How to live for His return – Be prepared

As we wait for Jesus to return we must a) be expectant (v37-39); b) live confidently knowing He is coming for us (v40-41); and now c) be prepared (v42-44).

“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.” (Matthew 24 v 42-44)

If you knew a thief was coming but you didn’t know when what would you do? Would you cancel your life and spend the entirety not moving out of the house, not properly sleeping, afraid to leave your possessions lest the thief comes when you are away? Is that the life you would choose to live?

Or would you secure your house in readiness that the thief could come anytime? You would secure it by telling the household and even the neighbours of the thief so that you could enlist their help. You would speak often of the thief so that no one becomes complacent in waiting for him to come.

Keep watch … kept watch … be ready. How do we do this? Jesus tells 3 parables to explain how we must be prepared:

Servants (v45-51) = Being accountable for how you treat others.

10 virgins (25 v 1-13) = Knowing Jesus.

The Talents (25 v 14-30) = Personal responsibility for the way we live our lives.

So being ready is not just sitting on top of the roof of your house with your eyes wide open waiting for the thief. It is to live your life in preparation by demonstrating you are ready by how we do life.

How to live for His return – get on with life confidently

“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.” (Matthew 24 v 40-41)

I can’t read these 2 verses without singing what has to be the most famous Larry Norman song: Two men walking up a hill/One disappears and one’s left standing still/I wish we’d all been ready.

And if you don’t know that song then you are obviously too young or had your head in the sand for far too long!

As I meditate this morning on these 2 simple verses, what I have been focusing on with God is not the rapture images that Larry Norman helps us with but rather the field and the hand mill.

Today whatever your hand finds to do; if you are in the field working or grinding with the hand mill; if you are visiting people, going to the shops; work, leisure, whatever it is, get on with life. Don’t slacken off because you are looking to the sky waiting for Jesus to return. Get on with life. Do your best. Work this life that you have. Make the most of it. Doing life confidently in this amazing truth: He is coming for us!

As a follower of Jesus Christ at a time when you are getting on with life He will come for you. In the context of Noah, you will not be left for the judgment of the flood but you will be lifted into the ark of salvation for eternity. So have a great day today!

How to live for His return – be expectant.

When mothers are expectant it shows. They eat differently, look differently and walk differently! Expectation is hard to hide. Ask a child on the eve of Christmas Day!

“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.” (Matthew 24 v 37-39)

People and Noah.  The point is not that the people were sinning and Noah wasn’t. But that the people were living with no expectancy for the flood even when they saw the ark being built. Had they been warned? Yes. But they chose to ignore those warnings and live their lives to the full, unconcerned about what would take place.

But Noah was different. His family were expectant. He also didn’t know when but he knew what.

Knowing Jesus is returning should be enough to live our lives with expectation. If like Noah we choose to do this then it will show in how we do life.

Live not knowing

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.” (Matthew 24 v 36)

No one knows.

Not the day, hour, the month or the year or even generally knowing it’s in the next few years. No one knows.

If the Son of God in taking on human form restricted himself from knowing then how much more should we be content in that for ourselves?

The message from God seems to be:

I want you to live not knowing when exactly Christ will return but live as if He is near.

But how do we do that? Jesus continues and will guide us in this in the next few verses.

The Eternal Gospel

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24 v 35)

Our world as we know it may shake to its foundation. Everything can disappear in a heartbeat. Even Heaven and Earth as we understand it now will come to an end eventually as the new Heaven and Earth come into being.

But one thing remains: the Words of Christ, the Word of God, it is the firm foundation, immovable, unchangeable, nothing will stop the gospel, it will keep on emerging and it will be there in the end.

So how do those in persecution today become encouraged by this? Or how does the Church in the West with the rise of restricting legislation and secularisation survive without giving up?

It is by knowing that the gospel can never be stopped. Not at any time in the present nor in the future. It is eternal.

At the end of this is Jesus

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24 v 34)

This seems to have caused confusion ever since it was written down.

Is it the generation who experience the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70? Is it the Jewish people alive at the return of Christ? Is it the type of wicked people who will also oppose God’s people when Christ returns?

