"Then we which are alive and remain 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
THE MEETING here mentioned is to be the greatest meeting the Bible tells us anything about. There have been some wonderful meetings, but never has there been one to compare with this. It was a wonderful meeting the children of Israel had on the shore of the Red Sea, after Pharaoh's pursuing host had been destroyed in the angry waters, and Miriam, the prophetess, with her timbrel, led the people in singing, "Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea" (Exod. 15:21).
And it was another great meeting they had at the foot of Mount Sinai, when the Law of God was given to them amid thunders and lightnings and fire and smoke.
That was a great meeting, too, on Mount Carmel, when Elijah, the sturdy Tishbite, defied the prophets of Bal; and that was a great meeting where David danced before the Ark of God, as it was home into Jerusalem. It was a great meeting when Solomon dedicated the temple, and the glory of the Lord came upon the people, and those were great meetings that were held on the banks of the Jordan when Jerusalem and all Judea went out to hear the man who dressed in camel's hair and wore a linen girdle, and lived on locusts and wild honey.
It was a wonderful meeting when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, and another when He fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes. And that was a great meeting on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came like a rushing mighty wind, and under Peter's preaching about three thousand were converted.
All these were great meetings, and any number of others have been held, both in former times and in our own day. Those were great meetings in the early days of Methodism, when Wesley and Whitefield preached to great multitudes in the fields. Those were great meetings when multitudes were flocking to hear Finney and Moody; and great meetings have since been held by other great evangelists all around the world. But no meeting has ever been held anywhere or in any time that could begin to compare in importance with the greatest of all meetings that is to be held in the air, when our Lord comes to make up His jewels.
That meeting is the one for which all others have been preparing the way. It will be the crowning meeting of all history. The purpose of all that has been done in this world up to the present time has been to prepare for that great meeting in the air.
From Adam, mankind has been marching step by step up a grand stairway leading direct to that meeting in the air. The call of Abraham was one step toward it, and Jacob and his twelve sons were another. Joseph ruling Egypt was another; the deliverance under Moses another; the conquest of Canaan under Joshua another, and so on with every event in sacred history. It was for this Jesus suffered on the Cross to make atonement for sin. It was for this He arose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, where he took His place at the right hand of the Father. It was for this the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, and it was for this that Churches have been organized and missionaries sent to the ends of the earth.
These things have all been done to prepare the way, and lead up to the meeting which is so graphically described in the text. It was for this meeting God made His plans before He laid the foundations of the earth, and it was of this meeting He was thinking before the morning stars sang together.
We are not told when Jesus will come, but we are told that His coming is sure, and we are charged to watch for it.
Anybody who says that he knows when Jesus is coming is a liar. When they say that they know when He is coming they lie.
Only Jesus and the Father know when the Savior is coming again. Yet the Church today shows as little concern about His coming again as His disciples did about His going away. All this is fully in accord with Peter: "There shall come in the last days scoffers walking after their own lusts, saying, Where is the promise of His coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning until now?" (2 Pet. 3:3-4).
Jesus not only foretold His going away, but charged His followers to expect His return, and be ready for it: "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Therefore, be ye also ready, for in such an hour as Ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matt. 24:42-44).
Jesus said: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14).
Before I started to Preach in Omaha God knew the names of every man, woman and child who would be saved as a result Of my preaching - If God didn't know that, He wouldn't be God. And God knew all about the fools who wouldn't be saved, and He knew that all of Omaha wouldn't be saved. I tell you that God is pretty wise to who are going to Hell and who are going to Heaven - The sooner you get that through your head and don't try to sidestep Jesus, the sooner the devil will let go the stranglehold he has upon most of you.
There is not a nation on the face of the earth that has not had the Gospel preached within its bounds. The second coming of Christ is the emphatic doctrine of the New Testament. It is mentioned and referred to more than 350 times, and yet the majority of Church members never heard a sermon on the subject; that is the reason they think so little of looking into the matter themselves.
The Church makes much of Baptism, but in all of Paul's epistles Baptism is only mentioned or referred to thirteen times, while the return of the Lord is mentioned fifty times. This certainly shows which he considered the most important. McCheyne, the great Scotch preacher, once said to some of his friends: "Do you think Christ will come back tonight?" One after another they said: "I think not." Then he solemnly repeated: "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. Therefore, be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh" (Matt. 24:42-44). With such admonitions as this, what right have we to be unconcerned about it and say, as many preachers do, "It is nothing to me; I take no interest in the subject, whatever." Who would care to travel on a train where the engineer would never read his orders? Who would ride on a ship where the captain never looked at the compass? You may call it rubbish, but the disciples called it the "blessed hope."
"Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say" If Jesus had said: "I will not return for 2,000 years," nobody would have begun to took for Him before the time was near, but He expects his followers to be always looking for His return. Just as Simeon and Anna watched and waited for His coming, so we should be watching and waiting for His return.
It is not enough to say, "Oh, I'm a Christian; I'm all right." We are not all right unless we obey the command to watch, for it is certainly as much of a command to look for the coming of the Lord as it is to keep the Sabbath holy. Nothing else will do so much to keep us right where we should be in our religious experience. Knowing that the bank examiner may drop in at any moment keeps many a cashier from becoming dishonest. We should purify the Church that it may be the proper Bride to meet the Lord in the air. How pure is the Church today? How pure are the Church members? How pure are the Preachers?
I suppose there would be a mighty scramble to get right with God if you all found out that Jesus was going to return tonight. It wouldn't make any difference to Jesus if you had to do the right thing just because He turned up unexpectedly. You would have to prove to Him that you were on the level with Him, and although you might all be baptized, sprinkled and immersed, there would be nothing doing in the salvation line if you didn't play square with the Lord.
This old world is going to wake up some morning and find that all good men and women have beaten it, and she'll rub her eyes when she finds out that the Lord has been here on the job and taken his own with Him.
Every time I preach and every time you do personal work, I feel that we are helping to bring about the second coming of the Lord, and it sets my bones on fire when I think that the last man or woman need only be saved before this campaign is over in order that the Lord may come. That is my incentive to do the work I am doing. It is my hope that, before I finish here, the Church will be purified as a Bride, ready to meet Jesus, the Bridegroom, in the air.
A little more than twenty years ago Mr. Moody called a convention of Christian workers to meet in Chicago, and that convention was in session there in Moody's church for two months, and out of it came the great Bible institute.
The daily program was to spend the forenoon at the church in prayer and Bible study, and the afternoon and evening in doing practical Christian work.
A man who was my assistant some years ago attended that convention. He told me that one day Mr. Moody asked him to go down among the anarchists, in the hard parts Of Chicago, and hold a meeting there.
"Do the best you can," said Moody, "and some night I'll come down and help you."
My friend said that promise was a continual incentive to him to keep up his courage and do his very best. He didn't know when Mr. Moody would come, and so he looked for him every night, and the harder time he had, the harder he hoped and looked.
This shows how the constant expectation of the coming Of Jesus will inspire and encourage us.
A great many say: "I believe the Millennium will come first, then Christ will come at the end Of it." What people think has nothing to do with it, but what God says has everything to do with it.
Many have missed railroad trains because they believed they would come at a time that did not correspond with the official time card. You will see God's time card if you carefully read the Bible. Not a word can be found in the Bible that gives the slightest hope for the millennium before the return of Christ - but you can find plenty of verses that tell you to look for the coming of the Lord first.
As we look back over the 2,000 years since Christ, how far we seem to be away from the time when the will of God shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Every edition of the press seems to make it clear that the devil is still having his way. Look at the reign of wickedness in our great cities in both high life and low. No college has ever yet made a Saint or ever will. Education may improve conditions, but it can never change or cleanse the heart. Look at the lukewarmness and indifference in the Churches everywhere and see what many of them are compelled to resort to in order to keep from going under. See to what schemes and dodges and foolishness some preachers have to resort to to get anybody to go and hear them.
There can be no millennium until Jesus comes; it is His presence that makes the millennium. You might as well talk of daylight not coming until the sun goes down. The millennium cannot begin until Satan has been bound in the pit. Nothing is more certain than that the glory of God shall cover the earth, but it will be after Jesus comes.
Many have an idea the world will grow better and better until the coming of the millennium, and everybody will be converted, and you hear that stuff preached, but the Bible does not teach any such trash.
On the day before the flood there were no doubt many people who were sincere in thinking that the world was growing better, and yet it was so hopelessly wicked that God had to destroy it. Some of the men who married into the family of Lot may have made the same claim for Sodom, only a day or two before its destruction; no doubt Lot's wife was of the same opinion. On the day before the Crucifixion there were men in Jerusalem who undoubtedly agreed with each other that the world was growing better. The world will grow worse and worse. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
"Even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:27-30). Lawlessness, vice and crime will increase; Communism, nihilism, anarchy, adultery, divorce, graft, all will continue to grow until they will finally ripen into the anti-Christ.