Holiness and the Second Coming of Christ: No. 3

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
We will now turn to 1 Thess. 1:9, 109For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9‑10). The gospel, as preached by Paul for three weeks, had the most blessed effect in this Gentile city. (See Acts 17) He could now say," how ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." Holiness is a nature separate from all evil. Such was Jesus here below. Such were the effects of the gospel, and such the connection with the coming of Jesus from heaven. They were born of God, had the divine nature, turned to God from all the evil and iniquity of idolatry. From all false gods they were separated, to serve, in this new nature imparted to them, the living and true God. This is holiness. Turned to God from all evil, the eye lifted up to heaven, waiting for His Son. No other hope or expectation; as Paul says, further on, " For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" (Chap. 2:19.)
What a test of true holiness—holy separation from all evil—waiting for Jesus from heaven. Now if this were more the condition of our souls, should we not shrink from anything unsuited to Christ? Could we be waiting for Him from heaven at the concert, the shows, the bazaars, and amidst the follies of Christendom? How separating that blessed hope! Would it make any practical change in your behavior, if really waiting every day for Jesus, if your eyes and ears were fixed upwards, and you heard Him say, " Surely I come quickly”? Do not talk of holiness, if you are saying in your heart, " My Lord delayeth his coming." Do you believe the gospel which they believed when they heard it, that Jesus must needs suffer, and rise again, and that this Jesus is the Christ? Has His precious blood washed you whiter than snow, and fitted you for His presence in light? Are you ready to meet Him? Are you expecting Him—waiting for Him? Lord, grant us more of this practical holiness. Yes, Thou art coming quickly, who loved me, and gave Thyself for me!
Soon we shall meet the Son from heaven, even Jesus. Being holy by calling and the new birth, we long for that moment when we shall be unblameable in holiness before God. And the more power this hope has in our souls, the more we love one another. "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
This is the blessed state of spotless purity of all believers at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We may see and mourn over many failures in ourselves, and in one another, now; but the more we think of that unblameable holiness in which we shall all eternally share at His coming, the more we shall love one another. Does it not make us long for His coming? How intimately, then, are connected holiness and the coming of the Lord! If we are holy by new birth, holy by calling, and about to be with Him unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father—yes, before God, even our Father—what motives are these for holiness of life now! Surely nothing can be more sanctifying, then, as to practical walk, than the coming of the Lord. When He shall be manifested, we shall be manifested with Him in glory, unblameable in holiness.
We will now notice, in these epistles to the young assembly of the Thessalonians, two very distinct aspects, or events, in the coming of the Lord. First, His coming for believers; and, secondly, His coming with them in judgment; and the practical application of both. However much it may have been overlooked, yet, it is certain they will come with Him. "At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints" (Chap. 3:13) " Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." (Chap. 4:14.) But, before this can take place, He first comes for them. “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, and remain, unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up, together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (Chap. 4:15-17.) What comfort and rich consolation as to those that are asleep! We shall not be changed in a moment, and taken to meet the Lord, and leave the bodies of the saints in the grave; no, they shall rise first at that assembling shout. Then we shall be changed, and caught up with them, to meet the Lord in the air. " Wherefore comfort [or, encourage] one another with these words." What motives to encourage each other in holiness—separation from all the abounding evil! We know not the moment; it may be before we lay down this paper. It is the next event to faith. No one can show us a single thing that must take place before this event. Just think: this day we may be, with all the saints, caught up to meet the Lord. The more our souls dwell in faith on this, the more shall we seek holy separation from the world, which is hasting fast to judgment.
2nd. After this the Spirit brings before us a very different part of the subject—the day of the Lord. "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape," &c. (Chap. 5:2-8.) Yes, we learn from the lips of Jesus, that these shall be taken with as great surprise as the inhabitants of Sodom. " The same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed;” or, " as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man." (Luke 17—read 24-30.) Yes, this is the certain doom of this deceived world, with all its politics, religiousness, and iniquity.
What a voice there is in all this to the Christian! a But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." " Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch, and be sober.” You will notice, that every precious precept that follows is based upon, and connected with, these solemn truths, however much they have been disregarded for centuries. See how the apostle sums them up, and connects them with the coming of the Lord. "Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Chap, v. 22, 23.) Yes, if, in our inmost souls, we are expecting the coming of the Lord Jesus, surely we shall wish to abstain from all appearance of evil. We shall long, individually, to be wholly separated from evil of every kind, whether sensual, intellectual, or ecclesiastical. The very God of peace sanctify you wholly. This is evidently practical separation from all evil. This is very different from self-righteous pretensions to sanctification in the flesh. Such persons never pray to be separated wholly from all evil, but will generally mix with ecclesiastical evil, without a desire to be wholly separated from it.
But if the coming of the Lord be distinctly our blessed hope, and we really believe, further, that the Lord is about to come in judgment on a sleeping world, we shall pray, for ourselves and for others, to be found in all things well-pleasing unto Him, acceptable to Him, when He comes. And^ so far from self-righteous pride, there will be deep, humble dependence on God: " and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of OUR Lord.” Yes, it is our Lord that is coming. We do not, then, need and desire merely to be preserved from outward gross sins of the body, but we need preserving in our inmost springs of thought and desires. Yes, waiting for Jesus, may the meditation of our hearts, and the answer of our lips, be alike acceptable to Him, whose face in glory we shall soon see.
The apostle says elsewhere, " Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." Blessed as it is for us, sanctifying as it is to us, who believe God, to dwell on the coming of Christ to take us in one moment away from this scene, to be forever with the Lord; yet we feel it is due to all classes of men—especially unconverted professors—to dwell a little more fully on the terrors of the Lord at His coming to them; indeed, we shall find this to be largely brought out in the next epistle (2 Thess. 2). The Lord keep us from mere intellectual or reasoning occupancy with these subjects. Whether He speaks in the whispers of His love, or with the voice of thunder, may the people of God be awakened from their long, long slumber! Jesus said, " While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Lord, let the midnight cry be heard—" Behold, (he bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him."
" The night is now far spent,
The day is drawing nigh,
Soon will the morning break
In radiance through the sky;
Ο let the thought our spirits cheer,
The Lord Himself will soon appear."