And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?…
The Authorised Version reads, "In your patience possess ye your souls." It bids the imperilled Christian, fortified by promise, to endure to the end, keeping his soul tranquil and trustful. A beautiful precept, yet inferior, both in reading and rendering, but most certainly in the latter, to one other, which is that of the Revised Version, "In your patience ye shall win your souls." For the imperative we substitute the future; in other words, for precept we read promise. This is one change — for "possess" we read "win"; for a soul given in creation, we are bidden to look for a soul to be given in glory. The case is one of those in which the word before us always means to acquire, and never means to possess. Now we turn from a comparison of renderings to the application of the saying itself. "In your patience ye shall win your souls," "some of you shall be put to death," "ye shall be hated of all men," "not a hair of your head shall perish,... in your patience ye shall win your souls." Death itself shall not prevent this; for the soul here spoken of is the life's life, the thing which unbelief and unfaithfulness can alone forfeit for any man, the thing which is saved by faith, the thing which is acquired, gained, won in the exercise of patience. There is a lower truth in the saying in reference to this present life. Multitudes of human lives have been won by patience; the histories of battles and sieges are in large part histories of the triumph of patience; cities would have been lost, and fields would have been lost, but for the grace of patience in the commanders and the leaders. But certainly the converse is true; in patience has been defeat, has been disaster, has been bloodshed, a thousand and ten thousand times; the analogy of earth and time gives support to the promise when we read it as it was spoken of the soul and of things heavenly. What is patience as Christ speaks it? The Greek word for patience is made up of two parts, one meaning continuance, and the other meaning submission; so that the combined term may be defined as submissive waiting, that frame of mind which is will. ing to wait as knowing whom it serves, willing to endure as seeing the Invisible; recognizing the creaturely attitude of subjection to the Creator; recognizing also the filial relationship which implies a controlling hand and a loving mind in heaven. Submissive waiting, this is patience, and we see, then, why great things should be spoken of it, why it should even be made the sum of Christian virtues, why to it rather than to any other grace, the promise should be affixed, "In your patience" — in the exercise, resolved and unwearied, of the grace of submissive expectancy — "ye shall at last win your souls." "Then the soul is not yet won?" Yes and no; the soul, the true life of each one, is already redeemed, bought, bought back with precious blood; and the soul, the life's life of each one, is already committed to us by Christ Himself for omnipotent keeping. "I know," St. Paul writes, "whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to guard my deposit" — the soul which I have committed to Him — "against that day." This is true. Our Lord speaks not here to contradict His own word, or to vitiate His own work, which says quite indiscriminately in Holy Scripture, "Ye were saved," that is, on Calvary; "Ye have been saved," this is, in redemption; "Ye are being saved," that is, in the work of grace; "Ye shall be saved," that is, in the day of glory. But, in fullest consistency with all these, there is room for a promise, "Ye shalt win your souls." Let no man presume. There is a sense in which the life's life hangs suspended on that mark, as St. Paul calls it, which is the goal of the race. "I," he says, "count not myself to have apprehended." There is a grace of submissive expectancy; still, and because there is this, there is a something yet in front of me. At present I do not quite possess even my own soul. Oh! it often eludes me when I would say, "All my own I carry with me." Oh I there are many misgivings and doubtings in us, even in the things most Surely believed. I cannot always command the life's life, which is the soul, when I would carry it with me to the mercy-seat. I find earth and the world, flesh, and sense oftentimes too strong and too predominately present with me just when I would be at my very best for prayer and praise. I cannot pretend to say that I have quite attained even to the possession of my own innermost being. A great promise. Now let us lose ourselves for a moment in the contemplation of this promise, "Ye shall win your souls"; and then in one last word see the connection of it with the realm and region of patience. "In your patience ye shall win your souls": at last my soul shall be my own. That is the promise. It is a wonderful interpretation of a wonderful saying appended to the parable of the unrighteous steward: "If ye have not been faithful in the use of that which was so precarious and so fugitive that even while you had it it might rather be called "another's" — the possession in greater or lesser measure of the substance of this world — "who," our Lord asks, "who should give you that which is your own" — that which is your own, still to be won — the soul, the life's life of this text? Patience may lack, often does lack, one at least of its ingredients; there might be a waiting which was no submission, which, on the contrary, was indolence, was procrastination, was dallying, the man sitting still, and letting alone, and waiting upon chances which are no grace at all, but the opposite; or there might be a submission which was no enterprise, and waiting upon Providence with more or less of the resignation which is the ape and shadow of patience, which has in it no doing nor daring for Christ, no present running and fighting, and, therefore, no future crown. But who shall speak the praises of the real gospel, Christian, spiritual patience?
Parallel VersesKJV: And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?