4. Why is it that our Lord has tarried till now?
Why has not the Redeemer returned long ere
this? At first sight perhaps this inquiry might appear almost irreverent and
some may feel inclined to remind us that "secret things belong unto the Lord."
In response we would say, It is not in any spirit of idle curiosity nor is it
to indulge an inquisitive speculation that we take up this question, but simply
because we believe that a humble examination of it will prove profitable to our
souls, inasmuch as the answer to our inquiry demonstrates the wisdom and grace
of Him with whom we have to do.
Of old, the mother of Sisera cried concerning her
son, "Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his
chariot?" (Judges 5:28). We might well appropriate these words to our present
inquiry. On the eve of His death,the Lord Jesus said "I go to prepare a place
for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive
you unto Myself, that where I am there ye may be also," but eighteen centuries
have run their weary course since then and He has not yet returned! Is
not this deeply mysterious? A world in which iniquity abounds more and more;
an Israel without a home and without a king; a church rent by divisions and,
like Samson, shorn of its power; a groaning creation and a war stricken earth ,
all unite in crying with the souls under the alter "How long, O Lord!" (Rev.
Why then such delay? Why has the millennial era
of blessedness been thus postponed? Why has not the Redeemer returned to enter
into His blood-bought inheritance long ere this? Stupendous questions surely.
Questions which sometime or other exercise the hearts of all the saints of God.
Is it possible to discover a satisfactory answer? A complete answer -
No; for now we "know in part." But an answer - yes, an answer that will
at least enable us to see, even though it be through a glass darkly,
something of the meaning of our Lord's delay. Why this protracted
interval since the time of His departure? Why has He not returned long ere
this? We answer -
First, because God would give man full
opportunity to develop his schemes and thereby demonstrate the world's need of
a competent Ruler.
Man cannot complain that God has not
allowed him full opportunity to experiment and test his own plans. Man has
been permitted to do his utmost in ruling and regenerating the world. God, as
it were, has put the reins of government into his hands, and withdrawn for a
season. Why? To show whether man was sufficient for these things. To show
whether or not man was capable of governing himself. To show whether man was
competent to grapple successfully with the powers of evil which war upon his
Throughout the ages man's efforts have been
directed toward ruling and regenerating the world. Man has been given full
scope. With what results? With the result that the incurable hatred of the
human heart to God and the utter depravity of human nature have been fully
displayed. How has man used the freedom, the opportunities, the privileges,
the talents with which his Maker has endowed him? To what profit has he turned
them? Have they been used with the purpose of glorifying God or of deifying
himself? To ask the question is quite enough. Loud have been man's boasts.
Lofty have been his claims. Pretentious has vauntings. Such terms as
improvement, advancement, enlightenment, evolution, civilization, have been his
favorite slogans. But the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, and
the folly of the world's wisdom and the vanity of man's claims are now
displayed before our eyes. What has "civilization" effected? With all our
so-called enlightenment and progress unto what have we attained? Let the
records of our Law-courts tell us. Let the columns of the daily newspapers
make response. Let the economic political and moral conditions of the day make
answer. Let the world war with all its inhumanities, its barbarities, its
fiendish atrocities, give reply. And mark, it cannot be said that these things
are due to man's ignorance and inexperience. Man is not just starting out to
make history. We are now living in the twentieth century of the
Christian era. Man then cannot complain that God has not given him plenty of
time to mature his plans. No; God has given ample time, time enough to show
that he is an utter failure, time enough to demonstrate that he is totally
incapable of governing himself, time enough to prove that if relief comes at
all it must come from outside himself.
Here then is the first part of our answer.
Christ's return has been delayed in order to provide opportunity for man's
plans to fully develop. God waits till harvest-time. He has been
waiting for the harvest time of man's schemes and efforts. He has been waiting
patiently with sickle in hand, and as soon as the crops of human industry have
fully matured, the word will go forth - "Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for
the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe"
Why has not our Lord returned long ere this? - We
Second, in order that God might fully display
"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one
thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count
slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:8,9). All
through these nineteen centuries the Lord has been saying, "Come unto Me all ye
that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Ever since the
Saviour left the earth, God has been dealing with the world in mercy instead of
visiting it with judgment. God's patience toward our wicked race has been
truly marvelous. Wonderful it is that the vials of His wrath have not been
emptied upon the nations long ere this. What long-sufferance Jehovah hath
shown in bearing with such rebels these twenty centuries! Why is it that the
Day of Salvation has lasted until it now exceeds in length every dispensation
that has preceded it? Why is it that the door of mercy still stands open wide
and God is yet beseeching sinners to be reconciled to Himself? Why is it that
Christ has not long, long ago returned in flaming fire to take vengeance on
them that know not God and obey not His Gospel? Why is it that He is not even
now seated upon the Throne of His Glory and saying to His enemies, "Depart from
Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels"?
Why? Ah! why? Because the Lord God is longsuffering to usward, not
willing that any should perish. Suppose that Christ had returned five,
ten, twenty, fifty years ago, then, in such case, how many who read these lines
rejoicing that they have been accepted in the Beloved, would have perished in
their sins! Join, then, with the writer in returning thanks for the marvelous
long-sufferance of our gracious God.
Why has not the Lord returned ere this? We
Third, in order that God might fully test the
faith of His own people.
This has ever been His way. Why those
years of waiting before Abraham received Isaac? Why that protracted bondage in
Egypt, when the chosen groaned beneath the burdens imposed on them by their
cruel taskmasters? Why those four centuries of silence between the ministries
of Malachi and John the Baptist? Why a four thousand years interval from the
giving of the promise of the woman's Seed until its realization? Why? - to
test the faith of His people, to demonstrate the reality of their confidence in
Him. So in this dispensation. Why has our Lord tarried so long in the
Father's house? Why these eighteen centuries for His church to journey through
the wilderness of the world? Why is it that the first, the second, and the
third "watch" has passed and yet our Lord has not come? Why did God permit the
Blessed Hope to be recovered almost a hundred years ago, and still the
Bridegroom tarries? Why this earnest expectation on the part of His own for
three generations past and even now the heavens are silent? Why tarry the
wheels of His chariot? Why? - because God would fully test the faith of His
people. Why is He pleased to do this? To the praise of the glory of His
grace. Perhaps to demonstrate to the angels, to whom we are "made a
spectacle" (1 Cor. 4:9), that God has a people who by His grace can
trust Him even amid the darkness of a profound mystery! Wonderful are
the ways of our God. Scoffers may cry "Where is the promise of His coming?"
Evil servants may exclaim "my Lord delayeth His coming," and our own wicked
hearts may sometimes be tempted to murmur against the long delay, nevertheless,
it shall yet be seen that He "doeth all things well."