In Matt. 24: 48, “the evil servant” is contrasted with the “faithful and wise servant” (verse 45).



The faithfulness and the wisdom of the one is manifested in his watching for his Lord’s coming.



The “evil” of the other is manifested in his saying “my lord delayeth his coming



The former feeds his fellowservants and is “blessed” and rewarded; the latter “smites his fellowservants and is surprised and cut off.  Compare Luke 43: 46.



The interpretation is for Israel and those who are on the earth after [those of]* the Church has been received up unto Glory.


[* NOTE. The pre-tribulation rapture of Christians, is specifically said to be for the watchful who are “accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass” (Luke 21: 36, A.V.).]



But the application is just as powerful for us who look for the Parousia of Christ now, and “wait for God’s Son from heaven” to descend into the air and take us up to be with Himself for ever.



The lesson as to watchfulness and unwatchfulness applies to all watchers, present and future.  It is true of all.



And the effect is the same on all.  We see it even now.  There are those among us who put off the Lord’s Parousia until after the Tribulation: some till it is half over; others till it is quite over.  They cannot possibly be watching for Christ, because they say that Antichrist must first come.  They are not, of course, really waiting for Antichrist, but they are necessarily watching for him, because it is perfectly useless to watch for Christ if Antichrist must first come.



Thus they are putting off the [the pre-tribulation rapture] and coming of Christ, and practically saying “my lord delayeth his coming



These may believe in His Parousia as a doctrine, and proclaim it as a truth.  But it is one thing to do this, and another thing to wait for God’s Son from heaven as though He were coming to-day.  Knowledge is not everything, not even the knowledge of [unfulfilled] prophecy.  For “though I understand … all knowledge, … and have not charity (or love), I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13: 2).



Knowledge is the action of the brain, but waiting is the action of the heart.



“Knowledge puffeth up and causes the possessor to “smite” those fellow-servants, whose knowledge is not exactly the same.



But “love buildeth up” (1 Cor. 8: 1), and manifests itself towards all who love the same Lord and wait and watch for His return.



The “root of bitterness” lies in the postponement of the Lord’s coming.



This postponement may take two forms.



It is manifest in those who do believe in the Lord’s coming; nut not from “rightly dividing the Word of Truth or from understanding the “signs of the times they believe and “say in their heart” that their “Lord delayeth His coming



It is manifest again in those who, not merely postpone it or think it delayed, but who have lost sight of it altogether, and have substituted other hopes.



Doubtless, this latter condition is the outcome of the former.



In the days of “the church of the Thessalonians it was an integral part of their Christianity “to wait for God’s Son from heaven  They believed that Christ might return in their own life-time.  But the majority of Christians to-day believe they were mistaken!



Well, they believed Paul’s teaching, and we see the effect of this blessed hope in their profession of Christian character.  They manifested the possession and the power of the three Christian graces - faith, love, and hope.



Paul could write in a note of highest praise and thanks-giving for their holiness of life and their missionary zeal.  He could write to them and say, “the charity {love} of everyone of you all toward each other aboundeth



Think of that!  How blessed!  But is that the character of Christians to-day?  For, far from it.  Life would be more worth living if it were!  Indeed, it is the very opposite of this that is the truth.  In an Epistle written to-day, the inspired writer would have to deplore the fact, and say “the bitterness of every one of you toward each other aboundeth



Why is this.  Is it not the question worth asking? and worth answering?



Surely there must be some grave cause for the wonderful difference between the character of Christians of those days and Christians in these days.  There must be something that will account for it.



Many Christians do-day say the Thessalonian Christians were mistaken in their belief that the Lord might come ant any moment.  Well, there is one thing certain, they were not mistaken in their life.  And if there be any connection between belief and life, we ought to see in their belief the cause which produced that wonderous effect in their lives.



At any rate, they believed their teachers, and waited for God’s Son from heaven; and Christians to-day believe their teachers, and we see the opposite effect produced  If the effect is the opposite, bust not the teaching and belief be looked at as that which produces it?



Surely this must be the case; and we must all see and know that it is so.



Paul’s teaching was that God’s Son was coming from heaven [to rule from David’s throne in the midst of His enemies (Luke 1: 32; Ps. 110: 1-3)], and that this coming was the proper object of the Christian’s hope, [Rev. 2: 25, 26; 3: 11, 12, R.V.].



But, to-day, “death” is very generally substituted for it.



The vast majority of hymns set forth death as the Christian’s goal; and the “comfort” generally administered in bereavement is very different from “these words” wherewith the Thessalonian saints were taught to “comfort one another” (1 Thess. 4: 17).



