THE SAVIOUR’S SPEEDY RETURN Sermon preached by Mr. D. G. Crowter on Lord’s Day evening
6th May 1990 at Gower Street Memorial Chapel.
And behold, I come quickly: and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Rev. 22 v12.
This last book of the Scripture is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Apocalypse; meaning the unveiling, the uncovering. We see in this book, future events all in the hands of the Lamb who sits upon the throne, and unfolded one by one according to His purposes. So it is not surprising that this last great revelation of Himself, His appearing, His manifestation of Himself in glory at the end of time, should be so prominent in this book. It is referred to again and again. That is so, of course, in the Gospels and in the Epistles. But particularly in this last book of the Revelation we find references again and again to the Saviour’s Second Coming in His glory to this earth. So it is not altogether surprising, but it certainly is striking, that three times in these last sixteen verses we find these three words from His lips; `I come quickly.’ In verse seven, `Behold, I come quickly;’ here again, `And behold, I come quickly;’ and then in verse twenty, `Surely I come quickly.’ And those are the very last words that Jesus has left on record, `Surely I come quickly.’
So there really can be no excuse for us being negligent with regard to this. He Himself has very plainly, simply and earnestly emphasised this. It is unmistakably plain. The very last words recorded from Him are these. Surely then all those who pay heed to His Word, and all His people especially, should pay very particular regard to these words. The Saviour has spoken finally. The last words before His actual return are these: `Surely I come quickly.’ And so, really every day, we should have this before us. It would not be unfitting every time we pull aside the curtains in the morning to say to ourselves, `Perhaps today He will come.’ Nor would it be unfitting as we draw those curtains together at night to think, `Perhaps tonight He may come.’
His own words to His disciples frequently emphasised this point. How He said, `What I say unto you, I say unto you all, Watch.’ `Watch ye therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.’ That is what the Saviour says to all – we are to watch for His appearing. It is something which is of tremendous, momentous importance, because it brings to an end the whole of this Gospel age. It brings to an end the preaching of the Word in this period of time. It is the point at which this previous verse must be brought into full operation. If we are unjust and filthy then, we must be filthy still. Because there will be no opportunity then of any change in our condition. But if we are righteous and holy then, we shall be so for all
eternity. It is Jesus who speaks; the Son of God Himself declares: `Behold, I come quickly.’ Behold, take notice of this, consider it, lay it to heart; it is a message of great importance.
The subject then here is the Saviour’s speedy return. He says, `I come quickly.’ First, that return is evidently personal.
In these three passages, like so many He says, `I come quickly’. Of course, there are one or two scriptures where He speaks in that way but does not mean a personal coming. When He said to His disciples, `I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you’, He was evidently speaking particularly of coming in the Person of His Holy Spirit. So when He speaks of those `times of refreshing, from the presence of the Lord’, it does not mean His final, personal, visible coming in His own resurrection body. But it does here. It must be so. It cannot be anyone else but the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of man. It is His appearing. We read in the first chapter of this book, `Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him’- yours and mine, we shall all see Him – `and they too that pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.’ And here He says, `I will give every man according as his work shall be.’ And when He ascended up into glory after His resurrection, the angels said to His disciples, ‘Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven’? This same Jesus – 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.’ As they saw Him go, so He will return, in this personal way. It will be `this same Jesus’. It will be Jesus Himself, the Almighty Conqueror; the glorious Person whom John saw, as he records in the first chapter, in that glory of His divine nature, when His face shone like the sun, and His eyes were as a flame of fire. And John fell at His feet as dead at the sight.
Jesus says, `I come quickly’. And surely we must all ask ourselves, `Am I ready to meet Him’? If He should come tonight, could I stand before Him’?’ It would be quite impossible unless we are clad in His righteousness, unless we are justified – righteous and holy; otherwise we should shrink away in terror. Well might we say,
`Pause, my soul, and ask the question, Am I ready to meet God’?
Am I made a real Christian, Washed in the Redeemer’s blood’? Have I union
With the Church’s living Head’?’
Secondly we must say that this coming is sure. It may be hardly necessary to say that, and yet it must be said, because it is so important. Jesus says at the end, `Surely I come quickly.’ It is a matter of absolute certainty. We do not know when, neither the day nor the hour; but we
know that He will come. How wicked and foolish it is for those to say, as they do today, `Where is the promise of his coming’? For since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they are since the creation.’ They don’t continue as they are. And in any case, God Himself has so spoken of this, and so plainly and so repeatedly. It is utter infidelity, it is the height of unbelief, to deny or even to question this truth which is so plainly revealed. As sure as God is God, Jesus will come again. As sure as His Word is true, He will return to this earth where He suffered. He will come again `the second time without sin unto salvation.’ It was said to John, `These sayings are faithful and true.’
