A reporter from the New York Journal once tried to pin A. B. Simpson down on the matter of Christ’s return. The reporter asked him, “Do you know when the Lord is coming?”
“Yes,” he replied, “and I will tell you if you promise to print just what I say, references and all.”
The reporter’s poised notebook gave the ready promise.
“Then put this down: ‘This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto the nations and then shall the end come.’ Matthew 24:14.
Have you written the reference?”
“Yes, what more?”
The reporter lowered his pencil and said, “Do you mean to say that you believe that when the Gospel is preached in all the nations Jesus will return?”
“I think I begin to see the daylight,” answered the reporter. “I see the motivation and the motive power in the movement.”
“Then,” Simpson said, “You see more than some of the doctors of divinity.”
It is so easy to get caught up in the minutia of eschatology we forget the real reason of it. To have something as precious as the coming of the Lord dividing believers has to be something hatched in the boiling cauldron of Hell.
I am wondering if this is what our Lord had in mind when he encouraged us to look for his coming. Does all of this religious rhetoric passing for eschatology today really please the Lord?
Take a picture of a father going away on a trip. He sits his young family down and tells them he is soon going on a trip. He does not tell them when he is coming back; it is to be a surprise for them. But when he does return he will have special gifts for each one of them. Then he leaves for his trip.
After he is gone, the children begin arguing. “Father’s coming back before lunch,” one insists. “No, no, no,” another argues. “He’s coming after lunch.” And the squabbling goes on and on and on. Soon the only thing that really matters to these children is which one has the right view on the returning father. Each one holds his view of their returning father, as the correct one and the others are all wrong. They have exchanged the joy of their returning father for the smug satisfaction in their own minds that their view of his return is the correct one. They had forgotten that the real joy is the returning father.
I believe this carries over into the church life. We hear doctrinal debates on this view and that view of eschatology. And in it all, we have lost the simple joy that Jesus is coming.
Many people are going to be disappointed when Jesus does not come, according to their schedule. Some have mapped out the return of the Lord in such minute detail that if Jesus should come contrary to their expectations they will be rather disappointed. Even Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36 KJV).
When Jesus said this, I think one of the things he had in his mind was that we should not get all caught up with the day or the hour. The most significant part is the personal return of Jesus Christ.
The early church believed in the imminent return of Christ. That is, they believed Christ would come at any moment. They lived their lives so as to conform to this wonderful expectation. Now, some have called into doubt the word “imminent,” because all the early church believers have died and Christ has not returned yet.
Enter the professional doctrinal slicing and dicing. And boy, have they gone to work on this. But very simply, imminent means that I should so live my life as to expect the Lord to return now. He may come today, or it may be another thousand years. The time element is not the significant aspect here. What is significant is the fact that I am living a life totally in harmony with the imminent return of Christ.
Some have made it their full-time job to talk about prophecy and eschatology, which might not be so bad except for the fact that they make it an end in itself. The thing that permeated Dr. Simpson’s teaching on the second coming of Christ was its relationship to world evangelism. It might be noted here, Simpson did not differentiate between home-field or foreign field. The world was his parish, and the world needed to be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. His teaching on the second coming spurred his passion to reach this world for Jesus Christ.
In a magazine article Dr. Simpson wrote, “Instead of looking for Christ, multitudes are looking for the millennium, the conversion of the world, the regeneration of the nations...His charge was, ‘Watch not for the millennium, but for the Lord.’” (A. B. Simpson, “That Blessed Hope,” WWW, 1, no. 4, May 1882).
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the Angel gave this instruction to the wondering disciples. “Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 KJV).
It is this “same Jesus,” that we are to be watching for.
I suppose it would be impossible to tell how many commentaries there are on the book of Revelation. Most miss the first five words of this book, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is not a book simply of last day events and personalities. It is a book exclusively of Jesus Christ and the unfolding of him in these last days. Everything else is immaterial.
Why not just concentrate on bringing back the King?
BRINGING BACK THE KING
(A. B. Simpson)
THE air is full of party strife,
And ever loud and long,
Each faction has some new device,
To remedy the wrong.
From age to age men vainly try
Earth’s Golden Age to bring
But tell me why there’s nothing said
Of bringing back the King?
THE KING IS COMING
The King is coming, the King is coming
I just heard the trumpet sounding and soon His face I’ll see
The King is coming, the King is coming
Praise God, He’s coming for me