Such are the events, near and far, which some day will come up over the horizon of our common life, ushering in a new day. And we are bidden by our Lord Jesus to watch. We watch for Him, and for anything that tells us His coming is nearing.
Watching means wakefulness, an ideal, a purpose, an expectancy, and a daily life under the control of wakefulness, ideal, purpose, and expectancy. That our Lord Jesus will actually come to this old earth and reign, this is the ideal. That we shall, by grace, be true to Him in everything, day by day, during this waiting-time, this is the purpose. That we shall indeed see Him come, and be caught up into His presence without death, this is the expectancy.
That this shall all be a real thing to us, controlling all our relationships, our gold, and our life, and that we shall reverently, thoughtfully seek to understand what He has told us about it, this is the wakefulness. This is what watching means. Our bodies may be asleep, our brains and hands absorbed in the day's task, but our hearts can be awake for the sound ahead of the coming of His feet.
"But how can you watch for Him if there are intervening events?" So the question came to me this summer by a thoughtful, godly min ister who looks for His coming. And I said: "Because His coming is one of a little group of events which cluster about His coming."
The crowd stands watching at the railway station in England to see the king's train come in. Yet they know that before it comes the pilot-engine will come, running ahead about so many minutes to insure the safety of the way. The coming of the pilot-engine heightens the intensity of watching, for now soon the king will come.
The watcher in the sick-chamber, weary with the long night's anxious vigil, goes to the east window to see if day is coming. There comes a bare lighting-up in the east, just a slight lessening of the darkness that is everywhere. But even this much brings a sigh of relief. The sun itself may not be seen for two hours or more. But you know without looking at the clock that the sun is coming and is near. Its presence near sends the light far ahead.
When the trees begin to send out swelling bud and tender green leaf and catkin, we know summer is coming, even though the chill is in the air, and the night may even now bring a touch of the white of frost. "Even so ye also when ye see these things know that He is nigh, even at the doors." [Note: Mat_24:33.]
There's something intensely practical about this thing of watching. I mean the intelligent watching that a thoughtful study of God's Word promotes. There is a striking sentence used in describing some of the men that rallied to David during the clearing-up storm that preceded his reign. It is said of certain of the tribe of Issachar that they "had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do" in the matter of making David the accepted king over the realm. [Note: 1Ch_12:32.] Their thoughtful study and judgment of the time made them wise leaders of action.
There is a similar significant word spoken to Daniel in the final vision in which these end events are being disclosed. And we recall that the speaker is He for whose coming we look. He says, "They that are wise shall understand." [Note: Dan_12:10.] Daniel had prayerfully set himself to understand God's will for his people. [Note: Dan_8:15-17; Dan_9:1-2; Dan_10:1-3; Dan_10:11-14.] When the wonderful vision was given him in answer to his patient study and continued prayer, the Man of Fire who came to him said, "Now I am come to make thee understand."
It is wise, by thoughtful, prayerful study of God's Word, to try to understand what He has told us. Not to do so is not wise. And more, it will become increasingly needful that others be taught as these events draw on. Daniel is told in this same connection that "They that are wise shall instruct many." [Note: Dan_11:33.]
The opening words of the Revelation, and especially the closing paragraphs, emphasize this same thing. The revelation is given that we may read and understand and hold our lives true to this vision. This thing is intensely practical. Indeed, it is the practical thing for our day. We can understand the simple essentials revealed here. Our Lord Jesus earnestly desires us to do so. Surely we will, for His sake.