Just waiting … or waiting for Him?
We all wait. Sometimes we wait for others impatiently. Sometimes we wait for changes discontentedly. Sometimes we wait for ourselves, procrastinating instead of pressing on. We all wait.
We wait for many things: the next weekend, school year, election, bull market, sports season, technological toy or retirement. Eventually, many end up waiting to die. Scripture exhorts us to “wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).
As we wait, God encourages us to think on death. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). He has appointed for us to die once. God already knows the day and manner of our death. “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27) It is freeing to leave it in His hands.
God connects our appointment to die with our waiting. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:27–28). How can we wait eagerly for Judgment Day? How can we sinners straighten up and raise our heads, confident that our redemption draws near (Luke 21:28)? Because Jesus will return, “not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Jesus was made to be sin, to deal with and bear your sins away (2 Cor. 5:21; John 1:29). He dealt with your sin fully on Calvary. At His Table, He now delivers to you full forgiveness of sin, justification before God and reconciliation with God. His second coming will be without your sins. They are gone. He will return to save those eagerly waiting for Him.
“To save” here means that He will bring to completion what His saving grace bestowed through faith, the new life He began in you in your Baptism. His completed salvation includes the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13–14) and the redemption of our bodies, for which we wait (Rom. 8:23). This is our hope, for this is His promise. We wait for this unseen hope with patience (Rom. 8:25).
Waiting for the wedding
The Lord’s Supper provides the perfect position for patient, eager waiting for the Lord. It proclaims the Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). In their eating and drinking, the communing congregation proclaims both the victory of Jesus’ sacrifice in the past and His return in glory in the future. This proclamation also points to the marriage supper of the Lamb that has no end. The angel announced to John, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9). The proclamation of the death of Christ by those receiving the Sacrament now echoes the new song at the eternal feast, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).
For this eternal celebration, you must wear garments of righteousness; Christ provided these by His death. It is no small thing that you are baptized into His death (Rom. 6:3) and therein clothed with Him (Gal. 3:27). Jesus unites His body with His gathered body — the church. There is no finer clothing than Christ Himself.
Amid signs that heaven and earth will pass away, including a pandemic and widespread lawlessness and destruction, it is good that our confidence in every earthly system and structure is ultimately shaken. Instead, let us draw near in confidence to the throne of grace, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). This we do in Jesus, and the announcement “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9) applies even now to those who approach the Sacrament of the Altar in faith.
Waiting for the promise
Beloved of God, this is God’s promise to us. We wait eagerly for the Lord not because of any confidence in ourselves. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed, lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). We wait eagerly for the Lord with full confidence solely in Him. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord and in his word I hope” (Psalm 130:3–5). “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19–22). “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
We wait eagerly for Jesus’ return only because of the free gift of entering the holy place of God’s eternal presence through the flesh and blood of Jesus. That’s why He nourishes you repeatedly with His flesh and blood; He joins Himself to you with a personal love that is given “for you,” shed “for you.” He will return to take you into His eternal presence. You are not just waiting. You wait for Him.
Your death is not an interruption of fellowship with your Lord (Rom. 8:38–39). The completion of your Baptism is being carried through death’s dark valley to the joy of Christ’s presence face to face (John 17:24). You will be temporarily away from your body, yet still present with the Lord (Phil. 1:23–24). On Judgment Day, you will hear the judgment already given you in Christ (John 5:24) and experience God’s presence also in your glorified body (1 Cor. 15). “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). You are not just waiting. You are waiting for Him.
The Judge stands at the door. The coming of the Lord is at hand. We wait in patience, remaining steadfast. As we wait, we renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. We are zealous for good works. Though easily we fail, we wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11–13). We wait for Him who paid dearly to possess us.
The Son of God for whom you wait delivers you from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). Agony and bloody sweat did not turn Him aside from draining that cup. As we sing, “Jesus Christ, our blessed Savior, Turned away God’s wrath forever” (LSB 627:1). We wait eagerly for Him.
God is faithful and has called you into the fellowship of His Son. As you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8). Christ’s forgiveness covers all your guilt. You may not feel guiltless before God, but Jesus, for whom you wait, has you covered.
Your end is clear. As a real sinner, receiving real forgiveness from the Son of God, you will not be put to shame. “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame” (Psalm 25:1–3). You are right to wait eagerly for Him.
God grant us eager expectation for the return of Him who waits at His Table. Whom do we seek in weekly worship? We wait for Him who makes right all things, Jesus Christ, our Lord. At His Altar He is knocking at our portal (LSB 636:2). Even now His Bride says, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
The Bridegroom soon will call us, “Come to the wedding feast.”(LSB 514:1)
May slumber not befall us Nor watchfulness decrease.
May all our lamps be burning With oil enough and more
That we, with Him returning, May find an open door!
Lord Jesus Christ, we humbly pray:(LSB 623:5)
O keep us steadfast till that day
When each will be Your welcomed guest
In heaven’s high and holy feast.