On Wednesday evenings here at Colonville Bible Church we have been walking through the book of James verse by verse. Last week, as we were continuing to make our way through chapter 5, we came upon verses 7 and 8 which read,
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Many within the apostle’s audience were experiencing great trials and hardships at the hands of wicked individuals, and as a result, James seeks to encourage them to remain steadfast. As I am sure you are well aware, enduring hardships and trials brought on by the sin-stained world in which we live is not always as easy as we would like it to be. However, the trials that we face ultimately serve to refine us and to make us more like Christ. James in these verses endeavors to strengthen his hearer’s faith by reminding them of the blessed hope, which is to say the imminent return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His calling us home to be with Him. This blessed hope is the next event on God’s prophetic timetable and it is often referred to as the rapture of the church.
Sadly, today there seems to be a decreasing interest in the doctrine of the rapture. Many professing evangelical Christians have even gone so far as to declare that there is no such thing as the rapture of the Church. They insist that it was made up in the 19th century by a man named John Nelson Darby, and therefore, they declare, the church ought not to get caught up in such things. Along with worldly pursuits, an influx in variant eschatological point of views such as that of Amillennialism and Postmillennialism (which reject the snatching away of the Church) are to blame for much of the churches reluctance to cling to the blessed hope of the Lord’s soon return. But if there no such thing as Jesus returning to call home His bride (the Church), as many “Christians” seem to believe, then what is James referring to when he says “Be patient…until the coming of the Lord.”
Postmillennialist David Chilton (along with practically every postmillennialist) believes that James’ words were in reference to the eventual destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. Such an assumption would imply that Temple Judaism was the sole cause of his audience’s oppression and that after the temple was destroyed their trials and hardships would just fade away. What a nonsensical belief! Even if Temple Judaism somehow had something to do with his audiences present difficulties, what then would his listeners cling to when they faced abuse after the temple was destroyed? Is this what Jesus encouraged His disciples with just before He went to the cross, that they ought not to be troubled because one day He would destroy the temple? No! Instead, He encouraged them by saying:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. – John 14:1-3
Does Jesus say, “I will come and destroy the temple?” Not at all. He says I will come again and will take you to myself.” The “coming” that James is encouraging his audience with is the rapture and the subsequent judgments to follow (the judgment is a discussion for another blog post). The rapture of the church that James speaks of is the very same event that Jesus Himself encouraged the disciples with just before the crucifixion. The apostles also sought to encourage the saints with such a glorious return of Christ for His Church. The apostle Paul states:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. - 1 Corinthians 15:50-55
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
What are the words that Paul is seeking to encourage the church with? Is it the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70? Not at all. But of the coming of Christ from heaven to gather His bride to be with Him always, the moment at which we will be transformed from perishable to imperishable. It is a sad reality that many professing Christians today have abandoned a belief in clear teaching of God’s Word regarding the blessed hope of our Lord’s soon return. And what is there justification for assuming such? Simply put…the arguments of skeptics. Unbelievers continue to attack Christianity by saying “Where is Jesus? I thought He said He would return soon.” Some Christians apparently believe this critique is valid, and so to defend their faith they have reinterpreted the Biblical view of Christ’s return. But what does the apostle Peter clearly state? He says:
…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” - 2 Peter 3:3-7
In other words, scoffers are going to continue to question the coming of Christ, but they are ignorant of the truth. Christians should not acquiesce to the complaints and arguments of unbelievers, we should not modify the clear teaching of Scripture because unbelievers like Bertrand Russel have not been able to understand the infallible words of Christ. Instead, we should take to heart the encouragements of James, Paul, and even Jesus to patiently endure and to establish our hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. -Titus 2:11-14
Pastor Justin Myers is an avid student of God's Holy Word and received his M.Div. in biblical studies from Liberty University School of Divinity. Pastor Justin considers himself a family man who loves his wife and children dearly. He has been married for over nine years and has four children.