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Deliverance In The Day Of The Lord.
"Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."-Luke 21:36
This chapter, though relating at its commencement to the days of our Lord, runs on far into the future, and carries us down to his second coming. The "last days" are the times more especially referred to; the days which end with his arrival as Judge and King.
I. These days are days of calamity. Both for Israel and for the church; nay, for the world also, these were to be days of sorrow. These sorrows were to be various, as if au past calamities were summed up and gathered together in these. Then are the vials of divine wrath to be poured out. Nothing in the past can equal them. Judgments, terrors, persecutions; earthquakes, overturnings, darkenings of sun and moon and stars; these and such like are to mark that awful day. The destruction of Jerusalem was only a shadow of this. The Indian horrors are but preludes of what is coming. The day of the Lord will be a day of darkness and gloominess.
II. These calamities are to be very widespread. They are to be terrible as the doom of Sodom and Gomorrah, but far more universal. They are not mere judgments on a city or a land, but on a world! The heavens and the earth; the sea and the land; Israel and the Gentiles; Jerusalem and Babylon; Judea and Idumea; all are to share the judgments, for all have sinned. God's sword shall smite and not spare; for it is the day of His vengeance; vengeance against sin, against idolatry, against Anti-Christian rebellion, against Jewish unbelief, against Apostate Christianity; vengeance for dishonour done to Himself, to His Son, to His Spirit; to His Bible, to His gospel, to His law. Like the deluge, the vengeance will overflow the earth.
III. There will be some that will escape. Such has always been the way in the execution of judgment. The great mass of the ungodly have perished, for God's purpose was to shew His hatred of sin; but a few have been preserved to declare His grace and sovereign pleasure in saving whom He will. The flood swept the world away; but Noah and his family were saved. The fire of heaven consumed the cities of the plain, yet Lot and his two daughters were preserved. Tens of thousands perished in the overthrow of Jerusalem, but the Christians in it escaped. So is it to be in the last and most terrible of God's visitations. A remnant shall be saved. Balaam asks, Who shall live when God doeth this? And certainly it will be a time of trouble such as never was upon the earth, such as seems to make escape impossible. But some Noahs, some Lots, shall be delivered. God will shew how He can preserve as well as destroy; how He can rain down judgment on Egypt, and yet keep Israel in safety.
IV. This deliverance shall be by the direct hand and power of God. This passage does not say so. But others intimate that God will interfere to deliver. Indeed, in such a burst of universal vengeance, it seems difficult to conceive of any escaping save by miracle; either by being caught away from the judgment just before it begins, as in the case of Enoch, or being carried through the midst in safety, as in the case of Noah, or the three children in the furnace. God speaks of "chambers," into which He calls His people to enter until the indignation be overpast; and He speaks of the righteous being taken away from the evil to come; and the 91st Psalm will be specially fulfilled to these preserved ones in that day of trial and destruction.
V. They who are saved are they who watch and pray. There are many allusions in the prophets to a chosen few of faithful worshippers who are to be delivered. We commonly give these passages a mere general application, as referring to any time of calamity; and no doubt they are so written as to bear this meaning, and to afford comfort to God's believing ones in any day of sorrow. But like many other words of the prophets, they have a fuller meaning, and point to a prophetic application in the last days. Such is Psalm 91. Such is Isaiah 24:13, 14; 33:14-16; Malachi 3:16, 17. And in these passages the characters of the delivered are fully described. But our Lord in His exhortation here sets them before us in two words, Watch and pray; two words which He elsewhere used, and which the Apostle Peter, doubtless remembering the Master's words, makes use of, "The end of all things is at hand, be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer."
(1.) Watch. Beware of sleep. It is a drowsy' world; or rather it is a world fast asleep in sin. It is the world's night, and this induces drowsiness. It is to be specially the temptation of the church in the last days, "while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Many things in the present day tend to lull us asleep; worldly prosperity, the progress of the arts, outward comforts, luxury, freedom from danger, want of persecution. We are in danger of being overcome by these opiates, these soporifics of the evil one. Therefore let us watch. Let us be ever on our guard against the drowsiness that is constantly overtaking us. Let us beware of being led into this by pleasure, or covetousness, or vanity, or love of ease. Let us watch. It is not for nothing that God has spoken to us during these late years in such appalling judgments abroad, such afflictive disasters at home. He says, Awake, to those that are asleep. He says, Watch, to those who are drowsy. Let us not sleep as do others.
(2.) Pray. While watching, let us pray. Let us watch upon our knees. A watching time should be a praying time. It is to more than merely keeping ourselves awake that the Lord calls us. Pray; pray always; or literally, in all times and seasons; not yesterday only, but today; not in darkness only, but in the light; not in adversity only, but in prosperity; not in the day of bereavement, and terror, and weariness, but in the time of security, and comfort, and peace. Pray always. Pray without ceasing.
It is the watchers and the prayers that shall be saved out of, or carried through, the coming storm. Only they. If you fear the day of trouble that is at hand, watch and pray. That only will avail. How God is to deliver in that day, I cannot say; but He will, though it should be by a fiery chariot, or by an ark, or by his angel sent down from heaven. He will deliver.
VI. These delivered ones shall stand before the Son of man. This standing has a twofold reference: (1) A standing in judgment (Psalm 1:5), i.e. being acquitted in the day of the Lord; (2.) a standing in the presence of the Lord, as in Revelation 7:9, 14:1, 5, 15:2, 22:4. There is not merely deliverance in that day for these, but glory and triumph in the presence of the King. They shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads. They shall stand before him as part of his glorious retinue, his honoured ones, his chosen ones, his blessed ones. Having suffered with Him, they shall reign with Him; having been partakers of his shame, they shall be sharers of his glory.
Watch and pray always; and so much the more as ye see the day approaching. For the time is short, and the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. This year may unfold much; be ready for what is coming. Whether it usher in the advent of the Lord or not, be ready. Watch and pray. Your own spiritual prosperity demands this. Your exemption from impending judgment demands this. Your usefulness in the world, during the world's brief remaining day, demands this. The glory of your Lord demands this; and the Lord himself expects it at your hand. Watch ye therefore, and pray always!
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