READY! SET! COME LORD JESUS!
Dear Friends in Christ,
Astronomers tell us that through their telescopes they repeatedly see stars far bigger than the earth melt down and disappear. Geologists say that the core of the earth is a molten fiery mass. Above the molten mass are natural gases that are highly flammable. The ingredients are there for the earth to be a potential bomb. Chemists say that the air we breathe is composed of oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen. An imbalance in the makeup could cause an explosion that defies description. Even our oceans are made up of two very combustible elements hydrogen and oxygen. If they were mixed up in a different way or separated from the way they are, there could be one big boom. .
Even the most godless will acknowledge that the world must come to an end some day. Albert Einstein said, “We are drifting toward a catastrophe beyond comparison. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if man is to survive.” With the explosive tempers from tremendous egos, humankind has potential to bring everything to a halt.
Yet as Bible believing Christians we remember that the Lord will bring all things to an end. That’s what he has promised; that’s what he has warned. That’s why we need to heed his warning to prepare. That is the focus of our sermon today as we study the theme "Ready! Set! Come Lord Jesus!” Jesus tells us 1) What we don’t know; 2) What we do know.
Last December my oldest brother died; two months later my next oldest brother died. My two sisters-in-law who survive said something interesting recently. They said they seem to be hearing a lot of sermons about death. I can understand that they might be particularly sensitive to the subject of death. This is the first Thanksgiving and Christmas that they won’t be with their husbands (my brothers) in many decades. Yet we are at that time of the church year when we naturally talk about the last things. Our thoughts turn to Jesus’ advent – his coming the first time, his coming the second time in Judgment. We need to prepare.
Jesus did a lot of instruction of his disciples about the end of the world. We hear about that instruction in Matthew 24 and 25, Luke 21 and Mark 13. It was and is a subject that people are curious about.
When will the end come? What Jesus says is clear as crystal. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” No one knows, but that hasn’t kept people from trying to figure it out. In 1419 AD 40,000 people gathered on a hill in Bohemia called Tabor to await the end of the world. Mike Stiffel, oddly enough a friend of Martin Luther, claimed that judgment would be on October 19, 1533 at 8 AM. Luther would never have put up with such nonsense as someone predicting the end of the world. Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses, said the end was going to happen in 1914. He didn’t get it right but the JW’s are famous for their false predictions. There was also 1917, 1925, 1972, 1995 and plenty of other times in between. Why there are JW’s left in the world is beyond me. The same could be said about the Seventh day Adventists who trace their beginnings to a man named William Miller who predicted the world’s end in 1843 and then changed it 1844. Guess what? It didn’t happen in either case. Sarah Palin says that it will happen during her lifetime. One of the best professors I ever had said it would happen, not in his lifetime (he died in 1984), but within the lifetime of his students - people like me. Governor Palin, I know you are still living and the Lord can still come. Professor, in all due respect, I am still living and in the ministry and a lot of your students, but I wonder if we should be making those kinds of predictions. I know they can still be true, but what if they are not. Will it just stir up the skeptics? Will it just cause people to say that this Judgment Day thing is a fraud?
While people have been trying to figure it out for centuries and centuries, Jesus makes it clear that no one knows. If someone claims to know, that person should be treated like my right ear – be deaf to it. The devil is using that person or preacher some way and somehow for his purposes. No one knows when the Lord will come!
Not even the angels in heaven. Angels are a lot of things. They are powerful. The angel destroyed 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian army and saved Hezekiah and the kingdom. Psalm 103:20 says, “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.” They are perfect, but they are NOT omniscient. They don’t know when the end of the world will come.
And then there is that other point. Jesus doesn’t even know???? What’s that all about? Certainly that is a startling fact that Jesus himself makes. Jesus is God, isn’t he? If that is true then how can it be said that he doesn’t know the day or the hour of Jesus’ return?
Let’s consider this. Colossians, among other places states that “In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” That makes him God’s, doesn’t it? In Christ is hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom. Besides that, didn’t Jesus say about himself, “I and the Father are one?” If he is God as the Father is God, how does he not know when the end will come?
