Christ and the Kingdom of God are radically different. They are non-conformists in a world of monotonous conformity. In self-denial and out of a total heart commitment to Christ they live for the Kingdom of Heaven. They work, study, marry and all the rest for Jesus’ sake. These are the saints, the holy ones; chosen, redeemed, made alive in Jesus Christ. And, through the Spirit of Christ by the power of the Word of God they are consecrated to God and His heavenly Kingdom. Though they live in the world dominated by the developing Kingdom of Anti-Christ, the Bible says their citizenship is in heaven whence also they look for their Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20). Their entire life is one of waiting for the Lord. That waiting is not to be taken in the sense of doing nothing; it’s not a passive sitting down and waiting for Jesus to come. Christians often think in those terms. Being a saint who waits for the Lord does not mean that we take no interest in this life. It does not mean that this life is some kind of meaningless interim. We ought to rid ourselves of that notion and understand that waiting for the Lord is action which involves all of our everyday living.
The question to be answered then is: “What is involved in the saint’s life of waiting for the Lord?” The Scriptures in answer to this question present four basic characteristics of that life. These are: watchfulness, sobriety, prayer, and love.
Watchfulness . . .
The Bible often speaks of this characteristic. Jesus stresses this point very forcefully in Matthew 24 where He speaks of the signs of His return and the end of the world. The Saviour makes a point of the fact that no man knows the day or the hour of His coming. Those days will be like the days of Noah when the ungodly were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage and in a moment were swept to destruction by the flood. That’s the way it will be when Jesus returns. The wicked will be reveling in their sin when all of a sudden Christ will come in Judgment! “Watch therefore,” Jesus admonishes in verse 42.
The Apostle Paul echoes the same in his first Letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5:6. Paul says (paraphrasing): “I do not have to write you concerning the times and seasons; you know that the day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night. When the world shall say peace and safety, sudden destruction will come upon them and they will not escape. But you are children of the light. You are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief. Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” Though
the term “watch” is not used, the idea is the same in Romans 13:11: “And that knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed . . . .” Paul goes on to explain in verse 12 that the night is far spent (almost over) and the day is at hand. It’s time to watch. The point is the same in I Peter 4:7: “The end (goal, purpose as determined by God R.D.) of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”
This then is the Word of God to the saints waiting for the Lord: Watch! You are the saints and this means you do not belong to the Kingdom of darkness, but to the Kingdom of Light. Watch then! This means be awake, alert; know the times and seasons. Be aware of the fact that the night of sin is almost over and the Day of the Lord has already dawned. Be awake so as to be prepared to meet that Day! We must be awake in order to discern the signs which point to the quickly coming Lord.
We are called to watch ourselves too. It is easy especially when we are young to dismiss the thought of the Lord’s return. We tend to think of it in terms of the distant future. The result is that we live as though the return of Jesus really doesn’t affect us. Watch then!
This is the life of the saint waiting for the Lord. The ungodly are sound asleep in their sins — for them the coming of the Lord means swift destruction. The saints are watching and when they see the signs of Jesus’ coming they rejoice.
Sobriety . . .
Very closely related to watchfulness and in fact often mentioned in the same breath in Scripture is sobriety. Just three of the many passages are: I Thessalonians 5:6, I Peter 1:13, and 4:7. The idea is quite clear. Sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness. In the literal sense the saints waiting for the Lord avoid drunkenness. Drunkenness is a characteristic of the ungodly who are of the night of sin (I Thess. 5). And, the drunkard cannot think straight, nor can he see clearly; hence, he is unable to discern reality and react to it properly. The Scriptures everywhere condemn this sin in the severest terms. No saint waiting for the Lord is a drunkard. The Bible states flatly that the drunkard cannot inherit the Kingdom.
All this may be applied spiritually in the sense that the saints are called to curb their passions, exercise self-control so that they are of sound mind and thus able to watch. The ungodly are drunk with the pleasures of sin. Their lives are spent in the futile attempt to satisfy their lusts — and the futility of it all is so evident! Witness the overcrowded divorce courts and mental hospitals, alcohol and drug treatment centers. Consider too the crime, the wars, and gross immorality of our day. Over it all stands the judgment of God: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”! Death ends it all — eternal death.
Be sober saints of God! No, that doesn’t mean we have to be long-faced kill-joys. The saint’s life of waiting for the Lord is not dreary, joyless existence. We of all people have reason to be happy. We are appointed of God to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ (I Thess. 5). Our life then is not an exercise in futility, a frantic search for the pleasures of the moment. Our life does not end in death for our Lord said: “He that lives and believes in me shall never die.” We have a real future, a happiness that knows no end. Life with God. Be sober then so that you are able to watch.
Prayer . . .
Of course, Pray! We cannot watch and be sober apart from the grace of God and God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who sincerely ask them of Him (cf. Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 45, Q. 116). Pray then! Not just a prayer or two occasionally, but live a life of prayer, as Paul says: “Pray without ceasing” (l Thess. 5:17). And the essence of our-prayers has to be the petition, “come Lord Jesus.” With that prayer in our hearts we get up in the morning, go to work or school, date seeking to be married in the Lord, etc. Lord give me grace to be sober so that I may be able to watch —Come Lord Jesus.
Love . . .
The last characteristic of the saint’s life of waiting for the Lord is LOVE — mentioned last only for emphasis. I Peter 4:7 teaches us to be sober and watch unto prayer and in the very next verse the Lord says: “And above all things (that means above even praying, watching and being sober) have fervent charity among yourselves.” The point is watching, being sober, and praying add up to zero without the love of God in our hearts. It is the love of God that prepared the Kingdom for us before the foundations of the world. In His great love God sent His only-begotten Son into the world to suffer and die on the cross on account of our sins. The Word of God to the saints waiting for the Lord is: “love one another with a pure heart fervently”! Seek one another’s salvation. As Christ laid down His life for you lay down your life for the brother. In terms of 1 Peter 4:8-10: we are to use hospitality one to another as ministers (servants) of one another.
That love of God is expressed in obedience to Law of God (cf. Matt. 22, Romans 13, Gal, 5). Hear then the Word youthful saints waiting for Jesus! Have fervent love among yourselves, edify one another in the faith, admonish and pray for one another, put away strife and envy and every evil work. In the love of God you are obedient children who do not fashion themselves according to the former lusts; rather, you are holy as God is holy, saints who hope to the end for the grace which Christ Jesus is bringing at His appearing (I Peter l:13ff).
Once more the question: “For whom are you living?” The saints answer: “For Christ and the Kingdom of God.” These are sober, they watch and pray, and they love one other because as the beloved of God they love God! For them there are no dashed hopes, no sorrow, no death, only life and joy and peace with God — it won’t be long before it’s all realized. For the Saviour said: “Behold I come quickly.” To that we respond with the saints everywhere: “Come Lord Jesus.”