Dear Christian friends,

            In the spring of 1888 a number of engineers in Johnstown,Pennsylvania examined the dam that controlled the water flowing into the valley below.  They pronounced the dam unsafe and issued the warning that the people in the valley were in danger.  That same fall the engineers returned, re-examined the dam, and again issued the warning. Nothing was done about it. The following spring the engineers warned the people for a third time, but the warning went unheeded still again.  Fifteen days later the dam burst.  In a short time swirling water inundated the city ofJohnstown.  More than 3700 people lost their lives. Warnings went unheeded.   

Our Savior warns too.  Make good use of the time God has given. He told the Jews who were supposed to be the people of God, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  He reached out to them but these words are meant for all to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved.  Jesus once wept over impenitent Jerusalem and said, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”  There are consequences that go along with the loathing of our God.  

            Dear Christians, Jesus is coming again.  He is coming to judge. As we begin this new church year with the season of Advent, we prepare for the celebration of his first coming. In preparing for his first coming, we are given opportunity to prepare for his second return.  These verses of Matthew relay to us “The Knowns and the Unknowns of Judgment Day.”

There are literally hundreds of cases of people predicting the end of the world.  It is interesting that the ancient Romans, before they even connected with Christ, thought the world would end.  The 500th year, the thousandth year and the 1500th years and 2000th year after Christ were popular times for predictions that the world would end.  There is a Norwegian prediction of a day called Ragnorak which is supposed to happen on February 22, 2014 and the world is supposed to end. The Vikings came fromNorway.  I find the Vikings, the end of the world and Super Bowl all to be interesting and mythical.   

During the lifetime of Martin Luther a number of people claimed they knew when the end would come.  Thomas Muentzer, who led the German peasants during the Peasant War, announced that the return of Christ was near. He said that after he and his men destroyed the high and mighty, the Lord would return.  He claimed to have had a vision from God where the Lord promised that He would catch the cannon balls of the enemy in the sleeves of His cloak. He misinterpreted it, I guess.  He was mowed down by cannon fire.   

It is so surprising to me that Jehovah Witnesses are even a religious entity any more.  They have gone on record by saying that the world would end in 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994.  How many times does it take for people to finally understand they are wolves in sheep’s clothing?  That’s exactly what they are, because Jesus doesn’t get any clearer than when he says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  When someone says they know when the end of the world will be proves one thing – stay away from them. That person is a false prophet.

Another thing that needs to be understood is the phrase that “no one knows, not even the angels nor the Son but only the Father.”  If Jesus said he didn’t know when the last day is going to happen, how can Jesus be God?  This passage and its false interpretation by a man by the name of Arius in the third century almost led to the demise of Christ’s Church.  Arius deduced that if Jesus didn’t know when the end of the world would be, then he must not be God but a creation of the Father.

Hold everything Mr. Arius - Mr. Tool-of-Satan!  God had a plan.  It was a plan to save mankind.  Jesus was the center of the plan.  God’s Son came to this earth taking on human flesh.  He was conceived and born as a human being but without sin.  He came to live the way the Father demands – perfectly.  He came to live the way we don’t – perfectly.  His record is our record.  A great exchange!    

But his plan didn’t end there.  God punished the sin of Adam and Eve, “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” As he lived for everyone and gave us the credit, he also lived as one who received the curse for all our sins.  Here was the complete exchange took place - our sin on him - his sinlessness on us.  Great for us, not great for him!  The apostle Paul says that Jesus “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”  

Jesus set aside the fullness of his power subjecting himself to human weakness.  He even became obedient unto death to pay sin’s curse.  That’s why there are some strange things to the human ear.  As a child Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature.”  That’s why it also says not even the angels nor the Son but only the Father knows the Day of Judgment. According to his human nature he didn’t know when he would come again in Judgment.  Oh, the mystery of Christ!  One thing for sure is that we don’t know when the end will be.  

But there are things we do know about Judgment Day and the days leading up to it.  Matthew 24 is probably the greatest chapter in the Bible that instructs about the events that will lead up to Judgment Day.    

In many respects all will be rather normal, just like it was prior to another Judgment Day, the Flood.  Jesus says, “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.”  Jesus says that people will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving themselves in marriage. 

There is nothing wrong with any of those things; the problem is what is not mentioned here.  These are the everyday concerns of people. Where is the concern for the soul?  When an ant trap is set in place, a feeding frenzy takes place.  Ants come from everywhere. While the food is sweet to them, it is deadly. 

Now I am not saying that eating and drinking, marrying and giving oneself in marriage is wrong, but remember when Jesus once told a parable about a man who was consumed by life.  He had been blessed in such a way he had to make decisions whether he was going to build bigger barns for the bumper crop that had come in.  He was so concerned about retiring that he never got to enjoy any of that.  He died suddenly. He didn’t make preparation for what was to come.  His life was about here and not there. 

Remember that Noah wasn’t only a master ark-builder; he was also a master preacher.  No one paid attention to the visible sermon he was preaching with the building of the ark; no one was listening to the warnings he was preaching either. 

Jesus says in his Word that we are living in the last days.  He has given us many signs, but the world doesn’t seem to be listening and taking it to heart. There is no ark, but Jesus does say, “For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”  How will it be?  People will be – people are consumed with life – this life rather than the one to come.

But Jesus instructs us to understand how we need to be.  “Two men 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.”  There are a lot of misinterpretations of this passage.  In the false teaching of millennialism, proponents think that this verse speaks about how all the believers will be raptured into heaven while the unbelievers are left to endure the period call the “Tribulation.”  The “Left Behind” books series is all about that. There is nothing here to give their false and dangerous view any substance.

All this passage does is to show us that there are only two types of people in this world.  There are believers and unbelievers.  We exist and we live and work with each other.  Believers will go to heaven on the Last Day and the unbeliever won’t.  What we ought to be doing is to pursue where those close to us stand.  What are we doing about it?  Are you sharing Jesus with them?

That’s why Jesus makes this point, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 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 at an hour when you do not expect him.”  The history of the world is not going to fade away; it’s going out with a bang!  Jesus compared it to a thief who suddenly invades a home.  Paul said that it is going to happen like this, “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”  For that reason Jesus says, “Keep watch!”

            How?  Remember first of all that “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  How are we to be?  Repentant! That word “repent” is one of the most important words in Scripture.  Repentance involves a total change of heart and life.  It is much more than merely breaking evil habits or personal likes. It involves recognizing sin.  It involves having sorrow over it because it offends our holy God.  It also involves a reliance on God’s mercy and forgiveness that is ours through the merits of Jesus Christ. It also involves an earnest resolve to change one’s life and produce the fruits of repentance. 

Know this for sure.  Jesus is returning.  Know this for sure that he is coming to judge.  Know this for sure the one who judges is also the one who saves.  That’s what we need to know.  

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