Here is one of those teachings we hold onto in faith. It goes beyond our comprehension. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God and the Son of Man. He was both God and man in one, totally unique from anyone else. When he entered the world, the apostle Paul said he emptied himself or laid aside the full and constant use of the characteristics that prove he is God. That included the full and constant use of his almighty power, his omniscience among other things that showed that he was God. He emptied himself or laid aside the full use of the very characteristics that make him God so he could become human and take our place. He took on a human nature so he could die and pay for the wages of sin. According to his human nature he was not able to reveal the exact date of his second coming, of Judgment Day. Let me say this, however, he is no longer setting aside anything. He knows now when he is coming back. Now nothing is being withheld from his human nature. While now he knows, we still don’t and won’t until the great and glorious day of the Lord.
Allow me a little more time to say a little more about the fact that we don’t know. When people claim they do know, they are lying. There are people who have written books on this subject or have made claims. Some say there is some kind of written code in the Bible that allows us to understand.
Having been around my grandkids for a few days makes me understand again how kids sometimes have to be told that “no” means “no.”
Unfortunately people remain curious about the question. Why is that? No one means no one. When people devote a lot of time trying to explain when Jesus will return, that time is wasted. Just remember that the apostle Paul said that when he went from town to town and city to city preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified and not trying to tell people when the end would come. We would do well to do the same and listen to what the crucified Christ does for us. Frankly, he doesn’t think it is important to know when it would be. He wants us to know that it will be.
Rather we need to pursue the significant. Prepare for the things we do know about. What do we know about? Let’s start with the most important. He IS coming back! This is his will. He doesn’t want the world to continue in its present state – the state of sin. God is merciful and doesn’t want that for us.
Look what happens in the world. The stuff in Ferguson, Missouri is sickening. Some have used the incident to loot and steal and ruin people’s lives by burning their businesses. But the list grows very long. There is Syria and Iraq, the Ukraine and Sierra Leone and dozens and dozens of other places. You don’t have to look very far and see sin and hate and anger out of control. This is the folly of believing in evolution. If evolution is true, we should be more friendly and patient and kind. Do you really see any evidence of that?
Jesus said before the end comes we should be paying attention to the signs of his return. “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. People 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.” Some of the last words of the Bible are words some would say are words of warning, but Christians say they are words of comfort and relief. Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon!”
To help us know he is coming back even though we don’t know exactly when, Jesus uses an illustration. “It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.” Jesus speaks about a man who has some business to do out of town. His house and business need to carry on. He gives no indication when he will return. It was hard to do that 2000 years ago with no planes or train schedule. He leaves his workers in charge.
Earlier I cited that in the year 1419 40,000 people gathered on a hill in Bohemia and waited for Judgment Day. Since we don’t know the day or the hour, our lives shouldn’t come to a stop. God has given us work to do. The Bible says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Assuming responsibility is living for the Lord and letting your light shine. Adopt the following as you mission statement in life as it did for Paul, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
Jesus told the apostles and all who were listening, “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
I know that nothing I have said is anything new. Yet we need to be reminded that the end is coming because we often live as if the world were going to continue to go on. When we lived in Florida there were many times the Florida peninsula was warned about a hurricane coming. Many times they turned away because God answers prayer. Many times they were not as strong as they were expected to be. Windows needed to be boarded and things needed to be tied down. No one could really say for sure if the big one would hit. It has in certain places over the years. Unfortunately many got lax and were hurt worse than needed to be if they had only taken it all more seriously.
When we have been convinced by the Word of God that the end is coming and that the wrath of God will be poured out on the whole world one day, we ought to turn our thoughts to those things that will keep us safe. No, a trip to Home Depot or Ace or Kroger won’t do us any good.
Peter tells us in his epistle that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Acknowledge your sin, seek forgiveness for sin and turn away from your sin. Rest assured that’s how you get ready and set for Jesus to come back.