F. L. Rowell
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21, 36.
An exhortation such as this from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, is a wonderful demonstration of the lovingkindness of the Lord to His followers. We have no knowledge what the future holds except as we are instructed by prophecy concerning the things that shall most surely come to pass. But the Lord knows all things and He knew what to reveal to His children for their warning and encouragement, and He also knew what it was wise to withhold from them until the event should take place. There are some things concerning our own lives of which the Lord has given us instruction, and some things that we know nothing at all about until the event takes place. But, when it does take place, the Lord has not left us without instruction with regard to the wisdom of any action to be taken, bereft of consolation in the midst of the distress which may be ours in that mysterious exercise of the sovereignty of God, and He has not left us without precious promises which shall be as a rod or staff in our hand upon which to lean. Truly we shall find the promises of God very different from the promises of men. Such will never prove to be a broken reed upon which to rest, but a strong staff upon which we may be able to place all our weight, finding that our strength is then in the God of the word of promise.
I would certainly not ignore the verse in the chapter where the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the spirit of almsgiving and the need of it. What did the Lord say concerning the poor widow who cast that very small sum of money into the treasury?Â—the Lord was not simply commending the smallness of the size of the gift, but He was commending the largeness of the gift consistent with the possessions she had. She had given more than they all. It is the motive of the thing, not the spectacular nature of the giftÂ—the pulling out of the pocket, the picking out of the notesÂ—apparent to all personsÂ—and putting them into the collection box. It is not that, but the motive underlying the action, so that a poor person gives the whole of her possessions unto the Lord, trusting Him to meet the supply for the needs of the future. Yes, there is faith mingled with the gift here. Paul, in commending the gifts of the church on one occasion says, “But my God shall supply all your need”Â—Don’t be afraid, for if this is from a right motive and by the power of the Spirit of God there shall be no lack in the future, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4, 19.)
Notice also how the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the “glories” of the temple. He instructs the proud Jews as to what is going to happen to them and to the things that they glory in. The One in
whom they should glory was standing in their presence, but He was despised. You see the attitude of incongruity in their actionÂ— they are looking upon the things that are materialÂ—they have seen themÂ—but they look upon the One who is essentially spiritual and they despise the Gift of God, the Gift of God’s love, the dear Son of God from everlasting. The Lord Jesus Christ goes on to instruct these people, and His disciples as well. The true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ profit from His instruction, but those who are not disciples of Christ by faith in the dear Lamb of God do not. Rather, they make His instruction to be harmful because of their rejection of the word and the Speaker. What was the instruction about? Two things, essentially. First the dreadful calamity that is coming upon the Jews when the Roman power, in the face of the provocations of this people, will come with their armies and surround the city. There will be a fulfilment of that word, “For wheresoever the carcase (the dead thing) is, there will the eagles (or the vultures) be gathered together.” That was fully performed. If you wish to read the history of it perhaps some of you could find the old book of Josephus and you will find horrific accounts of the terrible sufferings that were endured by that people when at last the fulfilment of this word of God took place in the midst of their city. I have no doubt that what Josephus said was correct. He was an eyewitness of those things, and there was no reason why he should have exaggerated the sufferings of his own people in that city because he was a JewÂ—he was not a Roman speaking from a Roman point of view in order to embellish the Roman claim of arrogance and majesty, but here is one who is writing as a Jew concerning the sufferings of his own people. There is no reason to doubt to a considerable degree the accuracy of the statement of Josephus concerning the literal fulfilment of these solemn things that the Lord Jesus Christ said would come upon the city.
Then Jesus goes on to mention the times of the Gentiles which must be fulfilled and immediately speaks of the things that shall happen when at last the Son of man shall appear again. I wish to keep to Scriptural words about these matters, because there has been such a solemn deviation from the word of God in speculation and foolish suggestions with regard to the time and the manner of the coming again of the dear Son of Sod. The angels spoke of this when the dear Lord Jesus ascended Jp on high from the Mount of Olives. We read there of how these loly ones appeared and said, “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”Â—this is not a strange, mysterious thingÂ—it was something that was foretold beforehandÂ—”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.)
