Need of Patience

“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.”
—Hebrews 10:36,37

THE LORD’S PEOPLE IN every age have had need of patience. One reason is that they have always been surrounded by evil influences which have warred against them in their desire to serve the Lord and to be governed by the Divine principles of righteousness. Our text declares that it is after we have done the will of God that we have need of patience in order to receive the promise. The ‘will of God’ referred to here is evidently the presentation of ourselves in consecration to serve the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The making of such a consecration is only the beginning. It is in the daily carrying out of its terms that we ‘have need of patience.’

It is one thing to tell the Lord that we love him, and that we desire above all things else to serve and please him, but it is quite another thing to demonstrate, by our every day faithfulness under adverse circumstances and conditions, that we are really sincere in our determination to serve him, regardless of the cost. Not only are we surrounded with much which tends to hold us back from serving the Lord, but our own fallen flesh is out of harmony with the stand which we have taken in our heart and mind. Only from the Lord, and from his people, may we expect help and encouragement to continue on faithfully and patiently in carrying out the terms of our consecration.


Added to the fact of our own imperfections, and the adverse and unholy influences with which we are surrounded, is the seemingly long time which the Lord permits us to wait for the fulfillment of his promises. It is this time element in God’s dealings with his people which the apostle seems primarily to be emphasizing in our text. ‘Ye have need of patience’ he says, ‘for yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.’

This is in part a quotation from the prophecy of Habakkuk, chapter 2, verses 2 and 3, in which the Lord tells the prophet to write down a certain vision “upon tables.” The Lord then asks the prophet to “wait” for the vision; for while it may seem long in being fulfilled, it would not actually tarry. In our text Paul applies this prophecy to the Second Coming of Christ. He uses it to assure the Hebrew brethren that it would be only a ‘little while’ before the Lord would return and they would receive the fulfillment of the exceeding great and precious promises which had been given to them.

The ‘little while’ mentioned by Paul proved to be nearly two thousand years, yet the apostle was not wrong; for compared with eternity this was indeed but a short time. It was a little while also from God’s standpoint, to whom a thousand years are but as yesterday, and as a watch in the night when it is past. (Ps. 90:4) Besides, none of the Lord’s people have ever waited longer for the fulfillment of his Messianic promises than the span of their natural life. For some, thousands of years have passed since they put their trust in the promises of God, yet most of this time they have been unconscious in the sleep of death, and have not been aware of the passing of time. From this standpoint, the time has been short for all those who have put their trust in the Lord.


The Lord has tested the patience and faith of all his people from the standpoint of time. Many long years elapsed from the time God first spoke to Abraham concerning a ‘seed’ before Isaac was born. This was a severe test of Abraham’s faith and patience. In some respects his faith failed and he made plans of his own to carry out the purpose of God. First, he adopted Eliezer, his steward, and thought to make him the promised heir. In this connection Abraham said to the Lord, “Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.”—Gen. 15:2,3

The Lord did not accept this arrangement, and he said to Abraham, “This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.” (Gen. 15:4) While this refusal of the Lord to accept Eliezer as the promised seed must have tested Abraham’s faith and patience, he accepted the Lord’s will in the matter. However, a little later, acting on the Lord’s assertion that the seed must be one who would come from his own loins, he took Hagar, the Egyptian bondmaid, to wife, and Ishmael was born to him. Here, he knew, was a son that was his own flesh and blood and surely the Lord would accept him.

Again Abraham was disappointed and his faith was tested, for the Lord appeared to him and refused to accept Ishmael as the promised seed. He explained to Abraham that not only must he be the father of the seed, but that Sarah, not Hagar, must be the mother. (Gen. 17:15-19) In due course, as we know, God fulfilled his promise. The promised seed, the son of Abraham and Sarah, was born.

Even so, Abraham still had a long wait before Isaac was grown to manhood’s estate, and when he was grown, God asked him to offer his beloved son, the one born as a miracle child, as a burnt offering. God’s providences must surely have seemed strange to Abraham. Nevertheless he obeyed, believing that if it were necessary, God would raise Isaac from the dead. It was as a result of Abraham’s faithfulness in this experience that God confirmed his promise with his oath, and it became what we refer to as the oathbound covenant.

However, Abraham continued to wait for the complete fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth through his seed. He waited, in fact, until he died. Together with all the other Ancient Worthies, Abraham died in faith, not having received the fulfillment of the Messianic promises God made to him, yet he continued patiently, and by faith, in his course of loyalty to God.


