I have always loved the hymn When He Shall Come by Almeda J. Pearce. I love it in part because it has a great crescendo in the middle of each verse which resolves into a finale that sounds as if there is more coming. And there is!
When He shall come
resplendent in His Glory,
to take His own
from out this vale of night,
O may I know
the joy at His appearing,
only at morn
to walk with Him in white.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 says this: “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (ESV).
In recent weeks, the last surviving family member of my mother’s generation (my aunt) and four of my Hillcrest Lutheran Academy schoolmates were taken “to walk with him in white.” None of their deaths were COVID-19 related. I am sure all of them thought a lot about the dangers of COVID and staying as safe as they could during this strange time in which we find ourselves. I know I had many conversations with my aunt, who was in a nursing home in Florida, about the precautions the home had taken (including no visitors for many months). Yet the Lord took her through different means than COVID. The same is true of my four schoolmates.
That doesn’t mean that COVID isn’t a real danger, especially to those who are in high risk groups. A good friend of mine died from COVID. It makes sense to be careful and avoid exposure. But, depending upon what part of the country or world you live in, the fear of contracting COVID has brought everything to a standstill, so that almost the only focus in life for some is avoiding this virus.
I am reminded of the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. All ten appeared on the surface to have done the right things to be in the right place at the right time to meet the bridegroom. They are like many people today whose primary focus is avoiding COVID, yet they also avoid the one thing they truly need to be safe. Five of those virgins did not bring enough oil to last until the bridegroom came, so they missed the wedding.
When Christ returns at the end of the age, or when he comes for us individually like he did for my aunt and four friends, there will be many who lived life trying to be safe and believing that they had done everything needed to be ushered into heaven. Tragically they will be caught unaware that of all of the things needed to be safe, they missed the only truly important thing—oil for their lamps. This is the Holy Spirit, given to all who believe in Christ, so their lamps will never go out.
Time is short for all people, whether Christ returns this year or in a thousand years. For many, their struggle to stay safe and be ready for the end will be futile because they never received oil for their lamps.
Will you join with your fellow members and friends of the CLB to pray that God would add many more to his family of those whose lamps are filled and ready? Will you give so that many more will hear and receive the Good News that Jesus Christ has already come once to give them all that is required of them to be ready to meet him with joy “when he shall come” again?
Roy Heggland is Associate for Biblical Stewardship for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.