(Matthew 24:44) “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come in an hour when you do not expect Him.”
It is one thing to know about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and to know about Bible prophecy but another thing to be personally prepared for His coming. God always requires a practical response to His Word from us as believers. The question God is asking is “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” God’s Word tells us a lot about being “sober” and “watchful” in spiritual things and to be always ready to leave this present evil age when Jesus comes back for us. How then can we make ourselves ready? Let’s turn to Matthew Chapter twenty-four verses 36-52.
We must be ready at all times for Jesus’ coming. (Matthew 24:36-51)
(Vs. 36) “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
God has fixed a day when Jesus will return visibly to this earth in great power and splendour. As it is written, “For He (God) has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed.” Acts (17:31) When the Lord Jesus said that no-one knows about the day or hour of His return He did not even know at that time Himself the hour or the day of His return. Now in heaven He probably does but when He was on earth He didn’t know Himself because only His Father knew it. However, He went on to emphasize the absolute necessity to be ready at all times for His Second Coming. As in the first part of Matthew chapter twenty -four the Lord Jesus was not talking to unbelievers but to the faithful Church.
No one knows the day or the hour
Even though we do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will come back we can still know the “signs of the times” that will precede His second coming. The Lord Jesus Himself said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25-28) When you look at where the world is heading today political leaders around the world cannot solve the problems confronting the human race. Of course the Bible also gives us other signs that will be a conspicuous feature of the very last days leading up to the return of Jesus. (See the study titled “The Signs of the End of the Age”) Now let’s continue with the text.
(Vs. 37-39) “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
This clearly describes our society today. People are just like the people were in Noah’s time. The one word that describes our present generation is “materialism.” People are caught up in the pleasures and pursuits of this life and are not preparing themselves for eternity. Now there is nothing wrong with eating and drinking and marrying or working in business in themselves but when they become the purpose and goal of our lives to the exclusion of the Lord then they become a problem. The problem in Noah’s time was that the people were indifferent to God’s word. Noah is called a preacher of righteousness in the Bible and during the 120 years it took him to build the ark he was preaching to the people to save themselves from their crooked and perverse generation by coming into the ark for refuge. The ark itself typifies the salvation offered in Jesus Christ for people to escape the coming wrath. The Ark also typifies the faithful Church. Noah was compelling people to come into the ark of refuge but the time came when God shut the door and then it was too late.
Now is the day of salvation
The time is coming again when God will shut the door of salvation and the only thing left will be His wrath. The people in Noah’s time ignored the warnings and went about their daily lives as if everything would continue as it had been but were suddenly engulfed in a cataclysmic flood that destroyed them all. They experienced the wrath of God. When the Bible speaks of judgment there is always the possibility of repentance to avoid it, however, when it speaks of God’s wrath then there is no reprieve! As the writer to the Hebrews said; “Now is the day of salvation” and again he writes; “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!”
There are three times when God’s wrath is poured out without mercy. Of course the first outpouring of God’s wrath was the universal Flood; secondly it will be when His bowls of wrath are poured out upon the Kingdom of the Antichrist and upon a Christ hating, Christ rejecting world. However there was a third time when God’s wrath was poured out and that was When He poured out His wrath upon the Lord Jesus His only Begotten Son at the cross. When Jesus cried out to His Father in Heaven, “My God my God why have you forsaken Me” the heavens were silent. The Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the whole world bore the full weight of God’s wrath upon sin and by His atoning blood turned aside God’s wrath so that it would not fall upon all those who truly repent and believe in His substitutionary death for them.