Time was an important factor in God’s dealings with Moses, the great lawgiver of Israel. Through his mother, who cared for him in the palace of Pharaoh, Moses learned that he was a member of the oppressed Israelitish people, and at the age of forty he undertook to do something to bring about their deliverance. God’s providences hindered Moses’ plans, and he found it necessary to flee for his life; and for forty years he remained in seclusion as keeper of his father-in-law’s flocks.

In reading this interesting story of Moses’ life perhaps we do not consider this forty years as seriously as we should. Few of the Lord’s people now spend more than a total of forty years serving him. Perhaps many of us would lose our patience and become discouraged, if over a period of forty years we saw no special evidence of the Lord’s overruling providence in our lives.

This was, however, only the beginning of Moses’ testing. From the burning bush to his death there was another long and weary forty years during which, while the promised land was near, he was not permitted to enter. During this third period of forty years he had many evidences that the Lord was with him and was blessing him, yet they were difficult years. Doubtless many times during these weary years he cried out in his heart, “How long, O Lord, how long?”


In the prophecy of Daniel there is much to indicate that he was severely tested from the standpoint of time. Like all of the Ancient Worthies, he also died without receiving the full answer to his questions as to when his people would be delivered and the Messianic kingdom be established. Finally he was told, “Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”—Dan. 12:13

Daniel was one of the Hebrew captives taken to Babylon when King Zedekiah was overthrown. He understood that this captivity was to last for seventy years, but he was given a vision in which a period of “two thousand and three hundred days” was mentioned. (Dan. 8:13-15) While he did not understand all that this implied, he evidently sensed that it was a reference to a much longer period of time than seventy years. And he was apparently disturbed by it, wondering if the time of the captivity was to be extended.

An eloquent and earnest prayer of Daniel to the Lord asked forgiveness be extended to his people, and that Divine punishment upon them might not be continued. In response to this prayer, Daniel was given another vision in which a period of sixty-nine weeks “unto Messiah the Prince” was mentioned, and an additional week during which God’s covenant would be confirmed “with many.”—ch. 9:3-27

Seventy weeks doubtless seemed much shorter to Daniel than twenty-three hundred days, yet, not understanding either of these visions as we are privileged to do today, he was left with the necessity of maintaining his faith and patience while he waited for God to deliver his people and fulfill his Messianic promises. God used Daniel mightily as a prophet, and he was firmly convinced of the sureness of God’s promises, yet it was necessary for him to walk by faith, and not by sight. He knew that in God’s due time “Michael” would “stand up,” that “great prince” which would stand for the children of his people; but he doubtless wondered why, at the same time, there would be “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) God’s final word to him was that “the book” was to be “sealed” until the “time of the end.”—vss. 4,9


John the Baptist was the last of the prophets. For thousands of years God had been promising to send the Messiah. Beginning with righteous Abel, and continuing throughout all the centuries, God’s people had waited for the coming of the promised seed. They had all died without seeing the fulfillment of the Messianic promises. But now the Messiah had come, and it was the privilege of John the Baptist to announce his presence. In this announcement he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29

On another occasion John announced, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” meaning that the King whom the God of heaven had promised had appeared. (Matt. 3:2) Evidently John expected that Jesus would almost immediately set up his kingdom and begin to exercise his royal authority and power, first to deliver Israel from Roman bondage, and then to extend the sphere of his sovereign rule until all nations were brought under his control. Because this was not done, John later began to wonder whether or not Jesus really was the Messiah.

Evidently it was the Holy Spirit which guided John to refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Had he personally understood the implication of this title, he would have known that before Jesus should become the ruling king of Israel, and the world, he would have to die as the Redeemer of the people. He would have understood that “as a lamb” Jesus would be led “to the slaughter.” (Isa. 53:7) In this respect, John made the same mistake as did Jesus’ disciples, hence began to doubt.

John’s faith was the more severely tested by his imprisonment. Having believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah and King, it would be very difficult for him to understand why the ‘powers that be’ would be permitted to continue their unrighteous rule. He would wonder why he, a faithful servant of the Lord, would be permitted to languish in prison. In his quandary he sent two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”—Matt. 11:3

John the Baptist was in good standing with the Lord, and enjoyed a rich measure of his blessing. Indeed, few of the Lord’s people have ever been favored with such extraordinary demonstrations of Divine power, and such outstanding evidence concerning the Divine purpose for their times. John personally heard the voice from heaven witnessing to the fact that Jesus was the beloved Son of God in whom the Heavenly Father was well pleased. Upon the strength of this testimony John was courageous when confronted by his adversaries, outspoken in his message of repentance, and humble in his acknowledgment of the superiority of Jesus in the Divine plan.

