An attitude of expectancy does not depend upon theories about the chronology of prophecy. It is Christ’s will that, till He comes, we know “neither the day nor the hour.” We may, as I suppose most of us do, believe that we shall die before He comes. Be it so. That need not affect the attitude of expectance, for it comes to substantially the same thing whether Christ comes to us or we go to Him. And the certain uncertainty of the end of our individual connection with this fleeting world stands in the same relation to our hopes as the coming of the Master does, and should have an analogous effect on our lives. Whatever may be our expectation as to the literal coming of the Lord, that future should be very solid, very real, very near us in our thoughts, a habitual subject of contemplation, and ever operative upon our hearts and conduct.
If we never, or seldom, and then sorrowfully, look forward to the future and contemplate our meeting with our Master, I do not think there is much chance of our having either our loins girt or our lamps burning.
One great motive for concentration, detachment, and alertness of service, as well as for exhibiting the bright graces of the Christian’s character, is to be found in the contemplation of the two comings of the Lord. We should be ever looking back to the cross, forward to the throne, and upwards to Christ, the same on them both. If we have our gathering together with Him ever in view, then we shall be willing to yield all for Him, to withdraw ourselves from everything besides for the excellency of His knowledge and, whatsoever He commands, joyfully and cheerfully to do.
The reason why such an immense and miserable proportion of professing Christians are all unbraced and loose-girt and their lamps giving such a smoky and foul-smelling and coarse radiance is because they look little back to the cross and less forward to the Great White Throne. But these two solemn and sister sights are far more real than the vulgar and intrusive illusions of what we call the present. That is a shadow. They are realities. That is but a transitory scenic display, like the flashing of the aurora borealis for a night in the wintry sky. These are the fixed, unsetting stars that guide our course. Therefore, let us turn away from the lying present, with its smallnesses and its falsities, and look backwards to Him who died and forward to Him who is coming. And, as we nourish our faith on the twofold fact, a history and a hope, that Christ has come and that Christ shall come, we shall find that all devotion will be quickened and all earnestness stirred to zeal, and the dim light will flame into radiance and glory.
He comes in one of two characters, which lie side-by-side here, as they do in fact. To the waiting servants, He comes as the Master who shall gird Himself and go forth and serve them. To those who wait not, He comes as a thief, not only in the suddenness nor the unwelcomeness of His coming, but as robbing them of what they would fain keep, and dragging from them much that they ought never to have had. And it depends upon ourselves whether, we waiting and watching and serving and witnessing for Him, He shall come to us as our joy, or as our terror and our judge. – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Luke 12.35-36.