Waiting, Not Watching

by A.E. Knoch

TO WAIT for God's Son out of the heavens, Who rescues us out of the coming indignation (1 Thess.1:10) is the privilege and portion of all who have turned to Him in this era of grace and salvation. Before He comes to Israel on the mount of Olives there will be signs and portents, hence they are exhorted, "watch, then, for you are not aware what day your Lord is coming" (Matt. 24:42). In an hour which they are not supposing the Son of Mankind is coming. They shall hear of battles, but are bidden not to be alarmed, for these are not the immediate signs of the consummation. Famines and earthquakes are only the beginning of pangs (Matt.24:6-8). Not signs on earth but in heaven are the immediate precursors of His advent. The sun and moon will be darkened and stars will fall when the sign of the Son of Mankind will appear, and He shall come on clouds with power and much glory.

When Paul went among the nations he told them of these things, and concerning the apostasy of the end time, and the man of lawlessness (2 Thess.2:1-5). He explained the times and the eras, especially as to the coming of the day of the Lord (1 Thess.5:1). In contrast to the coming of Christ Himself, the day of the Lord is to come as a thief in the night. When they say "Peace and security"--when man seems, at last, to have attained the goal of man's day--then extermination is standing over them, for the Lord will commence to set things right with His iron club, and God's indignation will sweep through the earth.

God, however, did not appoint us to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation, so that the terrors which, of necessity, inaugurate the day of Jehovah, are not for us. We will find no "peace and security" until Christ Himself, the Prince of Peace, is present. We, who have the later epistles of Paul, should have a more accurate knowledge of the grace of the present era than they. Salvation through faith in grace would never allow us to come under divine indignation, such as will be poured out when the day of the Lord begins. They may not escape, but we will.

How shall we escape? That is the especial burden of the Thessalonian epistles. By the word of the Lord Paul reveals a previous expectation (Eph.1:12), a presence of our Lord in the air before the day of Jehovah. In that day the living will have precedence. The dead will not he roused until seventy-five days after His advent. But, in this gracious scene, the dead in Christ will rise first, and will go together with us who survive to meet the Lord in the air. It will not depend on us at all. Those who are dead will not come later, those who are drowsing will not be left behind. All will be living at the same time, when together with Him (1 Thess.5:10). We may be drowsy, we may die, but nothing will interfere with this gracious and glorious tryst! What consolation and edification is in this revelation!

To understand this portion of Thessalonians it is helpful to see that Paul uses the teaching concerning times and eras which he had already given as a contrast to this new revelation. Note the negatives. We are not of the night. We will not be overtaken by the day of the Lord. We are not appointed to indignation, we are to wait for a Person, not to watch for signs. During the whole time until now this blessed expectation has been kept before every believer. Sometimes there were no signs. At other times signs have led astray. The true signs have to do with the day of Jehovah, which we escape. Instead, we enter the day of Christ (Phil.1:10; 2:16), for then He will have His day when we are with Him.

The saints have suffered much in the past through the apparent failure of predictions which foretold the time of the end. We should be very slow to seek for the fulfillment of prophecies in this secret administration. The apostasy from the faith is, no doubt, proceeding apace.

That we are living in the last days seems certain*. The Lord's presence is impending as never before. It would be no surprise if this publication found all its readers snatched away at the presence of the Lord when it reaches their homes. But no signs belong to this era of grace. Yet it does seem as if we are having a foretaste, a preview, some indications of the era that looms up ahead, among the nations, but especially in Israel. It may be that the leaders of Zionism are the fishers, that are drawing Israel to the land, and the many opponents are the hunters who are chasing them there in accord with Jeremiah's prophecy (16:16). Already the exigencies of war and economics are forcing on the nations forms of government such as will be found under the great dictator at the time of the end. Much else seems to belong to that coming day. These we may watch. But we wait for our Lord from heaven. How soon?

[*written in May 1940]

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