Jesus said concerning John the Baptist that there was none greater “born of women.” (Matt. 11:11) Yet, because he did not fully understand all the details of the Divine plan, and particularly its time elements, his faith and patience were severely tested. Responding to his inquiry, Jesus instructed John’s two disciples to report what they had seen and heard—that the sick were being healed, the dead raised, and that the poor were having the Gospel preached to them. This was an affirmative answer to John’s question. From it he would be reassured that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, yet John was allowed to die in prison without being given a further understanding of the Divine plan.

It was better thus! Had John been informed of all the details of the Divine plan—that Jesus would be crucified, and that more than nineteen centuries would elapse before the Messianic kingdom would actually become operative in the earth, it perhaps would have overwhelmed him. As it was, John suffered only a short time and was beheaded. As far as his consciousness is concerned, when he is awakened from the sleep of death to be one of the “princes in all the earth,” (Ps. 45:16) it will seem to him the next moment after the executioner’s axe ended his trial.


Jesus’ disciples were also severely tested from the standpoint of time, and none of them ever fully grasped how far distant was the realization of their hopes.

Like John the Baptist, they believed that Jesus would establish his kingdom and begin at once to fulfill the many Messianic promises of the Old Testament. It was because they thought “that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” that Jesus gave them the parable of “a certain nobleman” that went into a far country to receive a kingdom and to return.—Luke 19:11,12

Furnished with the information that Jesus, as the ‘nobleman’ in the parable, was going away and would return later to establish his kingdom, they went to him on the Mount of Olives and inquired as to the “sign” which would mark the time of his return and Second Presence. (Matt. 24:3) Jesus did not chide them for asking these questions. Indeed, he very patiently outlined many signs which today, now that we have reached the time of his presence, serve as infallible proofs of his presence (Greek - parousia). His reply must have seemed very indefinite to his disciples at that time. He told them that he did not know the time of his return, and admonished them to watch, that they might recognize the signs of his presence when it did become a reality.

After his resurrection, when Jesus appeared to his disciples for the last time before his ascension, they again raised the question of time. “Wilt thou at this time,” they asked, “restore again the kingdom to Israel?” His reply was, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:6,7) How their faith and patience must have been tested by this reply, and especially so when he departed from them, and a cloud received him out of their sight! They had accepted Jesus as the Messiah. He had told them that if they became his disciples, and faithfully followed him, they would share in the glory of his kingdom. But he was taken from them and crucified; while they had been convinced of his resurrection, they had seen little of him, and now he was gone.

Jesus had promised to send the Holy Spirit to comfort his disciples, and to empower them to be his witnesses, which promise was soon gloriously fulfilled. For the moment, however, they were to tarry, to wait. With them, as with all the Lord’s people, the little while of uncertain waiting loomed large in their outlook as patiently, and by faith, they continued to trust the Lord where they could not trace him.

Nor did the coming of the Holy Spirit result in a full revealment of the time features of the Divine plan. Peter came to understand that the Lord’s Second Presence would not become a reality before his death. So he endeavored to “stir up” the “pure minds” of the Early Church, “knowing,” as he wrote, “that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.” (II Pet. 3:1,2; 1:14) It is doubtful whether Peter understood that the kingdom was about two thousand years in the future.

Paul also knew that he would not live to see the kingdom established. But he had confidence that a “crown” was laid up for him “which the Lord, the righteous judge,” would give to him at “that day.” (II Tim. 4:8) Paul wrote as though ‘that day’ was very near. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,” he wrote. (Rom. 13:12) And in our text, he wrote, ‘Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.’

Paul may have not realized how long that little while would be. But he knew from Habakkuk’s prophecy that the Lord would return and the kingdom would be established in God’s own due time. He knew that there would be no tarrying of the vision, even though to the waiting saints of God in every age it has seemed to tarry.


The Lord’s people in this end of the age are also having their patience and faith tested from the standpoint of time. To them, as to those in previous times, the ‘vision’ has seemed to tarry. This seeming tarrying is due to the fact that now, as in the past, God continues to hold the times and seasons in his own power. He still is permitting his people to understand just enough to guide them in the doing of his will, and to make it necessary for them to “hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”—Lam. 3:24-26

In fulfillment of his own promise, our returned Lord has served the “household” with “meat in due season.” (Luke 12:42) Thousands of the Lord’s people the world over have been reached and blessed by the glorious message of present Truth. The fact of Christ’s Second Presence is more discernible today than at any other time. The Truth of the Divine plan is itself one of the best evidences of the Master’s presence; and besides, the “sure word of prophecy” reveals it in past and current world events.—II Pet. 1:19

Throughout all the upsetting experiences of two world wars, the hopes and plans of Christianity have proved utterly futile. Its leaders have no answer for those who inquire as to the meaning of these unexpected world events. Meanwhile, these world developments have proved the reality of the Truth. The Truth has stood the test of these chaotic and distressing years which have brought the world to the brink of ruin. More than ever, the kingdom of Christ is the only solution for the world’s woes.