As it was in the days of Noah
Now what happened in Noah’s time before the flood will happen again at the end of the world. When people think everything is getting better they will suddenly be plunged into their worst nightmare. “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3) The metaphor used for “the night” in this context refers to the great tribulation. But let’s continue…
(Vs. 40-41) “Two will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”
Imagine you go to bed with your wife or husband and suddenly there is a loud trumpet sound from the sky that suddenly wakes you up and you see your loved one next to you caught up to pass through the ceiling! Or imagine you are working with someone in the office and they are sitting next to you and then in the twinkling of an eye they are caught up into the air! Imagine what will happen on the freeways as cars career out of control and pilots in airplanes suddenly disappear while the planes are still flying! The results will be global chaos! So it will be when Jesus comes for his bride. When He comes back as He catches up the Church to meet Him in the air He returns with then to judge the nations gathered against Jerusalem. At that time all hell will break loose on the earth! There will be nothing “secretive” about this event as every eye will see Him descending in the clouds in great power and splendour. As He descends on that day a fire will be ignited from the words coming out of His mouth to devastate the inhabitants of the earth.
The Apostle Peter said, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10) Notice in verses 40-41 it says that “one will be taken and the other left.” Many Bible commentators see this as one of the proof texts for the secret rapture, however, the context of the passage itself would better be understood as one being taken away in judgement but the other one remaining and going into the Millennial reign of Christ.
They have come out of the Great Tribulation
Noah and his family (a type of the faithful believing remnant) were preserved on the earth but the others outside of the Ark of Salvation were swept away by the waters of the flood. Noah and his family came safely out of the Ark and went on to re-populate the earth. The others however had been swept away in the wrath of God. During the Great Tribulation millions upon millions around the globe will perish under the wrath of God and only those who have sheltered by faith under the blood of Jesus will be rescued out of it. As John tells us in the book of Revelation, “Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes —who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of (are coming out of) the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:13-14) To be rescued out of something you have to be already in it in the first place! So the faithful remnant will go into the Great Tribulation but be snatched away just prior to the outpouring of the bowls of God’s wrath. As Paul the Apostle said. “For God has not destined us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now let’s continue.
(Vs. 42) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
In his second letter Peter not only told us about Jesus return but also told us how we should be living. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare “Since everything is to be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live godly and holy lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.” (2 Peter 3:10-14)
The phrase Peter uses for “the elements melting in fervent heat” is the same phrase we would use to describe the splitting of the Atom or a thermonuclear reaction. Zechariah the prophet describes this when he sees the destruction of the armies that come against Jerusalem at the end of this age. Listen to what he said, “This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot (melt) in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.” (Zechariah 14:12) This literally happened to people in Japan when they exploded the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People’s flesh literally melted from their bodies and even their eyes melted in their sockets. Peter was a first century man describing a nuclear reaction of unimaginable proportions at the end of this age. The Neutron bomb itself is a bomb has the capacity to do this to human flesh without destroying buildings.
The war with Islam
When the Lord Jesus returns to judge the armies of the nations gathered against Jerusalem He will strike them down with the power of His Word. He will speak and the explosive reaction will be far greater than any Neutron Bomb and the earth and all in it will be judged by fire! The Bible shows us very clearly that when Jesus comes again He will be a conquering king riding a white horse, a warrior whose garments are splattered red with the blood of His enemies.
“Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendour, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in My anger and trod them down in My wrath; their blood spattered My garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in My heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so My own arm worked salvation for Me, and My own wrath sustained Me. I trampled the nations in My anger; in My wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground” (Isaiah 63:1-6)
Notice that the Messiah Jesus comes out from Edom and Bozrah the regions today we would associate with Southern Jordan and Saudi Arabia the home of Islam. The Lord Jesus is seen down in Edom and Bozrah fighting a battle. The Bible itself actually names the nations that Jesus fights when He comes back and they are all Muslim nations today!
His name is the Word of God
In the book of Revelation John describes the same scenario. He is speaking about the Messiah our Lord Jesus Christ. “He is dressed in a robe dripped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron sceptre.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:13-16) This is the Eternal Word of God Himself who was face to face with God from all eternity. (John 1:1) After returning to the Mount of Olives the Lord Jesus will go to fight in Saudi Arabia to destroy the heart of Islam. He will be accompanied by the angels, his saints and the remnant of Israel. This last battle will be a fight for the city of Jerusalem itself. There in the valley of Jehoshaphat He will finally destroy the armies of the nations surrounding the city. When the dust of battle finally settles upon the hills of Israel He will stand again on the Mount of Olives to proclaim victory for Jerusalem and for the people of Israel!
