Last Sunday in Trinity November 21, 1999
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
In the name of our Savior, who promised to come again and take us away from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven, dear fellow believers in Him, dear fellow redeemed.
Let’s imagine: you’re at the big city airport, waiting for a flight that will take you to a faraway place. You’re ready to go, because you have your boarding pass and your carry-on bag. Your luggage is checked and ready to load on the plane. But, for some reason, the flight is delayed. What would you do in that situation? Get up from your seat, leave the waiting area, and take a tour of the rest of the airport? Would you leave the premises, grab a taxi-cab, and visit the nearby shopping mall? That would be foolish; you might miss your flight. The sensible thing to do is stay put. Wait. The ticket agent has told you it’s only a matter of time.
My fellow Christian travelers, God has told you the same thing. It’s only a matter of time before our “flight” into heaven arrives. Our departure from this world is merely delayed. In this year of 1999, nearly 2000 years since Jesus made the announcement that He was coming back, we especially need the reminder of our text. The Lord wants you to hang in there. Be patient. Take the truth of our theme to heart. Today and every day, let’s be
Waiting for Judgment Day—it does not come easy for people whose lives are driven by clocks and calendars and deadlines. With so many things that we face, we have to know how much time we have left. You students do your assignments, many times based on a due date. The basketball team keeps an eye on the shot-clock. We watch the calendar when it comes to birthdays in the family, Christmas shopping, or the not-so-pleasant task of filing your tax returns. But with the second coming of Christ, there is no pre-determined date that God has announced and put on the calendar. Like Jesus said, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” So we keep on watching for the sudden return of our Lord.
How many times have you heard the pastor say that? It’s almost a regular thing, at least in the month of November, when the church year comes to an end. Since about the first century A.D., pastors have told their members to keep on expecting the Savior to come. And yet another day comes and goes. Another year, another decade. We’re not that far from a brand new century, a brand new millennium. I hope the delay does not lull you to sleep and give you a false sense of security. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially when you see the world doing its own thing. If you were to mention the idea that the world is going to end, lots of people would laugh. They dismiss the idea as unthinkable. There is a definite unspoken assumption out there that life on earth will keep on rolling, with no interruptions.
It’s the same attitude that people had in the days of the Flood. Jesus makes the connection when He says, “As in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” People were going about their normal business. They ignored all the warnings. They had fun, watching Noah. But they dismissed him and his silly boat, until the flood waters came and swept them all away. Judgment Day will have the same type of suddenness. With no special warning, the Lord will suddenly appear. At that moment people will have to face Christ just the way they are, with no time left. No time left to find religion. No time left for a quick conversion.
In fact, Jesus says, “The Son of Man is coming at an hour when you (the believers) do not expect Him.” The Lord’s return will even surprise us. To have the normal course of life suddenly interrupted, to see Jesus face to face for the very first time—even though you know it’s coming, it will still surprise you.
Once that day is here, the Lord will carry out His business with no interruptions. “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” That particular verse in Matthew 25 gives you the broad-based, total, universal perspective—the “big picture,” as they say. The verses in our text gives you a “slice of life” point of view: how it will be on the farm, or the street, or the African village. “Two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.” Imagine the scene: two people working side-by-side in the same area. One is a Christian, the other an unbeliever. Jesus will take the Christian to go away with Him into heaven. And He’ll leave the unbeliever to face the judgment of his unbelief and the consequences of hell.
That’s why you need to be ready to go. You don’t want to be left behind. You don’t want to be caught unprepared. Jesus makes the point very emphatic: “Know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.” Let’s find a way to apply that statement to ourselves. What if Jesus told you that He’s coming back today, later this afternoon, some time before 6:00? With prior notification, how would you act? How would you think for the next few hours? You’d get yourself ready! Well, that’s the way we should treat every moment. We should think of each day and every hour as though it will be our last on earth.
Let’s avoid the deadly assumption that we have plenty of time left on the clock. So many people live their lives that way. They assume that they can put religion on hold, come back to it later on, and spend their time right now chasing after other things. Christians are tempted with similar thoughts. We take our time for granted. We put our spiritual life on the back burner. We forget about the coming of Christ or the coming of our own death. We forget to ask ourselves the big question. “Am I ready to die this day? Am I ready to face Jesus right now? Am I ready to go with Him?” It’s a serious matter when Jesus says, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”
Like the guard who stands watch and keeps an eye out for the intruder, we need to stay alert in the spiritual sense. We can’t afford to take time off from the needs of our faith. When you’re ready to go with Jesus, you’re always watching for the Lord and His sudden return. And as you watch, you wait with a ready heart, which is to say, hearts of faith ready for the final judgment.
