Awaiting the Lord's Coming with Longsuffering, Life-Study of James, Message Eleven, pp. 97-99
AWAITING THE LORD'S COMING WITH LONGSUFFERING
After the parenthetical section in 5:1-6, we have a word concerning awaiting the Lord's coming with longsuffering (5:7-11). This also is a practical virtue of Christian perfection.
Awaiting the Lord's coming back is not an Old Testament matter. Rather, this is fully a New Testament matter. This indicates that after speaking to Jews in 5:1-6, James now speaks to Christians, to believers, in 5:7-11. First he talks to the rich among the Jews, and then he speaks to Christians about waiting for the Lord's coming back. I find it difficult to believe that James could write in this way. Nevertheless, this is what we find in 5:1-11.
In 5:7 James says, "Therefore, be longsuffering, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer awaits the precious fruit of the earth, being longsuffering over it until it receives the early and late rain." The Greek words for longsuffering in these verses are makrothumia (noun, as in Heb. 6:12; Rom. 2:4; 2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:20) and makrothumeo, as in James 5:7-8. Longsuffering expresses patience toward persons, as toward those who persecuted the prophets (v. 10).
The Greek word for "coming" in 5:7 is parousia, presence. Christ's coming will be His presence with His believers. This parousia will begin with His coming to the air and end with His coming to the earth. Within His parousia, there will be the rapture of the majority of the believers to the air (1 Thes. 4:15-17), the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), and the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).
In verse 8 James continues, "You also be longsuffering; establish your hearts, because the coming of the Lord has drawn near." While we are awaiting the Lord's coming with longsuffering, He, as the real Farmer (Matt. 13:3), is also awaiting with patience our maturity in life as the firstfruit and harvest of His field (Rev. 14:4, 14-15). Our maturity in life can cut short the period of our longsuffering and His patience.
Verse 9 says, "Do not complain, brothers, against one another, that you be not judged; behold, the Judge stands before the doors!" This verse indicates that the Lord will come back not only as the Bridegroom to meet the bride (Matt. 25:1, 6; Rev. 19:7-8), but also as the Judge to judge all peoples. First, the Lord will judge His believers at His judgment seat (1 Cor. 4:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:10). We need to pursue maturity in life to meet the Lord and be prepared to be judged by Him.
In verse 10 James continues, "Take as an example, brothers, of suffering evil and of longsuffering, the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord." This is a further development of verses 7 and 8 concerning the suffering and longsuffering of the faithful believers. James uses the prophets as an example. The prophets spoke in the name of the Lord. Speaking in the name of the Lord indicates that the prophets were one with the Lord. Hence, their suffering and longsuffering were with the Lord and for the Lord. The suffering and longsuffering of the faithful believers should be the same.
In verse 11 James says, "Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very compassionate and full of pity." In this verse "endured" and "endurance" are translations of the Greek words hupomeno, verb, and hupomone, noun, as in Romans 5:3 and 2 Corinthians 1:6. This endurance expresses patience toward things, such as the things which afflicted Job.
Our Need to Grow in Life
In 5:7 James uses the illustration of a farmer awaiting with longsuffering the precious fruit of the earth. We have seen that the Lord Jesus is actually the real Farmer, the unique Farmer. As we are awaiting His coming, He, as the real Farmer, is awaiting our maturity. We may pray, "Lord, come back quickly." However, He may say, "My children, mature quicker. While you are awaiting My coming back, I am awaiting your maturity. Do you know why it has been nearly two thousand years and I have not yet come back? The reason is that My people are not yet matured. Only your maturity can hasten My coming back. You exercise your longsuffering, and I exercise My longsuffering."
It is a great help for us to realize that if we are serious about awaiting the Lord's coming back, we need to grow in life. Most Christians today view the Lord's coming in an altogether objective way, in a way that has nothing to do with our spiritual condition or spiritual growth. Their expectation is that one day the Lord will suddenly come, and that His coming will have nothing to do with their maturity. It may be that the concepts many Christians hold regarding the Lord's coming back are actually causing Him to delay His coming.
The illustration of the farmer in 5:7 implies that the farmer is waiting for the crop growing in the field to ripen. According to Revelation 14, the Lord is also waiting for the harvest to be ripe. When the harvest in the field is ripe, He will come back. This harvest will be the issue, the outcome, of the Lord's sowing of Himself as a seed. This was accomplished during the Lord's first coming, and it is described in Matthew 13. We need to realize that it is the ripening of the harvest that will hasten the Lord's coming back.