“Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:26–28
At the beginning of 1934 I read, in a well-known religious periodical, its first editorial under a 1934 dateline. It was entitled “Will We Ever Write 1935?” Without saying it in so many words, the Editor nevertheless intentionally left the impression that such were the signs being fulfilled that the discerning student of the prophetic Scriptures would realize that he would never live to date a letter “1935.” Christ would undoubtedly return before the end of 1934.
To me, then and now, such an inference seemed silly. How could anyone, acquainted with the scriptural teaching that no man knoweth the day nor the hour, and with the history of the errors that have been made through centuries of date-setting, imply such a conclusion?
Calvinists at Fault?
But there is one thing that is even more silly. It is something in which we a-millennial Calvinists have often been involved. I refer to our neglect of the doctrine of Christ’s return. For those acquainted with the manner in which the Scriptures present this doctrine—as the great incentive for holy living (I John 3:3); for patient labor (Jas. 5:7ff.); for diligent faithfulness (l Pet. 5:4), to cite but three out of literally hundreds of instances—and acquainted also with the manner in which the doctrine has comforted persecuted believers and impelled them to faithfulness in periods of stress throughout the centuries, to neglect the doctrine is no less silly than the setting of dates.
Recently a man sat in my study and insisted on holding to plans that involved him in flagrant sin. This he would do, he said, because he was concerned only about the present. He was not interested in the future. Yet discussion revealed that it was the future about which he was concerned. Only his view of the future was too limited. Live for the present? No man does it. No man can do it. But there are those who have too restricted a view of the future. Any view is too restricted which falls short of the consummation at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This Is the End Time!
To view 1952 as a Christian, I must realize that the present has its meaning only in relation to the past and to the future. I look to Jesus and then I look for Jesus. Christ on the cross of shame, and Christ on the throne of glory—I live between these two boundaries, and all between is holy ground. I live now in the end of the world. These last days were ushered in by Christ in his first appearing. At that time he bought me with his own blood. Now, in 1952, I am not my own. I am his. The life that I now live I must live by faith in the Son of God; I must live for him, and by his rule. The very end of my being is that I may serve him with all that is in me, every faculty of my being, every moment of my time.
The dynamic for such living is found in looking forward to his return. To them that look for him shall he appear a second time without sin unto salvation. Perchance he shall appear before 1952 actually dawns; perchance I shall pass through the door of death long ere his return. It matters not. The point is that each moment given me now is fraught with divine significance. These are the last days. This is no preparatory dispensation, but the very end of time. He has appointed me my task; let me be faithful till he comes.
I once worked through wheat harvest in western Kansas. The boss, a man by the name of Les MacDonald, progeny of Scotch Calvinists, assigned me to the gas station, hard by the grain elevator. Mv instructions were terse and clear : I -was to be busy whenever I was on duty. It was desirable that the station be kept spotless despite blown dust that often approached sand storm proportions, that the grounds be kept clean, that many odd jobs be performed. At the same time the gas business from grain-hauling trucks, in addition to regular passenger car trade, would often make it impossible, hours on end, to give attention to anything other than the gas pumps. My work was not to be evaluated on the basis of results, but rather on the basis of faithfulness. Sometimes Les stopped by ten times in a day; some days passed without his stopping at all. Never did he seem interested in what was being accomplished, only in whether or not I was making full use of what time I had. Canny Seat that he was, he knew full well that it is diligence that produces results at last.
Just so our Lord, when he comes, will be concerned with one thing: Have we been faithful (cf. the parable of the talents, Matt. 25:14-30)? This concern is taught throughout the Scriptures and its practical consequences are innumerable. One who has not noticed it before must be astonished at the frequency with which the Apostles appeal to this doctrine of our Lord’s return as an incitement to holy living, and as producing a Christian life-and-world-view.
A Means To Patience
Allow me to mention but two consequences of our looking for his appearing. The first is that it will make us patient. Enthusiasm for the Re· formed faith in the non-Holland circles in which I move is a recent thing. Most of us, if not still young, are nevertheless afflicted with the impatience allegedly typical of youth. We are greatly concerned about results, and we are distressed if they do not appear forthwith. We live in the pragmatic American atmosphere where all is evaluated in terms of accomplishment. It is good for us to be reminded that our Lord requires nothing impossible of us—he only asks that we be faithful. James says, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it.” Our Lord will bring forth the fruits in his own time. That is his task; ours is to be faithful. We need never ask but one question: “Is it right?” The effect of a given doctrine or course of conduct is, strictly speaking, none of our business.
A Spur To Holy Urgency
But if our looking for his appearing will make us patient, it is also true that it will fill us with a holy urgency. The King’s business requireth haste! These are the last days and the Lord is returning soon! Complacency is hereby destroyed. Any talent he has given must be put to use. Any opportunity for testimony must be seized. Every Kingdom activity must be diligently supported. The earth is the Lord’s, and it must all be claimed for him. Here is the incentive for laboring with unabated zeal at the task of understanding the whole counsel of God and applying its principles to every realm of life.
As we enter the new year 1952, let us live each moment remembering that once in the end of the world Christ appeared to save us by the sacrifice of himself, and let us look for him to appear a second time without sin unto salvation.