Christ’s redemption is both “now” and “not yet.” The past dimension of salvation is also called “justification.” We now stand before God without condemnation; this is an accomplished fact (see Rom. 8:1–2). The present reality is called “sanctification.” The Spirit is working in our lives to make us increasingly like Jesus. The future aspect is called “glorification.” This is when that work will be finished (Rom. 8:29–30).
Waiting on the Lord for salvation’s completion, then, is a complex Christian responsibility. Eternal destinies are at stake, as seen in today’s reading, which contrasts those who do not wait on the Lord with those who do.
People who do not wait on the Lord are “scoffers” (vv. 17–19). They think the Day of the Lord will never come. Rather than living in faith and expectant hope, they “follow their own ungodly desires” and “mere natural instincts.” They lack the Holy Spirit, live by worldly values, and reject God’s truth. Such false teachers mislead and divide the body of Christ.
People who do wait on the Lord are the opposite (vv. 20–21). They live according to God’s truth and values. They grow toward spiritual maturity and pray in the Spirit. They stand firm in the love of Christ, from which nothing can separate us (vv. 24–25; Rom. 8:35–39). They are therefore enabled to wait in sure hope and faith for “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life”—the completion of our earthly pilgrimages!
What about those who “doubt” or “waver” because of false teachers (vv. 22–23)? We’re to show them mercy (which seems like an appropriate way to wait for mercy!). The most merciful thing we can do is share the gospel with them, for if they believe it they’ll be saved from the fires of hell.
Throughout the journey described in John Bunyan’s allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian, is waiting to arrive at the Celestial City, yet his waiting isn’t passive. He learns much at the House of the Interpreter, is tempted at Vanity Fair, imprisoned in Doubting Castle, and more. Read or re-read this timeless masterpiece!