Study 9 WAITING FOR THE LORD’S COMING
THE LETTER OF JAMES
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: James 5:7-12
It is a significant fact that all the New Testament writers make reference to the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. For example: in the four Gospels, in the recorded promises, parables and predictions of the Lord; in the Book of Acts, and in all Paul’s letters with the exception of Philemon, which is a private note; James, as we shall see in this study; also Peter, John in his first letter (2 and 3 are private) and in the Revelation; and so does Jude. Now what does James say about the coming again of Christ?
1. The Lord Jesus is most certainly coming back again.
This is clearly stated in James 5:7-8. How emphatic these statements are! – yet there are many people who do not live in the light of this fact. In some cases it is due to ignorance; in other cases it is due to wrong teaching by blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:14). Many Christians “are in error because (you) do not know the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29), and they are deprived of what the Bible calls “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). They know nothing about the incentive that comes when we live each day in the light of the fact of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:44; Matthew 25:13; Luke 21:25-28).
2. His coming will be sudden, unannounced, and it is imminent.
The whole atmosphere of these verses suggests the suddenness of our Lord’s return. For example, the closing words of verse 9 are very solemn. We also know that the Lord will come suddenly because of the warning about this from Jesus Himself (read again Matthew 24:44; Matthew 25:13). His coming will also be unannounced (Matthew 24:43; Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). All these emphasise the fact that He will come suddenly. We also learn that His coming is imminent – that is, it is likely to take place soon and at any moment. James says that it is near (verse 8). Some have said that the early Christians were mistaken in thinking that the Lord’s coming was near at hand. Not at all! It was always the Lord’s purpose that His people should live in the daily, moment-by-moment expectation of His return. Besides, look up 2 Peter 3:8, and see 2 Peter 3:9 for an explanation of the ‘delay’ in His return – and compare Hebrews 10:35-37.
3. The imminence of His coming should have a profound influence on our lives.
In nearly every reference to the second coming in Scripture we see this truth: for example, 1 John 3:2-3. It is dangerously possible to be caught up with the theories (how? when? where?) and not to let the truth regulate our lives. James tells us that if we believe that Jesus is coming again, and that it will be sudden, at any moment, we shall do three things:
- (1) Watch our thoughts (verse 9); the word “grumble” refers to an inward attitude of heart and mind and to human relationships. It speaks about a censorious, critical, complaining spirit. One version renders it: ‘Don’t make complaints against one another.’ All this begins in the heart and the mind, but if Jesus is coming soon – look up 1 John 2:28!
- (2) Watch our words (verse 12). We are to watch the word of criticism, jealousy, bitterness, pride. Why are we to do this? Because at any moment the Lord Jesus may return, so be careful – look up 1 John 2:28 again.
- (3) Watch our actions. Thoughts are quickly translated into words, and words into actions. We must be sure that our behaviour is pleasing to Him in case we would be ashamed and shrink away from Him at His return; look up 1 John 2:28 again.
4. The One who is coming is our Saviour, but He is also Judge.
James brings this out in the second part of verse 9. You must be clear about this: (1) He is the judge of the unsaved. This is very solemn – look up Revelation 20:10-15. (2) He is also judge of the saved. Christians will never stand before the Great White Throne for judgment, because for them that judgment is passed, as we learn from John 5:24 and Romans 8:1; “but we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” – what for? To be rewarded or to suffer the loss of rewards (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:9-15). The fact that the one who is coming is our judge should make us live very carefully, as we learn from 2 Peter 3:11; 1 Peter 1:15; 1 John 4:17.
5. It will help us to live in the light of His coming if we study the biblical record of Gods dealings with His people.
If we want to see what God is doing in His sovereignty and gain some idea of the outworking of His eternal plan and purpose, we must read the Bible in order to get some idea of His merciful and loving dealings in the lives of His own people. This is what James, in effect, is saying in verses 10-11: “take the prophets” (referring to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, and so on) – then turn back and read about Job and of God’s dealings with him, “and what the Lord finally brought about” (verse 11), that is, the fulfilment of God’s purpose in the life of His servant. To study the biblical record, and to trace God’s dealings with His people, will give us two things:
- (1) Patience, as we learn from verses 7, 8, 10-11.
- (2) Endurance, as we learn from verse 8 – compare 1 Corinthians 10:11.
In concluding this study look up 1 Peter 5:10-11.