Now the Bible says a lot about watchfulness and staying alert. Peter again emphasized this fact when he said, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) Satan is working around the clock to spiritually disable us as believers so that we will not be ready for Jesus’ return. No believer is immune from his attacks especially in these last days. Satan is accelerating his program because he knows that his time is short! But let’s continue…
(Vs. 43-44) “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come in an hour when you do not expect Him.”
If the owner of a house is forewarned that at a certain hour his house will be burgled he will stay awake to make sure he does not miss catching the thief. However, if he knows that a thief is coming but does not know when, he will stay doubly alert! How much more do we need to stay alert spiritually if we want to be ready for Jesus’ at His return? Notice that the thief comes “in the night.” This has nothing do with a ‘secret coming’ but it has everything to do with a sudden and unexpected coming. Jesus is alluding to the Great Tribulation but also to the fact that the faithful need to stay alert spiritually as things will be very dark in the world at that time. We need to cultivate faithfulness and watchfulness now because when “the night” comes it will be much darker than it is now! In fact Jesus will come back when the world least expects Him! Indeed the Lord Jesus said, “Work while it is day for the night comes when no-one will be able to work.” Let’s continue…
(Vs. 45-47) “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of his servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth; he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”
Here the Lord Jesus refers to those who have spiritual leadership and authority in the Church, those who have been given responsibility to guard and shepherd the flock. The good shepherds or pastors will give their flock the right kind of spiritual feeding they need from God’s Word at the proper time. The pastors are to continue faithfully in feeding the sheep until Jesus returns. Those Pastors, Elders, teachers and leaders whom Jesus finds teaching God’s Word faithfully will be greatly rewarded with awesome responsibility in the Millennium and ultimately in heaven for eternity. Daniel says, “Those who are wise (who impart wisdom) will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3) These faithful shepherds love the sheep and will willingly give their lives for the sheep because they are not hirelings who work only for money. Jesus then goes on to contrast the faithful shepherds with the false ones.
(Vs. 48-50) “But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.”
Here the Lord Jesus is not talking about literal drunkenness but “spiritual drunkenness.” These shepherds are not into caring for the sheep but are into money and hype and spiritually abuse the sheep through manipulation, domination and control. They are hirelings and in the last days they will multiply in the Church. Already we have seen this with the money preachers and the hyper faith gurus. Now many ‘hirelings’ are not necessarily into false doctrines but in their deep minds they care more about their position and standing in the church, they care more about their pension and superannuation than they do for the sheep. At some stage they will also compromise the truth to suit their own agendas.
The Lord Jesus likens false leaders to those shepherds who abuse the “sheep.” Most of the faith prosperity teachers are teaching covetousness and that “Godliness is the means to financial gain.” These men are profiteering on the blood of the Lamb and leading the sheep astray! At one time some of them probably started out as honest servants of God but have become corrupted through pride and love of money. Like the people of Israel who manufactured contrived worship around the golden calf these men contrive spiritual hype around the worship of money. This kind of thing is portrayed on video clips of their meetings.
Remember that Moses was a long time in coming down from the mountain consequently the people of Israel began to take matters into their own hands. They became spiritually careless and began to indulge the appetites and desires of their flesh because Moses coming was delayed. When Moses arrived God’s law was executed on the people and 3000 died in a single day! The Lord Jesus warned what would happen to those leaders who abused their office and led his people astray.
(Vs. 51) “He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
False teachers, prophets and shepherds may look successful and have big churches but their day of reckoning will come. The reason God is allowing these men to continue is that many of the sheep want this kind of thing and so God is giving them what they crave but sending leanness into their souls. God did this with Israel, “In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So He gave them what they asked for but sent leanness into their souls.” (Psalm 108:15) The same thing is happening today. Paul warns us about this when he says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) So then if we claim to be true believers then we will be ready for the return of Jesus at all times.
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we must see the difference between the “secret things” and the “revealed things” of God.
