The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all men should come to repentance.
1967 A.D.—ANNUS DOMINI—Year of the Lord!
The year of our Lord 1967 is fast drawing to its close!
Not only 1967 years since the Lord left us to ascend into the heavens, where He is seated at the right hand of God, unraveling the counsels of the Almighty: and where He continues to intercede for us, and by His Word and Spirit continues to gather His church, given Him of the Father.
But also 1967 years in which He has been coming back to us!
That was His promise!
“Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” “And the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; surely I come quickly.”
And the prayer of the believing, hoping church has always been, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
But still He lingers!
Is not perhaps the word of the mockers correct? “Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
Is it not true, and does it not seem that way to you, that all things continue as they always did? That babies are born, and men die; that kingdoms arise, and kingdoms fall; that summer and winter, springtime and fall, almost monotonously change our seasons; that there are wars and rumors of wars; that there are tornadoes and upheavals, floods and famine; eras of prosperity as well as of recessions? Is it not true that the world continues to develop as it always did? O, to be sure, it may seem to develop a little faster as time marches on. But is it not the same old world?
And is it not plain foolishness to expect that the world in continuance will suddenly come to an end with a catastrophe? That there should be such a few people in it that should be looking for anew heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness will dwell? Who, because of their hope, refuse to live along with the present scheme of the world; refuse to take part in the wickedness of the world, to join its unions, to enjoy its pleasures, to build deeply their foundations; who are always talking about the coming of the Lord that will bring them final deliverance? Deliverance from what? Is it not the suffering and deprivation which is brought upon them because they are so odd, and do not want to fit themselves into the times in which they live?
But, beloved, this is all the language of the mockers! Those hilarious fun makers, those supercilious, haughty play boys, who never take life seriously; who are thoroughly worldly minded; who, like the fool, think their houses shall stand for aye. They mock with all that is holy. They jeer at all piety. They have no place in their thinking for prophecy. They live like the beasts that die. They hold the truth under in unrighteousness. They ridicule and persecute the righteous who do not resist them.
Would we not also be foolish to listen to them? Indeed, such would be utter folly!
But that the Lord lingers, we cannot deny! Almost two thousand years have passed, and, though there has been continual change and development, it is still the same heavens of old and the earth standing out of the water and in the water. And the Lord is still seated at the right hand of God.
To you who long for His coming, and perhaps become impatient that He lingers, is the Word of God, quoted above, directed!
That Word denies that He is slack concerning His promise!
As some count slackness!
These are they who are impatient, who fail to .live out of the prophetic Word of God. They are they who fail to read the signs of the times, who refuse to hear the footsteps of the Saviour as He walks, yea runs, to realize all that He promised must come to pass before He would actually appear. They are they who are thinking only of their own deliverance, but have lost heart to believe that they cannot be saved without the salvation of all the church. They are they who are inclined to believe the philosophy of the mockers.
To them the Word of God flatly denies that the Lord is slack at all concerning His promise to return.
Rather, it explains, is He longsuffering!
The Lord, that is, the Triune God as He is revealed, and shall be revealed again in the face of the Lord Jesus, is longsuffering to us-ward!
Longsuffering, that divine perfection of love, according to which the Lord constantly and unchangeably wills the final perfection and glory of His people in the way of suffering; and wills their suffering as a means to that final perfection in all its fulness. There are especially three elements in this definition to be noted. First, there is the object in view; namely, the (final perfection in glory. He prepares this glory in, Christ, a glory which is a reflection of His own perfection, and the state in which God has always beheld His people and loves them. Second, there is the divine, constant, unchangeable affection of God toward His people as He conceived of them in that final state of glory. Third, there is the way of suffering which is necessary for them to enter that final state of glory, in which God will keep them forever. And until they reach that glorious end, He suffers with them.
Behold, how He suffers long over us!
A suffering which began already in eternity when He ordained this people to come unto Him through the way of sin and grace. A suffering He assumed when He united Himself to our flesh in the incarnation, taking upon Himself our nature, and assuming our guilt. A suffering which brought Him into the abyss of death and hell, when He poured out His life’s blood on the hill of the skull. And even now, while He is seated in glory, He is still longsuffering over us when He hears our cries, and beholds our tears, while we suffer in this vale of death, ever longing for our perfect and final deliverance.
Long and constant must that suffering be, because the church He loves is constantly in the world that perishes. He was longsuffering over that church when the world perished in the flood, and He delivered righteous Noah and his family. Longsuffering was He when Sodom and Gomorrah perished, and He delivered Lot the righteous. Even now the heavens and the earth are being stored up unto fire, when the heavens shall be rolled back as a scroll and all the elements shall burn with fervent heat, and all that is in the earth shall be consumed in a final conflagration. Until this last day He will be longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish.
Not willing that any should perish!
But that all should come to repentance!
O, do not misinterpret this loving kindness so divine! Do not corrupt this truth by making it a common grace and goodness of God whereby He desires and wills the salvation of all men!
If you know anything of the Scriptures as a whole, you will sense immediately that this cannot be the intent of the Word of God here; for Scripture teaches throughout that God is angry with the wicked every day, and all the wicked will He destroy. Moreover the text itself makes it very plain that not all men, head for head, are meant. The “any” and the “all” are the “us-ward.” So that we should read our text thus: “But is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to repentance.”
Indeed, the Lord is willing that not one of His people shall perish, and that every one of them shall come to repentance!
This will of the Lord is not contingent on their repentance, but it accomplishes it. At the same time He also wills to bear with the ungodly chaff until His precious grain is completely harvested. Then the tares will also be pulled up and destroyed, while the precious grain, upon which He expends His great love and with whom He suffers so long, shall enter into His everlasting glory.
But unto repentance His people must come!
And unto repentance they will come!
His grace in them will change their minds and hearts and bring them to their knees in the true consciousness of their sin and in heart-felt sorrow after God. It will force out of them the cry of the publican of old: O God be merciful to me, a sinner! It will turn them from their evil ways, and cause them to flee from sin to Calvary and the blood of the cross, where they will plead for pardon and where they will taste of forgiveness.
Yes, indeed, not one of His precious ones may be lost. Every one of them must come to repentance. For that He waits in His coming!
What a comforting truth is this Word of God!
From it we conclude that while the Lord tarries His church is being saved and gathered. The elect strangers are daily being fitted as living stones into God’s temple in which He plans to dwell with them forever. Until the very last stone is saved and fitted into that temple, the Lord must tarry.
And until that time the beloved in Christ, the elect strangers, are in the world where they share in the sufferings of Christ. They are strangers in the world and to the world because of their election and the fruits of election which they bring forth. And they, too, must wait for the Lord’s coming until all the elect are born, are saved, are brought to salvation through the way of repentance.
In the meantime they suffer. Inwardly they suffer because of the knowledge of their sin and the longing to be completely delivered. Outwardly they suffer because of the wicked world, because of the mockers who daily assail them, reproach them and even bring them affliction.
But in that suffering they are not alone! Their Lord suffers with them. He continues to be longsuffering over them, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Take courage then, children of God! Believe this Word of your God!
Be not so easily affected by the doctrine of the mockers! Cease from your worldly-mindedness. Repent from your sinful ways and turn with sorrow after God. And remember that His compassions fail not, for He is longsuffering over you, not willing that any of you should be plucked from His hand, but that every last one of you should come unto Him and abide with Him in His eternal glory.
And as this year comes to its end, understand well that there is good reason why your Lord tarries, but also that He will come to you as quickly as He can. And as the bells toll the passing of another year, may He find you on bended knee and praying, not only for His speedy return, but also for the salvation of His entire church through the way of her repentance.