The Test of Time

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” —Hebrews 10:35-38

WE HAVE COME again to the beginning of a new year. To every faithful follower of the Master the past year, 1992, has been a year of rich spiritual blessings. There have been joyous experiences, and there have been trials. There have been successes and also failures. But in every experience faith has given the victory in proportion as we have been assured that all things have worked together for our highest spiritual interests as New Creatures in Christ. The year 1992 was a blessed one, and as disciples of Christ we should be able to look back and praise the way he has led us day by day.

Nineteen ninety-two was a very unsettled year for the world. There has been no diminishing of the fear with which the people look ahead to the things coming upon the earth. Despite the fall of communism in many sectors of the world, which eases tension between the east and the west, there are revolutions in many of the countries freed from communism, where many factions desire to seize power during these unsettled times. Fear is still stalking the citizens of these countries. And there is also an overpowering fear that the world’s financial structure is in process of collapse. There is another dread fear upon all—the epidemic, Aids. All these fears are due to a lack of understanding of what is actually taking place in the world. People in general do not realize that the plan of God is moving forward into a new age. Indeed, the world does not know that God has a plan, and many of the worldly-minded even doubt that there is a God. No wonder, in the face of threatened destruction from many quarters, their hearts are filled with fear.

But how different is the position of truth-enlightened Christians! The situations and circumstances incidental to the collapse of Satan’s social order, instead of filling the hearts of the Lord’s people with fear, give them increased faith and confidence in the fact that the establishment of the kingdom of Christ as the supreme ruling authority in the earth is very near at hand. So, as Jesus admonished them to do, they “look up,” and they “lift up their heads,” knowing that their deliverance draws near.—Luke 21:28

In view of the signs of the times which are so plainly visible all around us today, there is no reason at all why we should even think of casting away our confidence, as Paul admonishes us not to do. However, this danger is always present, and largely because we so often fail to realize that a thousand years are to the Lord merely as “yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (Ps. 90:4) We are so prone to measure time from the standpoint of our own short span of natural life that waiting another year—or a few more years—for the kingdom may become a severe test of faith and patience.

The Will of God

The Apostle Paul says that it is ‘after we have done the will of God’ that we have need of patience in order that we might receive the fulfillment of the promise. The will of God here mentioned, is evidently our original consecration to do God’s will, which was the acceptance of Jesus’ invitation to take up our cross and follow him into sacrificial death. In that dedication of ourselves to do God’s will we promised to give our all to the Lord—our time, our talents, our strength, our means, everything. “Nothing, Lord, would I withhold,” is the song of our hearts.

Having thus placed our all upon the altar of sacrifice, had the Lord manifested his acceptance by consuming our offering wholly and completely in a short time, and while our enthusiasm was high, we would have rejoiced. But it has not been so for many of the Lord’s people. Instead, the Lord expects the faithful to demonstrate the genuineness of their dedication to him by a prolonged consuming of their sacrifice, and it is in this that they have need of patient endurance.

This test of patience from the standpoint of time has, with many of the Lord’s people, been related to their expectations with respect to the outworking of the divine plan. It is this that Paul had particularly in mind when he said that we “have need of patience,” “for,” he continued, “yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:35,36) The particular test of time here mentioned was in waiting for the return of the Lord Jesus, and the establishment of his kingdom.

The hope of Christ’s return was very precious and inspiring to the Early Church. To them it meant their own exaltation to joint-heirship with Christ in his thousand-year kingdom, and it meant their part in the blessing of all the families of the earth through Christ’s kingdom. It meant their own participation in the “first resurrection,” and it also meant the general resurrection of all the dead. To them the plan of God would fail entirely of its purpose if Christ did not return, so it was natural that they should desire this glorious event to take place speedily, and when it did not occur as soon as they had hoped, their faith and their patience were tested.

