The Lord would gladly have come along ago and He has been ready to come all the time. But when He comes, it must be that He will exterminate the wicked from the earth, so as to give the good all possible chance; and He is waiting, all the time, to gather in as large a number of the good as possible. Say for instance, that he waited twenty years for your grandfather to make up his mind to turn from sin to righteousness, so that He need not send your grandfather to the fate of the wicked; and in the meantime your father was born, and He waited for fifteen years to get him saved before He came ; and now He sill waits for your conversion before coming. Then multiply your grandfather’s case, and your father’s and you own by thousands more, quite similar, all over the world—unconverted people whose friends have prayed for their salvation, and the Lord wishes to answer those prayers, and not cut them off in unrighteousness. Can you not see how rapidly the centuries would roll round, as the Lord waited in His longsuffering, and yet, all the time, He himself be ready to come? This is Justas Peter represents:
Yes, even now already they are blasphemously saying, “That promise in the Bible that the Lord would come is proved false, because He has not come; two thousand years, almost, have passed away, and things remain just as ever. Here is your proof that the Bible is false.”
And all this time the Lord’s coming has been very near, and we have been keeping it back by our delay to get ready. Let us not mock because He has not come; let us be thankful that, in His longsuffering, He has been willing to wait.
In 1890, a great Students’ Missionary Conference was held in London, and a large chart of a problem in arithmetic was hung up before the people. That arithmetic was hung up before the people. That chart was a demonstration, in figures, of the question:
If there were only ONE Christian in the world, and he worked a year and won a soul for Christ; and IF these two continued each year to win another should for Christ; and IF everyone thus won to Christ led into the kingdom one soul each year; in how many years would the world be won to Christ?”
Had I worked that problem out all by myself, I should never have believed that the real answer was the right one, for it was so surprising. But students, just out of the University, had worked the problem out; and there was the complete demonstration, so that the correctness could be tested, and no one was able to confute the answer. That answer was this; IN THIRTY-ONE YEARS.
Now we need not split hairs by arguing that every one converted to Christ would not live thirty-one years there after, and be able to save on should each year. The statement is quite sufficient to prove to us what we wish to know, namely, why Christ could, in all truth, hold out the possibility of His speedy return, and why St. Paul and all the other apostles could and why St. Paul and all the other apostles could and why St. Paul and all the other apostles could stir the Christians up to that hope constantly. It was not God’s will that Christ’s return should have been so long delayed, but we are left with freedom of choice, and we have delayed Christ's return. God has not seen fit to say much about the dead—the good dead—shall spend their time while waiting for good dead—shall spend their time while waiting for Christ’s return. They will be in paradise: at one after death, as Christ promised the dying penitent thief on the cross; or in "Abram's bosom,” as He shows us the good Lazarus was after death; the latter expression means that same paradise. It was used by the Jews to signify the place for the good dead. They will be conscious, and "in bliss, with Christ" as St. Paul says, and waiting to come with Christ to rule this earth.
St. Paul tells us that we are to comfort those who are in bereavement in a very different way than that of putting before them a mere prospect of reunion after death. He says, “ Comfort one another with these words:’ The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive and remain [on earth] shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’” And will we remain up in the air? No, not at all. We have already seen that this being caught up to meet the Lord in the air means that, like the wise virgins of the parable, we merely go out to meet the Lord, and bring Him down to the earth to remain here with us. This is the hope—a hope of a crown and service on earth, not merely of rest in heaven—which the Bible sets before us; and a hope of which Paul says in this same Chapter (1 .Thess 4:13), “I would not have you ignorant concerning them that are asleep, that ye you ignorant concerning them that are asleep, that ye sorrow not, as others that have no hope. For if we believe that Christ died and rose again, even so them also [our loved ones] which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. “ And it has always been within the possibilities for Christians by their spiritual zeal, to have brought all their loved ones who died in Christ back to them again, alive, and within a generation or two. All that was needed was for all Christians to get things ready for the coming of the Lord, without any delay, to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”