(Deuteronomy 29: 29) “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
What is clearly revealed in God’s Word we must do but what is secret we must leave alone. The whole subject of prophecy is a potential “spiritual minefield” because it can explode in all kinds of directions. Many go beyond what God’s word says and try to interpret things that God has not yet revealed. Of course we can ask the Lord about things that are hard to understand but we must make sure that they are revealed and not just interpreted according to our opinions or according to our particular Eschatological system of interpretation. We must only teach that which is plainly revealed in the Word of God. God did not call us to change or alter His Word but to proclaim it as it is. What we understand we are obligated to teach but what we do not understand we are not obligated to teach. The apostle Peter understood this when referring to Paul’s letters concerning the subject of prophecy. “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking of them in these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do other scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15- 16) Some things God reveals but other things he doesn’t.
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we must follow what God requires from us in His Word the Bible.
Now turn your Bibles to the gospel of Luke. Chapter twenty one verses twenty five to thirty six. In these verses we will discover how we can be ready for Jesus when He comes back.
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we must recognize the times in which we are living now. (Vs. 25-26) “There will be signs in the sun, moon and the stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
Just before Jesus visibly returns to this earth the very heavenly bodies will be shaken. The earth will reel under the impact of tidal waves, giant hailstorms, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, famines, disease, pestilence and warfare. The “roaring and the tossing of the sea” refers to the tremendous social, political and economic upheaval in all the nations of the world. Imagine how someone would feel in a boat caught in a roaring and tossing sea. Their heart would fail them and they would be racked with fear. At this time terrorism will be rampant in every nation. Racial hatred and violence will be widespread. Businesses will be ‘going to the wall.’ Permissiveness and immorality will be commonplace. Religious bigotry will be prominent. All of these things will ultimately lead up to the coming of the Antichrist and to the Third World War at a place called Armageddon. When people see these awesome events occurring they will be filled with terror and anguish. No nation will be excluded in this time of shaking. People will not know the way out in those days! (Isaiah 24) (Matthew 24:29) (Revelation 6:12-17) Now let’s move on again.
(Vs. 27) “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
All of these cataclysmic events will increase and intensify just before Jesus returns. In the end His return will be the world’s only hope of survival. (Matthew 24:22) The only optimistic people will be those who have been eagerly awaiting Jesus’ arrival. They will be rescued as these judgments are poured out on the inhabitants of the earth. At that time God’s wrath will be poured out without restraint upon a Christ hating, Christ rejecting world.
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we must stand up and lift up our heads because our deliverance is drawing near. (Vs. 28) “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because you redemption is drawing near.” When these catastrophes begin to take place it is not time for us to be cast down with apprehension and fear like the unbelievers in the world. We are to “stand up” with confidence and trust in the Lord and “lift up our heads” in the expectancy of Jesus return. Besides all these events the other significant sign will be the fig tree and all of the trees.
(Vs. 29-31) “He told them this parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so when you see all these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.’”
The fig tree and all of the trees here in the context of the passage could be applied to Israel and the nations. The sprouting leaves may not only point to the rise of nationalism including the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948 but also to the spiritual fruitfulness that will begin to appear in the nations. The summer speaks of the harvest to come. Fig trees sprout leaves before they bear fruit. When the fruit arrives it is buried in the leaves themselves to protect it from the intense heat of the sun. During the great tribulation those who are bearing spiritual fruit will be spiritually protected. Jesus is telling us that when people are being saved in all the nations including Israel we know that His coming to harvest His elect is near. This confirms what Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Let’s continue…
(Vs. 32-33) “I tell you the truth; this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will never pass away.”
The generation Jesus is talking about here in all probability refers to our generation, which has seen Israel become a nation once more in 1948 and the old city of Jerusalem back into their control in 1967 during the six-day war. Today Jerusalem is no longer trodden under the feet of the Gentiles as it was in the past even though the Temple Mount is still in the hands of the Muslims. According to the prophet Zechariah there will be a final attack on the city of Jerusalem and half of the city will be taken into exile while the other half remain, however, Israel as a nation will never be displaced again. They are there to stay! The Land of Israel was God’s gift to the Jewish people and to be for them, “an everlasting possession.” This promise was not made to the descendants of Ishmael but to the descendants of Isaac. Now a generation is fifty years according to the Jewish calendar.