Throughout the Word of God this is spoken of as the glorious hope of the church of Christ. It is that which the church should, and did, and still does, by divine grace, anticipate. When the Lord will come to put an end to the present order of things, there shall
dawn a day when the new heavens and the new earth shall be to the glory of God and for the blessedness of the inhabitants thereof. My heart rejoices at the thought of such a day. I see this nation and other nations going downhill in ways of immorality and shame, sin and rebellion against God with apparently nothing to stem the fearful landslide. Ah! but there is One who is yet going to appear. His rule shall be a rule of righteousness. His judgment shall be the judgment of truth. And then come the words of our text. Christ says to His disciples. Do not speculate upon the day nor the hour,Â—do not try to work out this verse and the other verse in comparison with certain things that have happened in the pastÂ— that is foolishness,Â—but “Watch ye therefore, and pray always” whether you think it is today or tomorrow, a year’s time or whether you think it is another 1,000 years time, ‘pray always’Â— alwaysÂ—every day, continuously. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” What a very needful exhortation! I sometimes wonder how many libraries of thousands of volumes could be filled by the writing of speculative writers with regard to the prophecy of the second coming of Christ. And, when they have all been read, have been stored away and at last they have all been destroyedÂ—you will see they have been completely invalidated by the passage of time and the speculations have proved to be false. Still stands this blessed word of God, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24, 35.) Here is the Lord’s word this night to you, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with all its glory and solemnity, with all its grief to some and with all its joy to others, is absolutely certain. It is a certain thing, that we shall have an end to our life here of one kind or anotherÂ—we shall either die or else we shall live to see the coming of the Son of manÂ—one or the other. It is a solemn thing to dieÂ—a very solemn thing to die. I do not wonder that one of our hymn writers prayed a prayer in his hymn that we often repeat, but I wonder whether our spirit has really accorded with the prayer of the hymn:Â—
“Prepare me gracious God,
To stand before thy face”,
and then he goes on to say, speaking of his own helplessness and complete inability to be able to do the thing that he longs to have performed upon him,
“Thy Spirit must the work perform,
For it is all of grace.”
“I am dependent upon Thee for the preparatory work that must be performed, whether it be for the hour of death or for the hour of Thy coming again to this earth.” There is an absolute certainty about these things. Many things perhaps you think have been made
sure. We take out our insurance policies; we put in power in our country a government that brings in an order of social security and they say there are no loopholesÂ—everybody is provided forÂ—no difficultyÂ—and then you find out that people themselves are the difficulty. The laws may be good, the rules may be right, the provision may be there, but the trouble is, there is the evil in the person concerned. If social security gave some persons Â£1,000 this week, there would still be a difficulty. The evil is not in the system essentially, but it is in the users of the systemÂ—the evil is in menÂ— it is not in the order of things essentially, but sin is found in the hearts of men. But here is a certainty. He will come again. May I ask you how it will be with you if this night He was to appear in the clouds in great glory? Remember the words of Jesus Christ when He says in the face of this solemn, certain truth, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” It is a word that I would seek to lay upon your spirit. Here is the exhortation of the Lord Jesus Christ to my soul tonight. Oh the power with which it came upon my heart! Am I ready if He should appear in the clouds in great power even this night? Can I say in my soul without fear, hoping, trusting in faith in Jesus Christ, with love echoing in my breast, ‘Even so, come Lord Jesus’?” (Rev. 22, 20.) Or is there something in your heart or mine that says, “Wait, Lord. I want to do a little more first. There is something else I want to see, want to accomplish. Something else I want to live to seeÂ—my children’s childrenÂ—to see what they are doing. A little time yetÂ—not fit to meet Thee yetÂ—sin is still in meÂ—evil is still in me”? This may be due to your sinful self-indulgence. What does the Lord say? “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
Notice also the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be exceedingly suddenÂ—”For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,” (Matt. 24, 27.) as speedy as that. In anticipation of it the Lord Jesus shews His people that if we are subject to surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares and deceits of this life, this will take us unawaresÂ—the suddenness of it!
When Christ came He sent His own messenger to prepare the way before HimÂ—that one who, when the Son of God appeared, said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1, 29.) “As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” The servants of the Lord have proclaimed this truth all through the ages, and you are without excuse tonight before your God. He is coming Himself and it will be sudden. I do want to press this upon you, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall
come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,” when He comes in this way. Do not go home and lay the matter aside and say, “It does not worry me. It is just an idle tale of a preacher who is despising present day teaching.” Despising it? I hate itÂ—I hate it with all my heart. Whenever the word of the dear Son of God is denied an instant spirit of revulsion arises with meÂ—and I am thankful to God it is there. Of course I must speak out against anything that dishonours my God and His wordÂ—anything that dishonours Him must be the object of hatred to living faith. Most surely there is a suddenness about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice and beware how very often the simple truths concerning the coming of the Son of man are beclouded by human speculationÂ—a thing I dread.