And, we repeat that this waiting is the action of the heart.  It is not knowledge; for that is the action of the head.  It is not a question here of understanding the prophecies about Christ’s coming; it is a question of waiting and longing for Him whose coming [Kingdom and Reign] was the great subject of all prophecy.* We can know, with the head, all about Nebuchadnezzar’s image, and Daniel’s beasts, and all about the Tribulation and Antichrist, and yet not be waiting, with the heart, for Him to deliver us from the wrath to come.**


[* Ezek. 34: 23-26, 30, 31; Jer. 23: 5, 6; 31: 38-40; 33: 14-21; Isa. 11: 1-10; 52: 7, 8; Zech. 14: 9. cf. Rev. 3: 21; 20: 6, etc. etc.]


** Luke 21: 36; Rev. 3: 10, R.V.]



It is of the very essence of this waiting that we believe we may be “alive and remain” to this Descension of Christ into the Air.  If death may, or the Tribulation must, come first, then this waiting ceases to be a necessity, ceases to be practical, and ceases to be practicable.  Yea, it is impossible.



As a hope it is destroyed; and all its power to purify the life is taken away (1 John 3: 2).  It is this hope which is set on Christ’s appearing that purifies the life.  When Christianity, therefore, is shorn of this hope, no wonder that life loses that power which alone can purify it.



That is the cause of the mighty difference between Thessalonian Christianity and the Christianity of the twentieth [and twenty-first] century.



It is not merely a question of whether that hope will be actually realised in our life-time or not.  The point is, that its power is realised; and that is the reason why God in His infinite wisdom has given us such “a blessed hope”: a hope which has such wonderous transforming power.*


[* That is, power to resurrect the holy dead, translate the living who are left, and remove the curse which God placed upon this creation, (1 Thess. 4: 16, 17; Gen. 3: 17, 18. cf. Rom. 8: 19-22, R.V.).]



But man thinks he knows better.  He always does, and always did.  Reasoning from his own observation, he sees that Christ has not come, and so he says the Christ “delayeth His coming,” and then he loses the power of this hope, until, finally, he substitutes something else for it.  In Scripture it is the Coming which is certain, and death which is regarded as uncertain.  But Christians have altered all that: with them it is death that is certain, and the Coming of Christ that is uncertain.  Hence, in this changed belief, we see the cause of the change in Christian life [and behaviour].



We have an object-lesson as to all this in these two Epistles to the Thessalonians.



In the first, their faith and love and hope are all three seen in full possession and power: “We give thanks to God always for you all … remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope” (1 Thess. 1: 2, 3).*


[* Lit. Gk. “patient endurance of the hope of the Lord]



Here, in this second Epistle, their hope is not mentioned.  Something had come in to disturb it, and to mar it.  Only their faith and their love could be mentioned; not their hope.  If we ask what it was that brought about this lamentable change, we shall find that their hope had been marred by the very same process that is working among us to-day.



They had been taught by Paul that they were to “wait for God’s Son from heaven,” as those who were to be “alive and remain” when He should come to “gather them together unto Himself  In “that day,” for which they looked (2 Thess. 1: 10), Christ will be “glorified in His saints,” and they will be marvelled at by all who believe.  This was their blessed hope.



But something had marred it.  They had believed others, who had misrepresented the teaching of Paul, by reporting that he had said the Day of the Lord had already set in.*


[* Compare 2 Pet. 3: 8 with 2 Tim. 2: 18. cf. 2 Tim. 4: 7, 8, R.V.).]



No! was the reply of the second Epistle.  Do not believe them.  “Let no man deceive you by any means  That “Day of the Lord” (see 2 Thess. 2: 2, R.V.) shall not come till the man of sin be revealed - because he is to be destroyed by Christ’s Second Advent in judgment (2 Thess. 2: 8).  But when he shall thus come in flaming fire “taking vengeance,” you, believers, [“that are afflicted” and “counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer” (See context in chapter one, verses 5 and 7.)] will already be at “rest with us with us - Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus.  When He comes in judgment, “he shall have come” already to be glorified in His saints (2 Thess. 1: 10).



Therefore, let nothing mar your hope of “our gathering together unto Him” (2 Thess. 2: 1) before the Day of the Lord can come.  “That Day will not overtake you as a thief” (1 Thess. 5: 4).  “Ye are not in darkness



Therefore (the conclusion is), “let us watch



This word brings us round to the words of our Lord with which we commenced.  It shows us that which should ever characterise the attitude of the children of God.  Christ has ever been “the coming one” from Gen. 3: 15 onward.  When He, at length, came, there were those who could say, “We have waited for Him  There were those who “looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2: 38), who “waited for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2: 25).



So we now “wait for God’s Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1: 10).



And after we shall have been, through His mercy, “caught up to be forever with the Lord there will be those who [“that are left unto the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4: 15, R.V.)], passing through the judgments of the Apocalypse, will at last say, “in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee. … For behold the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity” (Isa. 26: 8, 21).



While we rightly divide the word of truth as those who “wait for the Lordlet nothing rob us of our hope, or cause us to say with “the evil servant,” “My lord delayeth his coming but let us apply the warning to ourselves, and then be like the “faithful and wise servant and give to His hungry and thirsty children “Meat in due season” (Matt. 24: 45); and not be found smiting our fellow-servants.