When the last day comes, we leave behind the things that we built, the money that we earned, the stocks and bonds, the mutual funds, every possession that we bought. Those material things will suddenly lose their value. The only thing that will matter is your spiritual condition. What’s in your heart? Will the Lord find a heart of faith that depends on Him and His sacrifice on the cross? Will the Lord find an empty heart that has no trust in the Gospel? We can only examine ourselves, like Paul says in 2 Corinthians: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” I don’t raise the question to shock anyone, but only to serve the purpose that God is seeking. The Lord wants all of us to be ready with faith.
You get ready for a trip by packing your bags and loading the trunk. You get ready for Judgment Day by packing your heart with the spiritual blessings that the Lord has provided—beginning with the forgiveness of sins. You cannot face the Judge without a clean record. If you try to argue your case, based on your performance, you’re going to lose the trial and face the sentence of hell. But if you stick with Jesus and let Him make the case for you, He wins. He wins the trial like no defense attorney ever could. He gives you His righteousness as the perfect record that you need. He takes the blame of all your sin. We get to fall back on His obedience and His death. It’s a most remarkable, unbelievable trade—you get the perfect record of Christ, and He gets the guilt and penalty of all your sins. Because of that, we pass the judgment. We get to hear the Judge say we’re “not guilty.”
That wonderful acquittal that you hear in the courtroom of God, the full pardon of all your sins—that’s going to be your ticket into heaven. You grab God’s forgiveness and hold on with your faith. When you believe in Jesus, you hold in your heart the one thing that you need for access to eternal life. Remember: Jesus will only come and take those who trust in Him as their one and only Savior.
Of course, we should never take our faith for granted. We cannot say “once saved, always saved.” Think of the way things used to be. We were completely unable to make ourselves believe. God had to come and do the miracle of conversion. Well, today and every day, we are still too weak to keep the faith alive by the resolve of human will power. We need the daily maintenance plan that God has established for growing, enduring spiritual health. If we get negligent with our faith, that faith will suffer. It could shrink and possibly die. On the other hand, if we use the spiritual life support that God has supplied, our faith will grow, become resilient, and survive all the attempts of the devil to rob us of our treasure.
God gets you ready to go with Jesus. Before the Savior comes back, the Holy Spirit comes—to be your spiritual maintenance man. When your faith breaks down because of sin, the Spirit is there to fix the problem. When your faith gets weak from a lack of nourishment, the Spirit is there to feed your soul. But only through the proper channels. If we cut ourselves off from the Word, the Spirit cannot help us. We only experience His power by using the Gospel. Let that message speak to your heart. Study the Word for yourself. Search it out for those promises that God has made—His promise to love you and provide all your needs, His promise to forgive and strengthen and hold you up. Come to God’s house, this worship service, and feed on His Word with your fellow believers.
Then in the days ahead during the week, be sure to inspect the daily condition of your spiritual life. Be honest with yourself. Identify the sins that do get the better of you. Understand the weakness of your human nature. Confess your guilt to God. And find comfort in the cleansing shower of His grace. Then you can end your day with the peace and the confidence that, in spite of all your dirt, you’re still clean with God, because of Christ.
When you’re sorry for your sins, cautious of yur own weakness, yet confident of the Lord’s strength, trusting what He tells you, then you’re completely ready to go with Jesus, when the Lord finally says, “Your time is up.”
The Lord will say that, you know. It’s only a matter of when. That final moment—be it the day of death or the Day of Judgment—could come today or tomorrow, next year or many years from now. We simply don’t know. We have to treat each day like it could be our last. Therefore we keep on watching for the sudden return of our Lord. We keep on waiting with hearts of faith. That last and final day should not be a time to dread, but a day to welcome with joy and relief. When you’re ready to go with Jesus, then you be like the apostle John. You can say, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come to us quickly. Come and take us to your wonderful, everlasting glory!” Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.