Anticipate the Lord’s Coming
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. (5:7–8)
Three times in this section (vv. 7, 8, 9), James refers to the believer’s great hope, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The realization that things won’t always be as they are now, that believers are headed for “the city … whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10), provides great hope for those undergoing persecution. For that reason, the more persecuted a church is the more eagerly it anticipates the return of Jesus Christ; conversely, an affluent, indulgent, worldly church has little interest in the Lord’s return.
Parousia (coming) is an important New Testament eschatological term. It is the most commonly used term in the New Testament epistles for the second coming of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4; 1 John 2:28; cf. Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39). Parousia refers to more than just coming; it includes the idea of “presence.” Perhaps the best English translation would be “arrival.” The church’s great hope is the arrival of Jesus Christ when He comes to bless His people with His presence. That glorious truth appears in more than 500 verses throughout the Bible.
Our Lord said much about His return, especially in His Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25; Mark 13; Luke 21). He taught that His return would be preceded by definite signs (Matt. 24:5–26). He portrayed His coming as a dramatic, climactic event, as striking and unmistakable as the flash of lightning across the sky (Matt. 24:27–30). It will be a time of separation, as the angels gather the elect to enjoy Jesus’ presence (Matt. 24:31) and gather unbelievers to banish them from it (Matt. 24:39–41).
Every Christian is to live in the hope of the certainty of Christ’s return. “The end of all things is near,” wrote Peter; “therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Pet. 4:7). With his own death imminent, Paul could confidently say, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). The sure hope of Christ’s return is especially comforting to those undergoing trials and persecution. To the Romans Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). He reminded the Corinthians that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Peter also encouraged suffering believers to remember their Lord’s return:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:6–7)
Focusing on Christ’s return also motivates believers to godly living. In 1 John 3:3 John writes, “Everyone who has this hope [the Second Coming—v. 2] fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” The study of end time events should not produce speculative eschatological systems, but holy lives. After discussing the destruction of the present universe, Peter exhorted his readers, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Pet. 3:14; cf. Phil. 3:16–21; 1 Thess. 1:9–10; Titus 2:11–13).
To further reinforce his point that believers need to wait patiently for the second coming, James described a familiar scene using a simple, straightforward illustration. The farmer, he points out, waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. The farmer would have been a tenant farmer or small landowner. Having planted his crops, he waits expectantly for the precious produce of the soil—his crops—to come in. That depends on something outside of his control, God’s providentially bringing together all the elements needed for the crops to grow. Those crops are precious or valuable to him because he depends on them for his existence. All he can do is to be patient (from makrothumeō, the same word used earlier in the verse) as he waits eagerly for the crops to come in.
James’s reference to the early and late rains shows just how long farmers had to patiently wait. The early rains in Palestine arrive at the time of the fall planting season (October and November), the late rains just before harvesttime (March and April).
Applying the analogy to his readers, James exhorted them, you too be patient. Just as a farmer waits patiently through the entire growing season for his crop, so also are believers to wait patiently for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul addressed a similar exhortation to the Galatians: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal. 6:9). Perhaps James’s readers, like those described in Revelation 6:9–11, were growing impatient for Christ to return. They may also have been plagued by scoffers who denied the reality of the Second Coming (cf. 2 Pet. 3:3–4).
James further exhorted his readers to strengthen their hearts. Strengthen is from stērizō, a word meaning “to make fast,” “to establish,” or “to confirm.” In Luke 9:51 this term is used to describe Jesus’ resolute determination to go to Jerusalem, although He knew He faced death when He arrived there. It is a word denoting resoluteness, firm courage, an attitude of commitment to stay the course no matter how severe the trial. Stērizō derives from a root word meaning “to cause to stand,” or “to prop up.” James urges those about to collapse under the weight of persecution to prop themselves up with the hope of the Savior’s return.
Spiritual strengthening is seen elsewhere in Scripture as the gracious work of the Holy Spirit (e.g., Eph. 3:14–19; 1 Thess. 3:12–13; 2 Thess. 2:16–17; 1 Pet. 5:10), but is here presented as the believer’s responsibility. This is another instance of the profound tension between divine provision and human responsibility that permeates doctrinal truth. Christians are not to “let go and let God,” nor are they to view the Christian life as one of legalistic self-effort. Instead, they are to live as if everything depends on them, knowing that it all depends on God (cf. Phil. 2:12–13).
James does not tolerate double-minded, unstable people. In 1:6 he observed that “the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind,” and warned “that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (vv. 7–8). In 2:4 the inspired writer denounced those who equivocated by making “distinctions among [themselves],” and thus became “judges with evil motives,” while in 3:8–12 he pointed out the incongruity of those who bless God while at the same time cursing their fellowmen. James also rebuked those who claimed to love God, yet were in love with the world (4:4), exhorting them, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded” (v. 8). It is not surprising, then, that James exhorted his readers to have a settled conviction that the Lord Jesus Christ would return, and thus strengthen their hearts.