Fifty years from 1967 would bring us up to this year 2017. This year may be a significant year in God’s prophetic calendar for Israel and the world. However, we must not fall into the trap of date setting. Remember that Israel is God’s time clock for the nations and God’s word will never pass away but will be exactly fulfilled. (Isaiah 55:11) While no one can predict the day or the hour when the Lord Jesus will come again to this earth there are at least six significant things happening today globally that indicate that His coming is very close indeed!
Firstly, more Jews all around the globe are being saved than at any other time in the history of the Christian Church.
We know from God’s word that in the very last days God will turn His grace back towards His ancient people and today this is happening all over the world. This is clearly predicted especially in the books of Joel, Ezekiel and Isaiah.
Secondly, the nations of the world including the UN and the European Union are becoming increasingly anti-Semitic and hostile towards Israel.
Some years ago Russia, America, the European Union and the United Nations were pressuring Israel to accept the ‘Road Map’ (Originally called The Saudi Peace Plan) for a so called ‘Palestinian state’ to bring about a peace treaty in the Middle East. Of course their intention has always been to divide up the Land of Israel! The ‘Two State Solution’ is supposedly the key to peace in the Middle-East; however, God’s judgement will come against all who seek to divide the Land of Israel. This will be a major reason why God brings the nations down into the valley of Jehoshaphat to judge them there. Here what the prophet Joel said concerning this matter, “In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up My land.” (Joel 3:1-3) According to the Bible there will be a final false treaty in the Middle East between Israel and her Arab neighbours but it will be “a covenant of death and not life” according to the prophet Isaiah. When Israel lies at peace they will suddenly be attacked. Those so called “allies: upon whom Israel relies for support will abandon them leaving the way open for the Antichrist and his forces to invade Israel and desecrate the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. All the events happening today in the Middle East are fulfilling Bible Prophecy.
Thirdly, spiritual deception in the Church today is more prevalent than at any other time in Church history.
Right now there are untold numbers of false prophets performing counterfeit signs, miracles and wonders, especially on Television. In a very real and tangible sense the “Image of the Beast” is already here and has been for over fifty years controlling the minds of people everywhere as the world becomes a global city. Through the television, computers and especially the Internet and virtual reality computer games “Babylon” is coming into our living rooms regularly. The philosophies and ideologies of the world are bombarding our senses seeking to gain our allegiance to the world, the flesh and the Devil. Through television, the Internet and computer games the “Prince of the power of the air” is already being worshipped and through this medium primarily he is setting the world up to follow the Antichrist.
Fourthly, there is a spiritual harvest of souls among the third world and developing nations as never before.
In the Roman Catholic countries today millions of people are being saved out of Roman Catholicism especially in South America and Mexico and in many Asian and Muslim nations while the countries in Europe and in Great Britain that had the reformation for over 500 years are now in an advanced state of spiritual decline.
Fifthly, there is a strong movement in Jerusalem and in Israel to rebuild the Jewish temple.
Already men are being trained in the Aaronic priesthood and in the Judaism taught by God to Moses in the Torah. Today the Temple Mount is a very hot issue in Israel. Many are now openly talking about a third temple. There are even several views as to its real location.
Sixthly, the “birth pangs” of wars, ethnic conflict, earthquakes, famines and diseases and persecution are increasing in frequency and intensity.
Our Lord Jesus Himself foretold these things would happen. Today they are happening at an alarming rate all around the world. Now let’s move on.
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we must avoid being weighed down with the pleasures, pursuits and the cares of this world. (Vs. 34-35) “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.”
Here the Lord Jesus mentions three things that we must avoid if we are to stay faithful to Him. Firstly, He mentions is “dissipation” i.e., just wasting our lives in selfish, reckless and foolish living like the people in the world. Secondly, He mentions “drunkenness.” This drunkenness is primarily referring to “spiritual drunkenness.” Today in the Church we can see plenty of this kind of thing with some people laughing, rolling on the floor, barking like dogs and claiming all kinds of visions and revelations out of their own imaginations. Thirdly, He mentions the “anxieties of life” being weighed down and pre-occupied exclusively with the pursuits and activities of daily life. If we allow all of these things to dominate and control us then we will be trapped and overtaken by the catastrophes soon to engulf the whole world.