The late dear Henry Popham and I had a long discussion one evening on this subject. As I went to see him off by train the next day he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, “The most important thing about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be sure of an interest in His first coming.” If you have that you can dispense with all the speculation concerning the hour, the manner and the time when the Son of God shall come again, if you have a foundation that is in Christ, based on that which He has done and accomplished for His people’s sake and in your heart assured in faith by the Holy Ghost, you can leave speculations. There you can rest all your hope, upon that great foundation, the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is He coming for? He came the first time to make atonement for the sins of His people. He came to suffer, to bleed, to die. Has your heart ever been broken by the truth of that, weeping to the praise of the mercy that you have found? The highest place you can reach is never far away from weeping. The days of true gratitude to God are never completely dissociated from sorrowÂ— nay, there is a compatibility between the tears and the rejoicing. There is a real union between the sorrow and the gratitude. But the second time He is not coming to suffer. He is coming to judgeÂ— to judge the quick and the deadÂ—to judge the nations of the earth, the peoples of the earthÂ—to judge the king, to judge the dustmanÂ— to judge the immoral and the religiousÂ—to judge the Jew and also to judge the heathen. He is not coming to suffer again. He is not coming to pay the price of sin again. He is not coming again to go to the cross and suffer there for sins not His own. This has been accomplished by Him. Blessed be His holy name that He should be willing so to come, so to suffer, so to die, and to rise again. He is coming again to judge the quick and the dead. In the Book of the Revelation the solemnity of that great day is described. From that great white throne the lamb will call all nations before Him and they shall be dividedÂ—the sheep from the goats. Oh the solemnity of it!
Many people think that, whilst they are in this life, they can take any course to their own advantage, and they will never have
to pay the penalty of it as long as they escape the arm of the law. They can wink at the terms of the law and take advantage of it and as long as they are not apprehended by the law of man they may escape the consequences. The laws of our God are not in word only but also in spiritÂ—oh they are. The law of God says that, “Thou shalt not kill.” But Christ expounds it thus. Whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Thou fool,’ even if you say it in your heart, not actually aloud in angry words, shall be in danger of hell fireÂ—the spirit of the law. I might quote other cases of the same kind, of the spirit of the law. It is not upon man’s interpretation of the Ten Commandments, but upon the rightful jurisdiction of King Jesus who is the author of the law and knows the spirit of it, we must be judged. Some of you know in some measure the spirit of the law, because it has convicted you of your sin and brought you to cry for mercy in the Name of that great King who bears in the glory of His person the resplendent wounds of His suffering. He does not come again to suffer; He comes to judge.
Then there are certain signs of His coming. I am not going to give you the whole list of them because they are scattered all through the Bible. They are in the Old Testament as well as in the New. They fall from the lips of Jesus Christ in Luke 21 and they are stated in the writings of the apostles. This matter is constantly upon the spirit of the apostles, upon their hearts and in their thoughtsÂ—the signs of His coming. Do you say, “I am absolutely terrified at the signs of His coming?” The signs in the sun and moon and the stars, upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring. Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken, (vs. 25 and 26.) Boys and girls, one of the signs of His coming is disobedience to parents. Very simple isn’t it, but one of the signs of His coming. The eruption of these evil things in the nation, not only of young men and young women in their immodesty, but also the older men and women in their transgressions against their God, signs multiplied, signs of the Lord’s coming. “Well”, you say, “If these are the signs of His coming, it must be imminent, and I am really deeply troubled about it.” What does the Lord say about it? Something completely different from our reaction to it naturally. He does not say, ‘Now these times are coming upon you, my children, be terrified, be affrighted, begin to make some shelters to go into and hide yourselves so that you will be secure when these dreadful things do come. Go to the caves and the dens of the earth and dig holes there and bury yourselves there and take all the food and drink you need, make sure you have got your purification tanks to cleanse yourselves from the contamination of radioactivity.’ Nay, He does not say that. Listen to what He said, “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. When these things begin to
come to pass, look up for your redemption draweth nigh.” The greatest hour of your deliverance is at hand. If you look down, you will see nothing but desolation and darkness, nothing but what will occasion distress for your soul, but oh look up, for in that hour, your redemption, the person of the Redeemer, this blessed One that was wounded for your sin, who suffered death for your sin, this Blessed One is drawing nigh. I wonder friends whether some of you as you look back over recent weeks, the affairs of your home, business concerns, the concerns of your soul, the deep exercises through which you have been passing, the fears that are upon your spirit because of the antagonism of the devil in the way that you have to pass, I wonder whether the word of the Lord has rested upon your spirit, ‘Look up, these are the evidences that your redemption draweth nigh; look up.’ The Lord has not forsaken you. He has not cast you off. He knew that these things would be in your path and in your experience, look up!