The obvious idea of this exhortation was that believers should realize that their trouble is temporary. It will end when Jesus returns. Though Jesus would not return in the lifetime of the recipients of this epistle, nor in the lifetimes of millions of other believers who have lived and died since—no one has known when He will—all may live in the anticipation that He may come at any moment. This argues for imminency, the idea that the next event on God’s schedule for Christ is the deliverance of believers from this world with all its troubles. This is the message of comforting hope for the church in every age (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13–18).
James emphasizes imminency by reminding his readers of the hope that the coming of the Lord is near. The verb translated near (eggizō) means “to draw near,” “to approach,” or “to come close.” The return of Christ is the next event on God’s prophetic calendar and could happen at any moment. He delays His return because God is still redeeming those whom He “chose … in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). But from the human perspective, Christ’s return has been imminent since He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9–11). That reality has always been the church’s hope. “The night is almost gone, and the day is near,” wrote the apostle Paul to the Romans (Rom. 13:12). The writer of Hebrews exhorted his readers not to forsake their “own assembling together … but [to be] encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:25). “The end of all things is near,” wrote Peter (1 Pet. 4:7), while the apostle John added, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). And Jesus’ last recorded words in Scripture are “Yes, I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20). It is both the privilege and the responsibility of all Christians to be constantly “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13; cf. John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 Thess. 1:9–10; 4:16–18). Any view of eschatology which eliminates imminency (believers in every age living with the hope that Christ could come at any moment) is in conflict with all those passages which provide hope for suffering believers by anticipating the Lord’s coming.
7–8 The passage at hand is connected to the previous unit on the guilt of the wicked wealthy (5:1–6) by the word “therefore” (NASB; oun), indicating that judgment on the rich serves as a basis for encouragement to the righteous. On this basis they are to “be patient” (makrothymeō, GK 3428), a term connoting enduring under provocation or waiting with a right attitude (1 Co 13:4; 1 Th 5:14; Heb 6:15; 2 Pe 3:9). It is almost synonymous with hypomonē (GK 5705), used in both its verbal and nominal forms in v. 11. It may be that life’s hardships in general are in mind (Ropes, 293), but James specifically ties the exhortation back to 5:1–6 and thus seems to have patience under injustice or oppression in view. That patience involves waiting is further highlighted by the duration: they are to be patient “until the Lord’s coming.” Behind the “coming” (parousia, GK 4242) motif lies both the day of the Lord in broader Jewish thought (although the term itself is not used of the Messiah in the Greek OT), as well as the Christian hope of Christ’s return (Mt 24:3, 37, 39; 1 Co 15:23; 1 Th 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Pe 1:16; 3:4). That day will be a day of judgment on the enemies of God, as well as a day of vindication for God’s true people. The difficulty for the believer under trial is that the day has yet to arrive and thus constitutes a future hope that must be anticipated and waited for.
To encourage his readers to patience, James uses an agricultural illustration. A farmer does not receive his valuable crop shortly after planting. Rather, the maturation of the crop is seasonal, receiving both the “early” rains (NASB), which could refer to rains either in late October and early November or in November and December, and the “late” rains (NASB) in March and April (Neusner and Green, 519). This identification of these two seasons of rain locates James and his audience along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The reference to the two rains also parallels the LXX (Jer 5:24; Hos 6:3; Joel 2:23; Zec 10:1), including a reference in the Shema, the daily confession (Dt 11:14), which of course would have been very familiar in Jewish circles (Dibelius, 243–44). The early rains got the crop started, allowing the seed to sprout and experience initial growth. The late rains enabled the filling out of the grain. James’s point is that the full cycle of a mature and productive crop is something for which the farmer had to wait with patient endurance. In the same way, the believer must wait for the Lord’s coming with patient endurance.
Therefore, in v. 8 James reiterates the exhortation with which he started the unit, saying, “You too, be patient,” and then goes on to add, “Strengthen your hearts” (NASB). The heart was understood as the seat of all aspects of the inner life—the will, emotions, reason, and moral understanding. To strengthen the heart, then, is to encourage oneself, setting one’s resolve to “stand firm” (NIV) in the faith (Ps 111:8; 1 Th 3:13) in the light of the Lord’s coming, which James describes as “near.” Here he points to the belief in the imminence of Christ’s return as an aspect of Christian posture in the world. Believers are to live in expectation of that day.
5:7–8. James wrote these words to Christian readers, addressing them as brothers. His readers in these verses were the victims of mistreatment by the wealthy mentioned in 5:1–6. James presented an incentive to show stamina, a hindrance to stamina, and two positive examples of stamina.
Trials and afflictions often produce grumbling or complaints. James prohibited this response when he urged his readers to be patient. Be patient demands an attitude which shows long-suffering in the presence of affliction and injustice. Believers should show this stamina without complaining, giving up, or retaliating. They should be ready to endure affliction without complaint and to remain committed in their obedience to God.
Persecuted believers can develop stamina by looking to the coming of the Lord. At that time Jesus will bring judgment on the disobedient (see 2 Thess. 1:6–10). Instead of taking vengeance into our own hands, Christians are to trust God to perform justice and to bring punishment on those who may cause hardship for them (see Rom. 12:19). Such forward-looking waiting requires patience.
