D. B. Eastep was the godly pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky, from 1927 until his death in 1962. Through the difficult years of the Great Depression and the Second World War, he led and fed the people by teaching the Bible. He was known for his emphasis on the second coming of Jesus Christ. His ministry of the Word brought comfort and hope to many in distressing times.
He published a little magazine called “The Uplook,” which had a wide circulation. (“When the outlook is bleak, try the uplook!”)
I was honored to be one of his successors as pastor at Calvary Baptist from 1980 to 1989. It was my privilege to know many in the church who had trusted In Christ and had grown in their faith under Dr. Eastep’s ministry.
The return of Christ is called a “blessed hope” because it brings blessing and certainty in uncertain times. The letter from James is a reminder of this fact. “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7-8).
(“Near” does not necessarily mean “soon.” It means “imminent.” The Lord’s coming could be at any time, and it is wise to be ready.) James is telling us that no matter the outlook, we need to maintain our uplook! He is telling us how to do it.
James uses two different Greek words to help us as we wait for the coming of the Lord. The first means “endurance” or “staying power.” The people to whom James was writing had been going through some hard times at the hands of unjust, selfish, rich oppressors (vv. 1-6). Their expectation of the Lord’s return would contribute to their mature perseverance under trials.
The second word tells us not to try to get even or to retaliate. As humans we are tempted to over-react. James says to hold passion in check for the sake of your Christian witness. I read about a young private in the army who was a Christian believer. His fellow soldiers, including his sergeant, mocked his faith and did all they could to make his existence miserable.
One night, as he was praying before he slipped into his bunk, someone threw a boot and hit him in the head. He did not retaliate. The next morning his tormenter found his boots beautifully polished and neatly stowed beside his bed. That was the Christian private’s reply to persecution. His fellow soldier said later that that unselfish act broke his heart and led him to take steps of faith which resulted in his becoming a Christian.
That young soldier took a long view of his circumstances. He was looking beyond his present hardship and living for his coming Lord, with patient endurance.
James makes use of the illustration of a farmer who waits with anticipation for the seasonal rains and for the harvest. Our anticipation of the Lord’s coming should be like that. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking. It is confident expectation.
That expectation is justified. There are perhaps fifteen concrete Old Testament prophesies which predict in detail different aspects of the first coming of Jesus. The prophets of Israel foretold his coming for hundreds of years.
In the same way there are even more explicit prophesies about the coming of Jesus Christ which have not yet been fulfilled. At his second coming they will be fulfilled in exact detail just as the prophesies of his first coming were fulfilled. No one knows when that will be. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). So until he comes, we wait with expectation, maintaining an uplook!
James said to “stand firm.” This means to hold firmly to your beliefs with unshakable conviction. Many churches are getting away from teaching healthy doctrine. Charles Ryrie wrote that this is tragic because practical teaching of the Bible must be based on correct doctrine and all Bible doctrine should result in proper practice. We must not have one without the other.
That is why the teaching of the second coming of our Lord is important. It teaches us to live holy lives in anticipation of his imminent appearing. It teaches us to take a proper assessment of this present world in which we live. It is an incentive to evangelism and Christian mission. It regulates Christian worship. Every time we observe communion we are reminded that Jesus has promised to return.
Robert Murray McCheyne, the famous Scottish preacher, once asked some friends, “Do you think Christ will come tonight?” One after another they replied, “I think not.” When all had given their answers, he solemnly repeated Jesus’ words, “The Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” Or as it reads in the New International Version, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44).
When the outlook is bleak, try the uplook. Jesus could come at any time. We can be as certain of his second coming as we are of his first coming. Are you ready to meet him? “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Pastor Randy Faulkner