James wrote, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming [presence] of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming [presence] of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:7,8) To this James adds, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.”—vs. 10

Paul wrote, “Yet a little while,” and James wrote, “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” This has been the viewpoint of all God’s people in every age. The Old Testament prophets, whom James admonishes us to look upon as examples of patient endurance, hoped for the speedy fulfillment of God’s promises to them. They did not have the full understanding of the divine plan as it has been given to the Lord’s people in this ‘harvest time’ at the end of the age, but they did believe that God would send a great Deliverer—the Messiah—and that unto him would the gathering of the people be. (Gen. 49:10) But they all died in faith not having realized the fulfillment of the messianic promises God had made to and through them.

When Jesus, the Messiah, did come, his disciples had their faith tested from the standpoint of time. They believed that the messianic kingdom would be established immediately. Because of this, Jesus related a parable to them concerning a “certain nobleman” who went into a “far country” to receive a kingdom, and to return. (Luke 19:11,12) From this they learned, seemingly, that Jesus was to go away, and that his kingdom would not be established until he returned. So, a little later, on the Mount of Olives, they asked him concerning the sign of his return and second presence, and the end of the world, or age.—Matt. 24:3

It was in answer to this question that Jesus outlined the major world events now taking place. The event which Jesus related, when they occur either in sequence, or at the same time, make up the ‘sign’ which gives us so much confidence that now, at long last, the kingdom is, as it were, ‘immediately’ to appear.

But the disciples at that time did not understand that many centuries would elapse before the return of their Lord. When he was taken away from them in death they were bewildered and confused. Their hopes were somewhat revived by Jesus’ resurrection, and on the occasion of his last appearance to them they took courage to ask, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”—Acts 1:6

To this Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7) This was very true in the experience of the Early Church. While, through the inspirational power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles realized that Jesus would not return in their day, even so they believed that this great event in the outworking of the divine plan was near, and they encouraged the Early Church along these lines. It was well that they did, otherwise many of them might have cast away their confidence.

Times and Seasons Revealed

Jesus’ statement to his disciples that the times and seasons of the divine plan had been put in the hands of the Heavenly Father did not imply that the Father would never reveal any of them to his children. It was just that they were not to be revealed to the disciples at that time. We have now reached a period in the divine plan when a number of the time features of the divine plan have been revealed, and to the great joy of the Lord’s people. (See Volumes 2 and 3 of “Studies in the Scriptures.”)

Even so, the year 1914 is the latest date the prophecies of the Bible point out to us. That was the end of the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24), and it is since then that we have been watching a world fall apart. But there is nothing in the prophecies of the ‘times of the Gentiles’ to indicate the exact date when we could expect God’s new world to be fully ushered in, or when the last member of the body of Christ would pass beyond the veil to live and reign with him. Nearly seventy-nine years have passed since that memorable year when the outbreak of the First World War signaled the beginning of that series of distressing and world-shaking events which has brought the nations to their present dilemma.

It is probably safe to say that some, and probably many, of the Lord’s people since 1914 have thought that each passing year would surely see the full fruition of their hopes. “Things can’t go on much longer,” we keep saying, yet here we are at the beginning of another year, the seventy-ninth since the last known authentic date pointed out to us in the Word of God. Thus again, even as with the disciples of old, the Heavenly Father is keeping the times and seasons of his plan within his own power insofar as letting us know exactly when the establishment of the kingdom, in power and great glory, will become a reality.

Nevertheless, it is still true that “the time is short” (I Cor. 7:29) in which to make our calling and election sure. Paul wrote, “Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:37) That ‘little while’ proved to be nearly nineteen centuries—a long time to us, but less than two ‘days’ by the Lord’s view of time. And now those centuries are in the past. He who was to come has come, so we can surely now say with Paul that the remaining time before the full glorification of the church is indeed just a ‘little while’.