What is true is this: there will be a last generation, they will see all these terrible things and then they will see Jesus.

But this is the key principle for every follower of Christ regardless of whether they are the last generation or not.

  • Suffering will not last forever, the Son is coming.

Whatever you are facing and going through today. No matter your circumstance:

  • At the end of this is Jesus.

Are we looking at the fig tree?

Have you been into the garden recently?

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24 v 32-33)

Taking a parable from nature Jesus teaches us all a lesson:

Are we carefully staying alert for His coming?

That is the important question rising from this question: When has summer come? You know summer is near by looking at nature and you know the end and His coming is near by looking at the increase of wickedness and the expansion of the worldwide gospel that Jesus has previously spoken about.

Maybe we need to step outside from our lives full of earthly difficulties and the now moments and go into the garden of a bigger world and look at a fig tree?

The final sign = the Son of Man is here.

These next verses describe the culmination of all the other signs pointing to the return of Christ. But before we read them we need to realise again that the Messianic future is known in the mind of this generation of Jesus. They have been brought up on familiar passages of Scripture such as the following:

“The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” (Isaiah 13 v 10)

“All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shrivelled figs from the fig tree.” (Isaiah 34 v 4)

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7 v 13-14)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zechariah 12 v 10)

They literally can recite these verses verbatim. Now let’s read what Jesus says:

“Immediately after the distress of those days, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24 v 29-31)

  • The Magi saw a star in the sky and believed it was a sign of a King had been born; John in his gospel reminds us of the signs Jesus gave in his miracles that He was the Messiah; This next time the sign will be for the culmination of the whole world.
  • He has darkened the skies before (the cross) and He will do it again. When He did it around the cross it spoke loudly of the victory over sin and death. This next time it will speak loudly of His victory over all the nations of the world, His world.
  • Angels announced the arrival of the baby Jesus; the resurrection of the Lord; and they will announce the coming of the Son of Man. They will gather all the believers together.

When I live in the light of this sign then everything pales into insignificance; I am reminded that He is in control of the world; evil doesn’t win; good will triumph.

A sign = He won’t be hidden.

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” (Matthew 24 v 22-28)

At the time when no one would survive if the days had not been cut short, at a time of unparalleled suffering in the world there will also be an unprecedented rise of false Messiahs and some with great miraculous abilities that look like God.

But don’t look for the Son of God in the obvious places (ie the Jesus’ generation saw the wilderness as the place for special revelation) or even the secret places (inner rooms).

No.

When He comes everyone will know! He will come in a spectacular manner. As vultures can be seen high above the dead carcass, everyone will see the Messiah come to bring an end to a dying world.

Don’t be fooled by hidden opportunism that exploits or takes advantage of weakness and suffering.

Don’t be fooled by hidden Messiah discoveries that produce a trail of pilgrims with a new surge of pseudo-Christian belief.

Don’t be fooled by hidden deception wrapped in what looks miraculous as it alleviates suffering temporarily.

Wait. We will know it is Him when the whole world, from east to west, also know at the same time.

There will be no discovery within the earth’s suffering; there will be no revival on earth leading to a place or a person; there will be no supernatural activity anywhere in the world. Those are simply signs.

That’s not where the Son of God will be.

He won’t be hidden.

A sign = God is in control of the clock

Do you ever wonder whether the bad day is going to end or not?

Jesus indicates the scale of the future suffering in this next verse:

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24 v 22)

‘No one would survive’. That is how bad it will get for those going through this suffering. In fact if it wasn’t for the fact that God’s people were in the middle of the suffering then it would continue until no one was left. But His eye is forever on His people.

God has perfect timing, who appoints everything. He permits, assigns, chooses, selects, prescribes and establishes. Everything works according to His will and purposes which are perfect.

It takes faith and discipleship to be able to say my suffering will not last forever.

We all love this verse in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

But it only applies if we submit to verse 35 also: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

A sign of the end times are days of great difficulty but it also that they will come to an end and maybe abruptly for our God is in control of the clock.