Well, do you believe this? Surely if you really do, you will be concerned to watch day by day for that time, as Jesus Himself so charged His disciples.
This coming is also sudden. `In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.’ How long is a moment? Well, surely not long enough to do anything. How long is the twinkling of an eye, a blink’? Well, it is such a short time. Suddenly, without any further warning, the Lord Jesus will appear. He will be here on the earth. There will be no time then to repent or to believe. This previous verse will immediately come into full operation. As we are then, so we must remain for all eternity. When they shall say, `Peace and safety’ – as they are saying today – `sudden destruction cometh upon them and they shall not escape.’ But the apostle says to the Thessalonians, `But ye are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.’ The thief comes suddenly, and unexpectedly, and violently; he’s not in the least welcome. And it will be like that, with regard to the suddenness and unwelcomeness, to so many in that Day. That will surely be so with all those who do not believe, all those who are unjust and filthy; it will be so sudden and unexpected. And will it not be so, to some extent, even with the godly? Surely that is very striking which Jesus said about the ten virgins; `While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept’ – not just the foolish virgins, but even the wise ones. They were asleep until they heard the call, and then they were ready to go out to meet him. But sleepiness is really not suitable for the people of God. They should be awake, watchful.
And this will be a startling Coming to so many. When the Saviour appears, it will be (as He said Himself) as it was in the days of Lot, and as in the days of Noah. There they were – marrying, giving in marriage, eating and drinking, trading and so on; not that there is anything wrong with those things in their right place, but that was clearly taking up the whole of their lives. They had been warned, evidently, of the flood; but they were not ready, they did not believe. And then the flood came and carried them all away. It will be such a startling event to so many, so entirely unexpected that it will fill them with great surprise, surprise in the sense of terror. We read earlier in this book of all the chief men, the
captains and so on, rich and poor, bond and free, crying `to the rocks and mountains to cover them, to hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.’
It may be that it will be very surprising even to many of the people of God. But there is no reason why that should be so. We are so plainly and so continually warned about this, that it is not an event to be dreaded by the people of God, but rather one to be anticipated with great joy. As you were singing in the hymn (Gadsby’s Hymns 497), it is a cause of great rejoicing. The Saviour Himself evidently regards it as such. Surely there is a note of triumph and joy in what He says; `Behold, I come quickly.’ It will be a time for Him of great joy when He gathers His elect from every nation under the heaven, to be with Him for evermore. He will then `see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.’ And surely His dear people should look for that time with joy. As the apostle says to Titus, `Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.’ The apostle John clearly saw it that way. This appears to have been the immediate, spontaneous response of his heart. When Jesus says, `Surely I come quickly’, he says, `Amen, even so come, Lord Jesus.’ And is that your response’? Would you really be glad to know that the Lord was coming this evening’? If He were suddenly to appear, would that bring a tremendous joy to your heart’? You see, this is so linked with the previous verse which we considered this morning. The answer to this question depends on whether you are unjust and filthy still, or whether you are righteous and holy.
Then this return is speedy. Three times He says `quickly’. He is coming quickly. Now we all know that this book was written some 1900 years ago, or so; and that seems to us a very long time. So it may seem strange that we find this word `quickly’. Jesus also uses it in Luke’s gospel in this connection. With regard to the parable of the importunate widow who kept coming to the unjust judge, Jesus said, `And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him though he bear long with them’? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth’?’ It may seen strange there; His elect cry day and night to Him; but Jesus said He will avenge them speedily; there will be no unnecessary delay. It is as soon as it is possible, consistent with the purposes of God. We know, as the apostle Peter says in this connection, `One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ So 1900 years is not a long time with Him.
We sometimes use similar expressions in daily life. A child may call to his or her mother asking her to come. And she may say, `I’m coming.’ But that does not mean instantly. She may be cooking the dinner; she may not be able to leave something for a little while. But she says, `I’m coming;’ that is, `as soon as I can.’ It may seem a long time to the
waiting child, but it should be understood that it means that. During the last World War, when we were in great need of reinforcements and help as a nation, across the other side of the Atlantic the Americans said they were coming. And so they were. But there was a lot of preparation needed. They hadn’t the ships, the armaments, the planes and so on; these all had to be built. A tremendous war effort needed to be made before they could possibly come. But it seems a long time when you’re waiting. In the sixth chapter of this book we read of the souls of believers, those who had been put to death for Christ’s sake, under the altar saying, `How long, Lord’? How long before Thou dost avenge our blood which was shed on the earth’?’ We read there that it was shown them that it would be a little season they must wait – a little season. And that’s really all it is. We may be sure that as soon as all God’s purposes are fulfilled, as soon as all His elect children are called by grace and brought into His kingdom, th
ere will be not a moment’s unnecessary delay. He will come; He will come quickly, speedily. And we cannot possibly tell how soon that will be.
