"Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones."
—Testimonies, Vol. 9, page 11.
Those words are very familiar to Seventhday Adventists. But how fast is rapid? Twice as fast? Or three times as fast? How fast can we expect the great controversy to wind up?
Here's an answer: "When divine power is combined with human effort, the work will spread like fire in the stubble."—Selected Messages, Book 1, page 118. (Italics supplied.)
And if that doesn't boggle the imagination, here's something that will. Ellen White, commenting on the first chapter of Ezekiel, verse 8, said, "The heavenly messengers seen by Ezekiel, like a bright light going among the living creatures with the swiftness of lightning, represent the speed with which this work will finally go forward to completion." ─The SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, page 1161. (Italics supplied.)
Think of it! The work will be finished with the speed of lightning!
I think of that dark night when the disciples of Jesus were out on the treacherous Sea of Galilee. They were out there alone—without Jesus. And the sea was getting into the ship, and they were trying to bail it out—just as the world is getting into the church, and dedicated men and women are trying to bail it out. The world keeps saying, "Stop bailing. You're centuries out of date. You need to become contemporary. Let the water in. It won't hurt you."
Like the disciples that night, we say, "Lord, it's dark. And You haven't come. And there are those who wonder if You ever will."
But Someone was watching on that dark night. The ship with its precious cargo was never out of His sight for a moment. He saw them toiling—rowing—bailing. And when the ship was about to sink and the desperate moment came when they would perish without Him, He hurried down from the mountain and came to them, walking on the water. And they were afraid. But He said, "It is I; be not afraid."
And it says, "Then they willingly received him into the ship" (John 6:21).
And what happened when they took Jesus into the ship? "Immediately the ship was at the land whither they went."
Is that why we haven't reached our destination? Is that why Jesus hasn't returned? Is it because we haven't taken Jesus into the ship?
Would taking Him into the ship hasten His return?
And yet there is something else to consider. We talk a lot about how we are delaying His coming, and how He can't come until we are ready─as if the day and the hour were in our control. And some of us make it a copout, and think we can hold off the return of our Lord as long as we choose by just not being ready.
But we're in for a big surprise. God isn't going to wait forever. The harvest of wheat is not the only consideration. There is a harvest of tares as well. When the tares are so ripe that for the good of the universe they dare not be left any longer; when the nations have filled their cup until the overflow of violence must be checked or else; when the number is reached—Jesus dispenses judgment upon them. And it isn't just the world who will be surprised!
When the number is reached? Yes. "With unerring accuracy the Infinite One still keeps an account with all nations. While His mercy is tendered, with calls to repentance, this account will remain open; but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of His wrath commences. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. There is no more pleading of mercy in their behalf."─Testimonies, Vol. 5, page 208.
If those final, rapid movements were happening one after another in quick succession, if the latter rain were falling all around us, if the loud cry were even now doing its mighty work in a crescendo difficult to ignore─would we be concerned with some of the trivialities that consume much of our time now?
The other day I read the question, "Would you want Jesus to return tomorrow, or are there a few things that you want to do before He returns?"
The question seemed to me rhetorical. It seemed to imply that if we knew Jesus would come tomorrow, we might have some things to make right today.
But I wonder whether we realize that if the return of our Lord were only one day away, it would be far too late to make anything right. The case of every man would already have been decided, and the decree would have gone forth, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Rev. 22:11).
And Jesus says, "Behold, I come quickly" (verse 12).
God is in a hurry to wind things up. That means that Jesus is coming soon. It also means that, even sooner, Jesus will finish His work in the heavenly temple. And when that work is finished, it means that He has already come to your name and mine and has already made a decision never to be revoked!
I wonder whether we realize the terrible solemnity of the moment when Jesus will either hold out His wounded hands and say, "Father, My blood for that soul" or He will turn sadly away, with indescribable hurt in His heart because we have refused the incredible sacrifice He made for us. There is nothing more He can say, nothing more He can do!
Our destiny is decided. The verdict is in. It is determined whether we are saved or lost. Jesus died for all. All could be saved. But He will not interfere with man's free choice. His death will not save anyone who is not willing to be saved. Nor does it save anyone who was once willing and does not remain willing.
Isn't it inappropriate, then, in view of our own weakness, in view of that solemn moment when our cases are decided, to go about proclaiming now a verdict that is not in, a decision that has not yet been made! What would an earthly judge think of you or me if we had been accused in court and the jury was still out─what would he think if we called a press conference and announced that we had been found not guilty? Wouldn't he quickly put us in our place?
onfidence in our Lord is one thing. Presuming to make His decisions for Him is quite another. An inner confidence, an inner assurance that we will be saved that we all should have. Jesus has done everything to make our salvation possible. Only our enduring to the end can make it sure. Isn't it inappropriate, and a little premature, to be proclaiming a work of grace in us that is not yet finished, by saying, "I am saved"?
"No sanctified tongue will be found uttering these words ['I am saved'] till Christ shall come, and we enter in through the gates into the city of God. Then, with the utmost propriety, we may give glory to God and to the Lamb for eternal deliverance. As long as man is full of weakness for of himself he cannot save his soul he should never dare to say, 'I am saved.' Selected Messages, Book 1, page 314.
God is in a hurry to be through the terrible experiment with sin. He will not wait for us forever. Our probation soon will end. There will then be not a moment longer to prepare, for the day of our Lord pierces the skies. Our preparation days are now or never!
God is in a hurry. And unless we too share His sense of urgency, we'll be left behind as a part of the great debris when Jesus, with His people, sets out for the city of God!
When Jesus moves down through the blazing skies and the trumpet sounds and the earth reels and the dead move up out of their graves and the living cloud makes ready to depart, not one of us will be able to hold it back!
Hold-it-wait-Fm-coming-rm-almostready will have died on our lips along with I knew-He-was-coming-but-I-didn't-think-itwould-be-so-soon!
Friend, have you noticed the time? God's time?
Marjorie Lewis Lloyd for many years was involved with the communications program of the Seventhday Adventist Church. This article appeared in her book The Man With Two Umbrellas published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association.