How Long

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
Revelation 6:9-11

John Balena visited me one day last week. We took a trip down memory lane…the Mekong Delta in Cambodia. I can still feel the boats rocking as we stepped gingerly from a larger boat to a string of smaller boats which were all tied together…homes of three or four generations.

The first person we met was obviously the patriarch of the group. He was dressed in his typical loose blue shorts and somewhat matching top with only one button left to do the job of others who had long since left the scene. He was older, gentle, and limited in many ways. But the expression on his face gave the impression someone would eventually come and share the news he so badly wanted to hear. God had planted eternity in his heart. He wanted the rest of the story.

John began the conversation through an interpreter. I wandered around the other boats wondering why we were there and what was the purpose of God…half-way around the world to spend the day with one family who lived on a series of boats! It did not make sense to me until later I saw the eternal difference in a man who obviously had been praying for someone, anyone to come.

When I returned to John’s location the purpose of God was as bright as could be. John had been teaching Bible and telling stories about Jesus. In fact, John taught so long I finally interrupted. “John, he wants to trust Jesus. He understands. Tell him how!” John did. The old man prayed and the world changed for him, for John, and for me and eternally for all of us.

After he prayed, I saw him put his hand on John’s knee and motion for him to wait. In a few minutes the entire family heard about Jesus. God looked down through the ages and said “I love the boat people who live on the Mekong Delta. I will send my Son, Jesus, to show my love, and I will send John and Jerry to tell them!

I remember a hymn written in 1878. The first verse and refrain:

It may be at morn, when the day is awaking,
When sunlight through darkness and shadow is breaking,
That Jesus will come in the fullness of glory
To receive from the world “His own.”

O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song—
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen.
Hallelujah! Amen.

How long will it be? I don’t know. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4: For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

How long will it be? I don’t know. But I know I will see John and his family. I will see my family. I will see many friends and and I will see a family from the Mekong Delta in Cambodia AND so we shall ever be with our Lord!