In giving the church the assurance concerning the ‘little while’ of waiting, Paul quoted in part from the prophecy of Habakkuk 2:2,3. It is this prophecy which speaks of a “vision” which was to be made plain “at the end,” when it would “speak, and not lie.” The prophecy adds, “Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Actually the fulfillment of the vision only seems to tarry, and that is because of our very restricted viewpoint of time. From God’s standpoint it does not tarry at all, for we know that every detail of his great plan of the ages is carried out exactly on time.

The fact that this prophecy speaks of the seeming tarrying, and then assures us that there would be no actual delay, is in itself encouraging, for thereby is revealed that the various disappointments of the Lord’s people with respect to the time features of the divine plan were foreknown by the Lord, and foretold. The Lord has wisely permitted his people to have these experiences in order that their faith and patience might be the more fully tested. It is a wholesome experience also, in that it helps us to realize how truly limited we are in the understanding of God’s plans and purposes that we can know only those things which he is pleased to reveal to us. And while it has been given to us to know some of the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:11), it is obvious that there are some which are not yet revealed.

In permitting his people to be tested pertaining to time, the Lord has in no way been unfair to them—whether at the beginning of the age, or at the end. For each individual saint of God the time has indeed been short—no longer, in any instance, than the natural life span. Hope’s fruition is realized at once by all who prove faithful unto death. Those who slept in death throughout the age were not conscious of the passing of time. Their awakening in the resurrection was to them like the next second after they had finished their course in death. And now, of course, we have had revealed to us that mystery mentioned by Paul, concerning the fact that in this time of the Lord’s second presence the faithful would not need to sleep in death, but would be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”—I Cor. 15:51,52

So the time is short, very short—especially for those who have been waiting and praying and toiling in the Lord’s vineyard from before and since 1914. Nor should those who have embraced the truth and started to run for the prize of the high calling in more recent years conclude that they have plenty of time in which to make their calling and election sure, even though they may be young in years. No matter how we may view the signs of the times today, it becomes increasingly evident that man will soon finish the destruction of his world, and be ready to say, “Let us go up to the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord.”—Micah 4:1-4

We have now reached the time in the divine plan when it is only a ‘little while’ for all the consecrated to prove faithful unto death. “A few more years, or more or less,” and all of us “shall have crossed the wilderness.” But we do have need of patience! Having done the will of God in presenting ourselves in full consecration to him, let us continue to carry out the terms of our dedication. May we never turn back, nor become weary in well-doing, for in God’s “due season” we “shall reap, if we faint not.”—Gal. 6:9

A Good Year

Looking back upon the year which just ended, we find that it has been filled with. blessings for the Lord’s people as a whole. Information reaching us from various parts of the country, and of the world, indicates that 1992 will go down as a year of wonderful conventions. The attendance at essentially all the annual gatherings has been very good; and the blessings received through the discourses and through fellowship with the brethren have overflowed. Every convention has crystallized in the hearts of those in attendance the determination to continue on faithfully in the narrow way until they hear the Master’s, “Well done.” And many dear ones were called home in 1992, to hear, we believe, those blessed words.

The year 1992 was also one of rewarding activity in the Lord’s service, both in America and in more and more of the world. The radio page in The Dawn magazine, listing programs being broadcast in many countries which previously were unreachable, attests to this fact. The Lord’s people should continue to be more and more on the alert to use every opportunity possible in bearing witness to the truth. And in this way the Lord will abundantly fulfill his promise that those who “water” shall “themselves also be watered.” (Prov. 11:25) And how truly refreshing it is to make known to others the glorious Gospel of the kingdom! The truth never means so much to us as when we sacrifice time, strength, and means in bearing witness to it.

Your co-laborers at the Dawn have enjoyed the share they had during the year 1992 in helping to provide truth literature for the brethren to use in their witness work and in their meetings. This applies also to the brethren laboring with us in the various countries overseas. And we want to continue in this service, and once more place ourselves at the disposal of the brethren everywhere to do all we can to supply their needs. We are a very small group and we come far short of doing all that we would like to do, and realize that many times the brethren ‘have need of patience’ with us. But by the Lord’s grace we will keep on trying to the best of our abilities, daily seeking his guidance and strength.

