Second Sunday in Advent December 5, 1999
56, 611, 64, 70
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Here ends our text.
In Christ Jesus, our Advent King, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,
Do the billboards along our freeways bother you as much as they bother me? Between visits to members, visits to relatives and the occasional trip east of the mountains, I spend a lot of time on the interstate system, and I’ve got to tell you—those billboards drive me crazy! You know the ones I’m talking about. “Fly the Friendly Skies!” “Visit the Emerald Queen Casino!” “Cars Cost Less in Puyallup!” Now there’s even an animated billboard up there by the truck scales in Fife—there’s actually be quite a little controversy over that one. People say it’s too distracting to motorists. But that’s really the whole point, isn’t it? That’s what billboards are supposed to do—they catch your eye. I can’t help reading them again every time I go by one. In fact, it’s happened to me a couple of times that I’ve missed important road signs because I was looking at those billboards. More than once I’ve had to double back because I missed the sign for the exit I wanted.
The season of Advent—when we commemorate our Savior’s coming to earth as a human being—also reminds that Jesus is coming a second time. Every human being in this world, whether he knows it or not, is travelling down the road toward Judgement Day. There are road signs all along the way, telling us we’re getting closer. But there are also lots of distracting billboards. Keeping our eye on the road signs, and ignoring the billboards is important. It will help us make sure we’re prepared for when we finally arrive at that fateful day. So today I’m asking you the question which forms our theme for this Sunday:
In the beginning of our text, Jesus runs down a list of several important road signs that will tell people when Judgement Day is near. And then, in the middle of His discussion, He tells us a parable, Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. You know how the trees are toward the end of March or so—the twigs get all knobby with buds. It’s one of the things that tells us spring has arrived- and summer’s just around the corner. It’s obvious, right?
Just as obvious, Jesus says, are the signs of a coming Judgement for all mankind. Like clearly-marked road signs, they are right there for everyone to see. So how come so many people seem to miss them? All the unbelievers and quite a few of the Christians in our day and age are zooming right by God’s road signs without even giving them a glance. Why?
It’s because of those distracting billboards! Our text says, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. All the different cares and pleasures of this life are like so many gaudy, colorful billboards. They distract our attention. Try as we might, we can’t help gazing at them as we pass. The world isn’t concerned with the Judgement Day that God tells us is right around the corner. The world is concerned with the here and now! “How much money can I make? How big a house can I buy? When’s my next promotion? When’s my next vacation? How much fun can I have?” And on and on, people get wrapped up in what this world has to offer, even though the signs say that this world is fast coming to an end.
The road doesn’t go on forever. Sooner than we think (maybe much sooner!) we’ll reach the end of the road. Judgment Day, when Jesus will suddenly arrive back here on earth. And it will be very sudden, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matt 24:27. That day will come “like a snare,” Jesus says. It will be like a trap suddenly closing on all those people. People who were too busy with the cares and pleasures of this life to listen to what God’s Word had to say about the next life. So busy looking at the billboards, that they missed the road signs!
What about you? Are you watching the billboards—or the road signs? Don’t you often find yourself getting pretty involved with your little world? Money, your health, your career, your hobbies? So involved, in fact, that sometimes your attention to these things sort of nudges out the attention you should be paying to God’s Word? Some of these things are important, some less important. But none of them should be so important that they make us miss God’s road signs about the coming Judgement. Maybe we’ve been staring at those billboards too long. It’s time to wake up! Repent! Read the signs!
Yes, read God’s road signs! It’s not too late. Judgement Day hasn’t come yet, but if you read the signs, you’ll see right off the bat that it could come at any time! Jesus says, And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. According to all these signs, Judgement Day could easily come today or tomorrow! “Signs in the sun, moon and stars?” How about the recent increase in sun spot activity, and the spectacular meteor shower just a couple of weeks ago? “Distress of nations?” At what time in the world’s history has there ever been more distress of nations? Look at the wars in the Middle East, Bosnia, Africa, not to mention our country’s recurring confrontations in the Gulf. “Men’s hearts failing them for fear of what is coming?” Look at the concern over loose nukes and biological warfare. People in this country are petrified that some crazed terrorist is going to get a hold of a nuclear device or a beaker of anthrax and wipe an unsuspecting American city off the map. One thing’s for sure—it certainly doesn’t take a prophet to see that the Lord could be coming back at any moment!
Yes, read the signs! Because for us believers, they signs of the approaching Judgment are road signs of life! The coming Judgement isn’t a trap for us. We’ve got nothing to fear. We’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb! For us, Judgement Day is a doorway to unending happiness. That’s why Jesus has special Judgement Day instructions for us believers: He says, When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. When that moment comes, the last trumpet sounds, and Jesus appears in the clouds like a bolt of lightning, then lift up your heads and shout for joy! After all, it’s the Day we’ve been waiting for. The day when we finally cash in on that great love of God which was manifested in Christ Jesus. It will be the dawn of eternity. An eternity that we believers will spend enjoying the fruits of the redemption Jesus earned for us on the cross!
The road signs of Judgement are not hard to find. Unfortunately, they are easy to miss, if we let ourselves be distracted by all the cares and pleasures of this life. That’s why Jesus tells us to Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass. He has promised to hear our prayers and to strengthen us through His Word unto everlasting life. His Word is a treasure that will not be taken from us, but will always be with us to guide us to that Day, as He promised, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Let’s pay attention to that Word! Read the road signs! Let’s lift up our heads, for our Redemption is drawing near!
It’s the Advent Season. Christmas is only nineteen days away! This is the time when we look back once again to the coming of the Christchild to Bethlehem. But during this holiday season, let’s remember to look forward, as well, to the second coming of Christ. Watch the road signs, not the billboards! For us, that Day will be even happier than Christmas, and it may come even sooner! “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.” Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.