But then, there is the preparation for it. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,” preparation. “Watch ye therefore”. Against what? You say, “I want to watch for something,” but you shall watch against something as well as watch for something. Oh watch for His coming, watch for the signs of His coming, look up, when these signs come your redemption draweth nigh, watch for something coming, but watch against something as well. Watch against what? “Take heed to yourselves”, (watch against yourself) “lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness.” “Surfeiting”. If we understand the meaning of that old word I think it belongs to today as much as any era in the history of this world, surfeiting. Watch against surfeiting; having so much and exercising one’s sinful indulgence in the possession of it, taking great care of yourself because you have all thisÂ—surfeitingÂ— praising the age in which you live, the conditions in which you are living, the rulers that may be ruling the country, because there never was a time when you had had it so goodÂ—surfeiting. ‘Well,’ you say, ‘Mine is not that case. I must be one of the unusual ones. I am just pressed down under the sense of loss. I have no surfeit, nothing to become drunken with in the indulgence of it.’ So, friends, the Lord looks upon your case and, knowing your position He says, “And the cares of this world choke the word,” that is the danger, said Christ in the parable of the Sower, either of these two things can choke the word and it becomes unfruitful. Watch against these things. Watch against the danger that though we may say these things are the gifts of God to us, we take them and in the use of them they have become a snare to us, and we become drunken in self indulgence, or we become so weighed down under the cares of this world that we sink into rebellion with almost open profanity and infidelity. Watch against these things, said Christ, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted
worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass. and to stand before the Son of man.”
“Pray always”. “Be instant in season and out of season.” It is a good thing to have an open eye to see the danger. It is a blessed thing to have a heart to pray to God in the midst of the danger;
not to be praying to your God for a discerning spirit so that you can understand the danger in which you live and criticise everybody else because they are bringing this danger upon you; but to be able to pray, out of a broken and contrite spirit, that you are the sinner that needs the mercy of God. That you are the sinner who needs the grace of God to prepare you for that great day that may be so soon upon us.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy.” Worthy on the ground of our diligence, worthy because of our watchfulness and prayerfulness? No, Christ did not say that. This watchfulness and prayerfulness, if it is in you, is God’s gift to you. It is something He may graciously grant to you, in answer to a deep exercise of prayer that may arise within your heart through blessing this word to you. The watchfulness and prayerfulness, true and right within His waiting people, is an evidence of His grace working in them, but ‘Watch and pray that ye may be accounted worthy.’ May this ever be the prayer of your heart, that the One in whom poor sinners alone can be accounted worthy may be more great, more precious to your soul, that Jesus Christ may be exalted in your affection, “that ye may be accounted worthy” in Him and in Him alone.
“And to stand before the Son of man” that blessed One who came from heaven. Eternal Son of God, who took upon Himself the form of a servant, died that death upon the cross for His people, who has ascended on high, and exercises His sovereign power, not only in the whole world but in a particular way in the church of Christ all through the ages, and is still reigning. Some people think the devil has dethroned God, and other people think that the humanists with their awful and blasphemous teaching have just about disproved even the existence of God. But in this great and imminent, certain and sudden visitation of Christ to this earth again there shall be a proof that the sovereignty of all things is still in the hand of Emmanuel, God with us. In that day there will be so many banished from His presence, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25, 41.) The Word of God teaches that there will be multitudes who will be banished from His presence, but in that day, there will be some that have walked in darkness and have had little light; they have cried to the Lord to illuminate their darkness and visit them with the blessing of His salvation, and in that great day they shall hear this blessed One say (and say with blessed effect as well,) “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25, 34.)
When He comes you will hear certain things that will surprise you, amaze you. If you think you have done so very much for Jesus Christ and you have been the person who has always served Him so perfectly and so well, would there be any element of surprise about it if these things were said to you? But Christ tells us that those who hear these words will be amazed at what He says. “When saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” Matt. 25, 37-39.) Others also are amazed at what the Lord says to them. Their life, their actions, their conduct and service have been so poor and so marred by sin that they feel unworthy to be mentioned in that great day, but oh when the Lord turns to them and says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25, 40.) Then they shall go into heaven, into the city with the gates of pearl and the golden streets and the foundations of wonderful jewels, yes, all that, but something more, “Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25, 21.)
Can you tell me that your greatest joy in this life has been the joy that you have had in the Lord Jesus Christ? If you have not had the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ in your soul, can you say from your heart, ‘I do believe that if a precious Christ was manifested to me by the Holy Ghost, it would be the greatest joy of my life’? If the time does come, and I believe it will, when I shall be called into His presence and I shall hear Him speaking in anything like such terms as these, that will be the greatest joy of my existence, “Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Dost thou know something of the joy of Christ here? thou shalt enter into the joy of the Lord. They are a prepared people for a prepared place in a prepared condition and a prepared eternal blessedness. (John 14, 2 and 3.) They have just a foretaste here but the fulness lies beyond.