The hard-working farmer shows us an example of patience. The farmer can prepare the soil, plant the seed, and keep the field weeded. However, he must expect God to supply the conditions of rain and sunshine which encourage growth. For this he needs patience.
The autumn rains usually appeared in October and softened the ground for planting. The spring rains usually came in April or May and matured the crops for harvest. The fact that the farmer had to wait for these rains showed his stamina or patience. The farmer had learned to trust in the reliability of God to supply the needs for his crops. James called his readers to the same demonstration of trust as they faced persecution.
Verse 8 urges us to show patience and courage because of the nearness of Jesus’ return. We should show a firm purpose and depend constantly on God’s grace. We can find the strength to stand firm because the return of the Lord will bring salvation, eternal life, and spiritual health.
The blessed hope of the Christian is the personal, bodily return of Jesus Christ (see Titus 2:12–13). We must not allow events to dull our hope in Jesus’ return. We must not reduce our hope for Jesus’ return to something like the transformation of society by Christian values. Jesus will come personally!
The hope of Jesus’ return gave the early Christians hope as they faced hardship (Heb. 9:28). We must look at time from the viewpoint of the God for whom a thousand years is only a day (2 Pet. 3:8; 2 Cor. 4:16–18). Though centuries have passed since Jesus promised to return, we serve a God for whom the length of time does not imply a failed promise. Our hope of Christ’s return is an encouragement for us to obey him.
J. Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in the 1860s. He believed fervently in the impending return of Christ. His belief influenced him to make the evangelism of unreached areas of China his primary aim. His beliefs about Christ’s return gave him direction and urgency in the establishment of the mission.
Our belief in the return of Christ can provide us courage to face difficulty. It can give us stamina to endure persecution. It can deepen our hope that God will provide us reward and recognition to vindicate our actions.
7. Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.8. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
Note these observations:
Fully aware of their adversities, James tells his readers to exercise patience. The adverb then links the command to be patient to the preceding verses in which James describes the oppressive conditions under which the poor live. In a sense, James takes up the theme with which he begins his epistle: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (1:2).
Patience is a virtue possessed by few and sought by many. We are living in a society that champions the word instant. But to be patient, as James uses the word, is much more than passively waiting for the time to pass. Patience is the art of enduring someone whose conduct is incompatible with that of others and sometimes even oppressive. A patient man calms a quarrel, for he controls his anger and does not seek revenge (compare Prov. 15:18; 16:32).
The old English term long-suffering does not mean to suffer a while but to tolerate someone for a long time. To say it differently, patience is the opposite of being short-tempered. God displays patience by being “slow to anger” when man continues in sin even after numerous admonitions (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 86:15; Rom. 2:4; 9:22; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:15). Man ought to reflect that divine virtue in his day-to-day life.
James knows that the readers of his epistle are unable to defend themselves against their oppressors. Therefore, he urges them to exercise patience and to leave matters in the hands of God, who is coming to deliver them. Even if they were able to do so, they should not take matters into their own hands. God has said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:12; Heb. 10:30).
“Be patient … until the Lord’s coming.” The readers know that the Lord is coming back in the capacity of Judge. They ought to exercise self-control toward their adversaries and demonstrate patience in respect to the coming of the Lord. He will avenge his people when he returns (2 Thess. 1:5–6).
Throughout his epistle the writer reveals his love for God’s creation. In this verse he portrays the expectations of the farmer who anticipates a bountiful harvest but must patiently wait for the arrival of “the autumn and spring rains.” The farmer has learned that everything grows according to the seasons of the year. He knows how many days are needed for a plant to develop from germination to harvest. Moreover, he knows that without the proper amount of rainfall at the right moment, his labors are in vain.
Although the amounts of rainfall in Israel fluctuate, the farmer knows that he can expect the autumn rain, beginning with a number of thunderstorms, in the latter part of October. Then he can plant his seed so that germination takes place. And he eagerly hopes for a sufficient amount of rainfall in April and May when the grain is maturing and the yield increases every time the rains come down. He depends, therefore, on the autumn and the spring rains (Deut. 11:14; Jer. 5:24; Hos. 6:3; Joel 2:23). He is able to predict the coming of the rain, but he cannot speak with certainty about the harvest. He waits with eager expectation.
James applies the example of the farmer to the readers. “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” As the farmer confidently waits for the coming of the autumn rain and the spring rain on which his harvest depends, so the believer waits patiently for the coming of the Lord. As God promised Noah that “as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest … will never cease” (Gen. 8:22), so the Lord has given the believer the promise that he will return.
James tells the readers to be patient and to stand firm (“to strengthen your hearts” in the original). They can say with confidence that the Lord is coming back, but they do not know when that will be. While they are waiting, doubt and distraction often enter their lives. For this reason, James counsels his readers to stand firm in the knowledge that the Lord in due time will fulfill his promise made to the believers. He falls into repetition, but the reminder of the Lord’s imminent return is necessary so that the readers will not lose heart in difficult circumstances.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 253–256). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 266). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 343–344). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 163–165). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.