We may be sure also that this Coming is a separating Coming. We learn that very plainly from the account that Jesus gives in Matthew 25. He will be like a shepherd dividing His sheep from the goats. And a shepherd knows the difference. He will not make the slightest mistake in that. Jesus will know exactly who they are who are unjust and filthy, and exactly who they are who are righteous and holy. There will be a precise separation; and an everlasting separation. You see, it will be according as it is said here, `And my reward is with me to give every man according as his work shall be.’ There will be His reward. That word literally means `hire’ or `wages’. Everyone in the earth is earning wages, in a certain sense, and will certainly receive them when the Saviour returns. Every one of us, in the way that we live, are in that case. We read that `the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ We read also, `Verily there is a reward for the wicked.’ We know what that reward must be; it must be everlasting punishment; for that is what Jesus has so plainly said. It will be exactly what is due to every one. People around us may think that they get away with many things. But we are all under the searching eye of the Judge of all the earth, and He will bring `every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.’ He says He will `give every man according as his work shall be.’
It is now, as we read at the end of Galatians; we are all sowing. The way we live is like sowing for eternity. What we are sowing now, in the way that we live, will be reaped at the Judgment Day. `God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.’ What, what are you sowing? `What is it that you are doing’? Why are you doing the
things that you are doing? Is it to the flesh’? Well, you will only reap corruption from that. Is it to the Spirit, in dependence upon the Spirit, and for the honour of God’? Then you will reap life everlasting. That will be your reward – not of works, but of grace. It is certain that none of us deserve anything, and yet God does give His rewards.
And I feel sure from many passages of Scripture that there will be a variation in those rewards. The apostle John in his second epistle says, `Look to yourselves that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.’ God has said that he who ,gives only a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of a disciple will in no wise lose his reward.’ That does not always happen in this present life. But we may be sure, as the Word of God is true, that there will be that reward of grace when the Lord comes `to give every man according as his work shall be’. And dear friends, what a motive this is with regard to our lives! When He comes, as soon as the Saviour comes, He will be ready to `give to every man according as his work shall be.’ Surely in that time believing Abraham, who so honoured God by his faith, will have a greater reward than Lot, who so ruined his testimony in his life in Sodom. Well, we may be sure that this will be a separating and a rewarding time.
And then also that it will be a glorious Coming. Again and again we read of this. In the Saviour’s words, `He will appear in his glory… He will come in the glory of his Father and with all the holy angels with him.’ No tongue could really describe just how great that glory will be. But we may be sure it will be one of great splendour and beauty and triumph; that it will be a glory suited to His authority as the great and glorious Conqueror, as King of kings and Lord of lords; that it will be unmistakeable and radiant glory, so that every eye that sees Him will know at once who He is; that He will have a glory incomparably great. There will be no archangel who shines with anything like the same glory as the Son of God in that Day. His glorious appearing! O what a wonderful Day it will be for the people of God! For those who are righteous and holy there is nothing to fear, but everything to rejoice in. It will be a wonderful Day. Surely
`The saints have reason, To expect a glorious Day, When the Saviour shall return And His people cease to mourn’.
Now they mourn. Constantly we have to mourn over sin, over indwelling sin, the plague of our own hearts, the power of Satan, the state of the world around us, the condition of the Church of God, and so many things. `We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.’ But then this glorious time is coming, this most blessed appearing of the dear Son of God. And then with what rapture the hearts of the people of
God will be filled! How gladly those that are righteous and holy will welcome Him in that tremendous Day!
What shall we say to these things’? Well, it depends very much on what state you are in. The apostle Peter spoke to those who came to him when the lame man was healed. If any of you are unrepentant, if any of you are in that unjust and filthy state, his words are suitable: `Repent, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.’ But some of you may be uncertain with regard to this. You may not be able to view this event without some trembling and fear. Can you really go to sleep tonight without knowing what would happen if the Saviour should return this night? Is it a matter to be left in uncertainty, when your everlasting future hinges upon your condition at that time? Now, now is the time. `It is time to seek the Lord’. `Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.’ The time will soon be when no more such change will be possible, when our eternal destinies will be settled.
But what about the people of God? O what cause they have to think of this Day. Jesus says, `Behold, I come quickly’. This is a matter to be considered, to be pondered over, to be before us every day. He is coming. He doesn’t say, `I will come at some time in the future,’ He says, `I come, I am coming, quickly.’ And so the word of the apostle John is suitable, where he says, `And now, little children, abide in him; that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.’ Those who are abiding in Him – those who can truly say that He is their all, who are clinging to Him in life, hanging upon Him, depending upon Him, looking to Him, longing for Him – oh what a glorious Day that will be for you, what a blessed Day indeed!
So, dear friends, do think on these things.