We can also speak for the brethren who have served in the pilgrim work, that they have appreciated the privileges they have enjoyed of fellowshiping with you. We are confident that all who have served in this field will gladly say from their hearts, “Lord, if I may, I’ll serve another day.” Those who have served as pilgrims have brought many rich blessings to the Lord’s people throughout the year 1992. Let us thank God for the pilgrims, and bear them up before the throne of heavenly grace, seeking the Lord’s blessing upon their continued labors of love on behalf of the Lord’s people, both here and overseas, and, if it is his will, that more brethren will see their privileges of serving in this capacity. As classes grow smaller, and some completely disappear, the isolated brethren so greatly appreciate and need the pilgrim service.

It was also a good year for those engaged in the follow-up work, and in the distribution of free literature. From the standpoint of the individuals engaged in these services, there have been discouraging experiences, but when viewed in the light of the total effort it is quite different, for some have been introduced to the truth, while others have been encouraged to study the Word more thoroughly that they might become better acquainted with the divine plan, and with our loving Heavenly Father whose glorious character is revealed through that plan.

The cooperative efforts of the Lord’s people in presenting the Gospel of the kingdom over the radio and television have also brought joy to all who have in any way participated. Through your cooperation there are brethren here and abroad now rejoicing in the truth who prior to 1992 had never heard the glorious Gospel of love. This has also helped to make 1992 a blessed year.

The television work continues, with rather limited noticeable results, however many may be silently watching without contacting us. But those participating in this effort can testify to the blessings received. In this field we are endeavoring to observe carefully the Lord’s leadings, as we endeavor continually to determine which radio and television stations we should use in order to reach many who have never heard that grand old story.

This New Year

We expect that in this New Year we will continue to have the privilege of laying down our lives in the Lord’s service—another year of that ‘little while’ during which we are waiting for the establishment of the kingdom. Because the time is short it Is appropriate that we determine now to make the best possible use of every moment and every day of 1993 in showing forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.

There is every reason to believe that the radio work will continue through another year. During 1993 special efforts will be continued to get The Dawn magazine into the homes of those who listen to the witness over the radio, and by purchasing direct-mail lists of many communities. We believe that there is no better way to maintain and nourish interest in the truth than through the month-to-month visits of The Dawn. It is the next best thing to a personal call, in that it keeps the interested ones reminded of the truth. And in The Dawn they are brought into contact with all the other literature, including “Studies in the Scriptures.” Through the convention announcements and speakers’ lists the interested are made aware of these opportunities to be brought into contact with the brethren.

We do not know what 1993 holds for us with respect to the television effort. As already explained, we are endeavoring to cover areas that have not been reached before, and will go forward with it as the Lord seems clearly to indicate his will. The results may seem small for the large expenditure involved, but we suggest that this effort be made a matter of special prayer by all the brethren.

One of the very interesting parts of the Bible is the look of Acts, or The Acts of the Apostles. This is a stimulating and inspiring book because it presents the experiences of the brethren in the days of the Early Church. Today also it is interesting to know something of what the brethren throughout the country and the world are doing—the kind of experiences they are having, and how the Lord is blessing their efforts to make known the glad tidings of the kingdom. Letters from Finland, Romania, Moldova, Nigeria, Poland, South America, and other countries overseas, help us to understand the needs of our brethren, and to try to meet them better.

Let us enter this new year of 1993 with full assurance of faith, believing that he who has led and helped us in the past will continue to do so. May 1993 be our most enthusiastic year in carrying out the terms of our consecration. May our ‘first love’ enthusiasm for the Lord, the truth, and the brethren be increased. Instead of becoming weary, may we gather strength as we continue to run for the prize of the high calling. May every moment of that ‘little while’ still remaining be utilized to the Lord’s glory!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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