From the standpoint of time, the future is uncertain insofar as the church as a whole is concerned. As individuals, however, the time for each one of us is short. More than ever there is but a little while with each of us in which to make our calling and election sure. In these few years it is appropriate that we bestir ourselves and zealously make use of all the provisions of Divine providence whereby we are made ready to be united with our Heavenly Bridegroom.—Rev. 19:7


Solomon wrote that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” (Prov. 13:12) This heart sickness has tended to discourage some from patiently continuing on in the service of the Lord, the Truth, and the brethren. But now we realize that the vision of present Truth has not tarried, that it was merely our failure to understand all its details which made it seem to tarry. This being true, we should be zealously serving the Lord in every way we can, and especially by making known the glad tidings of the kingdom.

Thousands of the Lord’s people are now enjoying the richness of Christian experience in the Truth and its service as they did in the “former days” when they were first “enlightened.” (Heb. 10:32, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) It is still true that the Lord’s people in the flesh are commissioned to be the “light of the world”—the only source of the Gospel light which is in the world.—Matt. 5:14

The time for the general enlightenment of the world is in the future age. The Lord wants us to bear witness to the Gospel of the kingdom. It is by so doing that we prove our obedience to the heavenly vision of present Truth with which we have been so highly and honorably favored. If we have maintained a clear vision of the Truth we will want to make it known to others—whether they hear, or whether they turn away indifferently, or perhaps speak evil of us.

We have need of patience! It is not enough that in the past we have made a consecration to lay down our lives in the service of the Lord. That was a good and proper start, but we must continue in the way of righteousness and sacrifice. The only way to obtain “glory and honour and immortality” is by “patient continuance in well doing.” (Rom. 2:7) Doing well as Christians consists of adding to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control, and to self-control patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. (II Pet. 1:4-7) Peter explains that if these things be in us and abound, we will not be idle, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord. So, by continuing to grow in grace and in knowledge, and by actively serving the Lord, the Truth, and the brethren, we will be giving “diligence” to make our “calling and election sure.” If we do these things, Peter affirms, we shall “never fall,” but will have an abundant entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:8-11

To be diligent in doing the will of God, we have need of patience. We will need patience which will enable us to be as zealous, as energetic, and as kind and loving tomorrow, as, by God’s grace, we are endeavoring to be today. It is only those who patiently endure until they have been faithful unto death who will receive the crown of life.—Rev. 2:10

Faith and patience will carry us through a whole lifetime of doing God’s will, but we live that life only one day at a time. Our ‘little while’ of waiting for our kingdom reward need only be until tomorrow, and then, if we trust in the Lord, he will renew our strength for another day. Besides, all our days of patient devotion and service will be only a little while, especially now since we know that we are approaching the end of the age. Truly, the long nighttime of sin is now far spent, and we can rejoice in the assurance that the day is at hand.

Paul wrote, ‘Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come.’ But we can be encouraged in the knowledge that now he who was to come has come, and has not tarried. The bright shining of his presence has enlightened and cheered our hearts. Through the vision of present Truth, we see our God “high and lifted up,” and the glorious attributes of his character revealed in all their beauty and harmony. (Isa. 6:1) When Isaiah was given a vision of the Lord, and he heard the question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” he at once responded, “Here am I; send me.” (Isa. 6:8) The vision of present Truth brought us to the same point of full devotion to the Lord and we have need of patience to continue doing the Lord’s will.

Paul wrote, quoting further from Habakkuk’s prophecy, “The just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Then he adds, “But we are not of them who draw back.” (Heb. 10:38,39) Can we say with Paul that we are not ‘of them who draw back’? Does the Lord come first in all our thoughts? Are we seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? Do we treasure the Truth above all other possessions, and are we allowing its sweet influences to work in us to will and to do God’s good pleasure?

All these things were true of us when we “first believed.” (Rom. 13:11, NIV) They should still be true. Patiently and by mountain-moving faith, let us continue on to the full end of the narrow way, that we might, in God’s own due time, receive the complete fulfillment of all his gracious promises “to us-ward who believe.”—Eph. 1:19-23

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