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we need to be watching and praying. (Vs. 36) “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Only those who have stayed awake spiritually and maintained a life of prayer and obedience to God’s Word will be able to escape the final judgments of God. If we have remained loyal to Jesus in our daily living and have been eagerly waiting for Him then He will rescue us from the wrath to come. Paul the apostle says, “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead-Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” and again he says, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10 5:9)
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we must be acting righteously. (Revelation 19:7-8) “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb had come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” If we have been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ then that righteousness will have its outworking in our lives. If we claim to be God’s righteous ones then we will show it by the way we live and by the acts we perform. How, then, can we fulfil our righteous acts?
What do we need to do?
We must be involved with the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” As believers we are to preach the gospel of the kingdom. This is not just preaching the gospel that Jesus died for our sins and was buried and raised again but also including in the message that He is coming again to set up His kingdom on earth. Many believers today do not have this as a high priority in their witnessing. If we knew more about what the Bible says about Jesus’ Second Coming we could use this in our witnessing. This is preaching the gospel of the kingdom. However, there are many professing Christians who are not living in the expectancy of Jesus’ coming but are caught up in the affairs of daily life. Multitudes of professing Christians are not even witnessing at all. While we are not all evangelists, pastors, prophets or teachers we are all witnesses. Every believer can and should witness one on one.
The Lord Jesus cannot come back until every nation has heard the gospel of the kingdom and in a sense He is waiting on us to complete the job. God knows when it will be done in eternity but down here in time, as we know it, Jesus’ coming is to a great degree dependant on His Church preaching the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom includes healing and deliverance; however, these signs follow the preaching of the word of God but are not a substitution for it. (Matthew 9:35) (Luke 9: 1-2, 6, 11)
We must be diligent and faithful in what we do every day. (Matthew 25:14-30) Read these verses from the Bible.
In this parable recorded in the gospel of Matthew Jesus told us there are three servants. Each servant had different abilities and levels of responsibility. The master entrusted them to use what they had in His service and then went on a long journey. Immediately two of the servants put their abilities to work for their master but the third one buried his talent and did not use it. After a long time the master returned. When he saw the diligence and the results of the first two servants he commended them and rewarded them for their hard work and the fruit of that work. However, when he saw that the third servant had wasted his talent and not used it the master took the talent from him and had him thrown outside into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The two faithful servants can represent those Christians who use their time, talents, money and spiritual gifts to preach the gospel. The unfaithful servant can represent those professing Christians who do not use what they have to preach the gospel of the kingdom. While all of the servant’s abilities varied according to the will of the master they all had a responsibility to use what they had in his service. The faithful servants represent those who have faith that produces works. The master who returned after a long time represents Jesus’ coming for His faithful servants. Those who through their faith have produced fruitfulness will go into the wedding feast with Jesus but those who have faith but do not have works accompanying it will be shut out from the wedding feast. In the end it is not a matter of how gifted or talented we may be but how faithful we have been in using what God has entrusted to us to use for Him in promoting the gospel of the kingdom.
We need to continue to do what is right and to live holy and pure lives. (Revelation 22:10-12) “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with me, and I will give to every one according to what he has done.” As the end of this age rapidly approaches God says, “If you want to continue to do wrong and if you want to continue to be vile go ahead and live it up because you don’t have long!” However, God says, “If you are righteous and holy then continue to be even more righteous and holy because I am coming soon!”
