The dictionary defines Imminent as “Coming or likely to happen very soon.” http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/imminent
James teaches us that the imminency of Christ’s return should motivate us to remain steadfast in our faith.
“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. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:7–11, ESV)
There are three predominant commands that guide the thought of these verses.
Be Patient (5:7),
Establish your hearts (5:8b),
Do not grumble (5:9).
Mixed in with these three commands are three illustrations demonstrating that the Lord’s return is imminent, thus motivating believers to obey these commands. The illustrations are that of a farmer waiting patiently for rain (5:7), the Old Testament prophets who remained faithful to the Lord through persecution and suffering (5:10), and Job who also remained faithful through suffering (5:11).
Our study today will focus on how knowledge of the imminent return of Christ motiviates Christians today to obey these three commands.
Christ’s Imminent Return Motivates us to Remain Faithful in the Trials of Life. James 5:7-8a. The main command in these verses is “be patient.”
James is returning to his initial theme of trials. James 1:2
He returns to the theme of “steadfastness” that we saw in the opening of the book.
“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:3–4, ESV)
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, ESV)
“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25, ESV)
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” (James 2:1, ESV)
“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11, ESV)
Here, “be patient” means to be “long tempered, ” to have a long fuse. James is encouraging these wavering Christians to think about the entire game and not quit in the third quarter because the opposition is tough. He encourages a marathon mentality toward life.
The ILLUSTRATION is of the Early and Late rains.
EARLY Rains = October-November. Helps seed to germinate and grow.
LATE rains – March-April. Ripens the fruit.
The early and later rains were vital for the agricultural society of Israel. This seasonal, life-giving rain is a picture of Messianic blessing frequently used in the OT.
““Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.” (Joel 2:23, ESV)
The FARMER plants his crop anticipating the rain. He works faithfully, through difficult circumstances, but his work is dependent on something that only God can do. He PERSEVERES and is REWARDED.
8b “you also be patient.” James encapsulates this first command about patience.
Endure the hardships of living for God
Don’t walk away from your faith to follow worldly wisdom
Don’t rush things. God will accomplish his work
No matter how hard things get here on earth, our true home is Heaven! Serve God on earth so that you will have reward in heaven. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21, ESV)
Christ’s Imminent Return Motivates us to Strengthen our Hearts to Serve the Lord. (James 5:8b). Here, we follow the second command, translated as “strengthen your hearts” in the NASB.
WHY? Because“The coming of the Lord is at hand”
This is the Greek word “Parusia.” The idea here is that BELIEVERS will give an account when the Lord returns. This occurs at the RAPTURE of the Church. Although parousia can refer to Christ’s return in judgment of the nations, the context here is the accountability that believers have in light of the Lord’s return, and the rewards or lack or rewards that they will receive.
IMMINENCY a frequent theme in Scripture. Here are some of the many references to the imminent return of Christ.
“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.(Matthew 24:42 ESV)
“Thief in the night” terminology is used in Matt 24:43 and 1 Thess 5:2.
“The night is far gone, the day is at hand.” This terminology is used in Rom 13:12 and Phil 4:5 to remind believers that the Lord could return at any moment.
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” (1 Peter 4:7,)
“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18,)
“I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” (Revelation 3:11, ESV)
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”” (Revelation 22:7)
“And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” (Revelation 22:10, ESV)
“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20, ESV)
It is very significant to remember that the very last words in the Bible are a reminder to believers to live in light of the Lord’s return!
But not only is this a biblical imperative, it is also a present reality based on the correlation of current events to themes repeated in Scripture. The biblical writers believed and wrote of the imminent return of Christ. They were not wrong. Christ could have indeed returned 2,00 years ago, within the lifetime of Peter, James, Paul and John. But we know today that events are in even greater conformity to the conditions of the coming Tribulation period than they were in the first Century. Kurt Richardson puts the delay in the Lord’s return into perspective. “Those reading this text today are aware that 2000 years separate us from the original audience. The imminency of the Lord’s return, therefore, referred to the necessity of constant readiness and persevering faith based upon the knowledge that he may return at any time. This larger passage tells what the nearness of the Lord signifies and how the knowledge of it strengthens the heart of the believer.” Kurt A. Richardson, James, vol. 36, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 221.
So, let’s examine eight indications of the imminency of the Lord’s return that we see at work in our world today. Each indication is connected to a Biblical prophetic principle.
1. The World if Focused on Israel. (Daniel 9:24-27). Israel is 97th largest nation in the world, right up there with Brundi, Hondorus, Benin and Tajikistan. How is it that Israel is so disproportionately a focus of world attention? It has always been this way! Since 1948, hardly a day has gone by without a newspaper headline concerning Israel! Why is Israel’s significance to the world so disproportionate to the size of the country? Because ISRAEL is the focus of God’s prophetic plan!
2. The Wold is Focused on the End of the World (Romans 8:22-23) “creation groans…”
Natural disasters are always in focus. Much is due to the constant reporting cycle and disasters grab our attention (and increase ad revenues!)
Terrorism is on the increase and threatens our world.
And did you hear about the Solar storm 2012 that would have wiped out all electricity on earth? Had the storm occurred one week earlier the would have been in the path of a massive solar earth powerful enough to have supercharged every circuit board and destroyed the electric grid!
And we read about Global warming, SARS, H1N1, Asteroids, Aliens and Zombies!
It seems that our attention is focused on the end of the world!
3. Growing Apostasy in the church. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,” (1 Timothy 4:1, ESV)
4. Growing wickedness in the world. “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1–5, ESV)
5. One World Economy is in sight. Rev 13:17 No one can buy or sell without the mark of the beast. The Vatican has called for “the establishment of “a supranational authority” with worldwide scope and “universal jurisdiction” to guide economic policies and decisions.” (Reuters, Oct 24, 2011).
6. Continual surveillance of the everyone on the planet.
Julian Assange -Wikileaks “It will soon be possible to monitor everyone on the planet”
Edward Snowden – The NSA is watching everything you do electronically.
“These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.” (Revelation 17:13) “for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:17)
7. One world government is in sight. Secularists wish to give more power to the UN. US Judges are basing opinion on laws of other countries. US is surrendering its role as the “indispensable Nation.”
8. Satan’s Post-Rapture Propaganda is already being played.
“This is the End”
“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, ESV)
“So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” (Matthew 24:33, ESV)
Christ’s Imminent Returns Motivates us to Spiritual Unity so we can Evangelize the Lost. James 5:9
Repeats the theme raised in 1:19-20; 2:1, 4, 8-9; 4:1-2, 11-12.
“The Judge is Standing at the Door!”
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”” (Genesis 4:7, ESV)
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20, ESV)
ARE you READY to MEET THE LORD?
ARE you REMAINING STEADFAST?