We must persevere under pressure. (Hebrews 10:35-36) “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
The author of Hebrews wrote these words to believers who had remained steadfast and true in the face of severe persecution and suffering. They had all been publicly exposed to insult and persecution. Others stood side by side with those who had been treated in this way and had sympathized with those in prison. All of them had their possessions confiscated because they were Christians yet did not lose their joy in the Lord because their hope was not in this world or in the things of this world. To “persevere” is to remain under pressure without giving up even though there may be a strong tendency in us to escape from under it. How do we persevere? The answer is by persevering in the trial and by remaining faithful to Jesus despite our circumstances. James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) In the end the process of perseverance will culminate in every need being met. We cannot persevere in our own strength of course but if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus through keeping our eyes on His Word then we will eventually overcome everything that Satan throws our way! (Hebrews 12:1-3) (1 Peter 4:12-14 5:6-11)
To be ready for Jesus’ coming we need to understand God’s program for the end of this age.
Turn to the book of Revelation Chapter six. You will need to read this entire chapter. Revelation chapter six is a brief commentary on Matthew chapter twenty-four. The same things mentioned in Matthew are mentioned in Revelation. In fact the whole book of Revelation primarily is an expanded commentary on Matthew chapter twenty-four. In Revelation chapter six we have a clear picture of God’s program for the end of this age and we have six seals. These seals are broken open to reveal future history. We can divide the chapter into three sections.
The Four Horsemen.
(Vss.1-8) In these verses we see four horsemen described. They are not literal horsemen but represent four literal things. The white horse can be interpreted in two ways. It can be a description of the white horse of the gospel or a description of a false peace that has its source in the Middle East and generally affects the world at large. However, when we look at it in the context of the other three horses it would seem that it is this false peace that comes just before total global chaos and anarchy. This is the first seal mentioned. Following the white horse is the fiery red horse of the second seal. This represents global warfare occurring just before Jesus’ return. The third horse is a black one representing worldwide famine on a scale previously unknown in history. The warfare brings scarcity and pollution. This is revealed in the third seal. The fourth horse is death and hell following hard upon the heels of war and famine. This fourth horseman is the spirit of death and this spirit has the power to take life and a fourth of mankind dies by the sword, by famine, by plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. This is the future of the world just before Jesus returns. This is the fourth seal.
The Cry of the Martyrs.
(Vss.9-11) When the fifth seal is opened we have a picture of the worldwide persecution of Christians under the Antichrist. The time is coming when worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ, as God will be a criminal offence in virtually every nation. During this time the Antichrist will be demanding worship as God. The Antichrist will have power to persecute the saints during the three and a half years his empire rules. What the Pagan Roman Emperors did during the first and second century of the Church the Antichrist will do in the Great Tribulation. At this time multitudes of true believers will be laying down their lives because of their loyalty to Jesus. Today we see many martyrs in Islamic nations and it will get worse as the end of the age approaches. One thing to keep in mind is that when the Lord Jesus comes back there will be retribution meted out against all those who have killed Christians and Jews and have plotted the destruction of Israel as a nation.
The Close of this age.
(Vs. 12-17) When the sixth seal is opened we see the final breakdown of society. The world is experiencing total chaos and destruction. At this time the great skyscrapers will be toppling and an avalanche of natural disasters will be wreaking havoc over the entire face of the entire globe. Isaiah says. “The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls-never to rise again” (Isaiah 24:20). This period described leads up to the wrath of God being poured out without restraint on the inhabitants of the whole world. This period is described in the seventh seal in chapters eight and nine and also in chapter sixteen. This is the wrath of God! However, the true Church will not experience this wrath because they are taken out of the world between the sixth and the seventh seal. (Revelation 7:14)
As the elect are taken up the wrath comes down and then Jesus returns to the earth with His Bride. The only hope for the future of mankind is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. If our hope is in this world and in the things of this world then we will not escape God’s wrath. However, if our hope is set on Jesus’ return and not in this world or in the things of this world Jesus will come for us and catch us up in the clouds to meet Him in the air. This is the blessed hope we have as believers. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) Furthermore, in the light of world events today it is vitally important that our lives are aligned with the will and purposes of God because the time is rapidly approaching when we will need to know that we are where God wants us to be.
As our Lord Jesus said, “Work while it is day because the night is coming when no one will be able to work.” In closing let us again reflect on our text. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man…So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man comes at an hour when you do not expect Him.”