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Are You Ready?

November 25, 2018
By Rev. David French

Today’s Gospel reading is part of the same conversation that we heard Jesus having last week.  As Jesus and the disciples left the temple area, He told them that sometime in the future, someone or something will destroy the temple.  When He and the disciples reached their campground on the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked for more details, and Jesus began to teach.  He warned them to keep their doctrine pure so that false prophets would not deceive them.  He told them to expect persecution for their faith and encouraged them to remain faithful.  As His teaching continues in today’s reading, He talks about the end of all things.

Jesus’s description of the end of time is literally universal; that is, He gives us a visual image of an entire universe going out of existence.  It’s like someone had a switch that controlled all the laws of physics and turned them off.  The sun going out is not an eclipse.  It is the sun no longer existing.  The moon will no longer exist.  One moment everything will be absolutely normal, the next moment everything, the entire created world, will be gone. 

And of course, Jesus tells us is that this will all be a surprise.  As He said, “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And He repeats that a few verses later, this time in a short parable, “You do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning.”

Now when Jesus rephrases a teaching in three different ways … one right after the other … we really need to understand this is important.  One of the teachings that Jesus is emphasizing today is, don’t try to figure out the timing, because you can’t.

Yet, there are thousands of authors and teachers who are making a lot of money by telling whoever will listen that Jesus lied.  I typed the phrase “end times prophecy books” into Google and got over 29,000,000 titles.  A few of these books are good, solid, biblically accurate studies, but the super-duper majority of them, granted I was judging on a comparatively small sample, are a waste of ink and paper.  Even though Jesus said that He didn’t know the day or the hour, somehow, these charlatans have worked out some secret code from wherever, and now they know more than Jesus.

In the end all of this speculation does is serve as a diversionary tactic that leads people away from the main message of the Bible.  And if you take a close look at today’s reading, you’ll see that there’s another concept that Jesus repeated even more than the warning against trying to figure out dates. 

Instead of trying to calculate times and dates, Jesus said, “Be on guard, keep awake. (v 33)  Stay awake. (v 34)  Stay awake. (v 35)  Stay awake.” (v 37)  Five times Jesus emphasizes that we need to be ready for the Last Day whenever it comes.

So Jesus specifically tells us don’t waste time on timelines and dates and instead use your time   getting ready for the Last Day no matter when it comes.  The obvious question is, how?  How do we come to be ready?  What qualifies us to be one of the elect that the angels gather to the Son of Man when He comes?  The answers to these questions are the main message of the Bible that false teachers are diverting your attention away from.

And that main message of the Bible is the gospel, the forgiveness of sins that Jesus earned for you with His perfect life, His suffering, and His death on the cross.  You see, Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could know all the details of the Last Day.  He died so that we would be prepared for the Last Day.  To be prepared for the Last Day means to be holy in the sight of God, for only those who are holy will enter the kingdom of God.

The Scriptures give us two ways to be holy: one way depends on us, the other way depends on God.  The way that depends on us is easy to say, but impossible to do.  If you wish to save yourself, all you have to do is be perfect in every way.  You must be as perfect as God is.  One blemish, spot, or stain on your record, and you fail.  You’re either perfect or you’re not, and if you’re not, the next stop will be the eternal torment of hell. 

Since time began there has been one and only one human being who has ever lived and died without sin - Jesus.  The rest of us, those created by God’s hand or born the natural way, fail God’s requirements at the moment of conception.  As King David said, and we echo, “In sin did my mother conceive me.”  So while God makes this way available, it just isn’t possible for those conceived in sin and you know about Adam and Eve.

The way that depends on God began with God the Father sending His only begotten Son into the world as a true human being to take our place under the law.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit, the incarnate Son of God is born perfect, without blemish, spot, or stain.  As the apostle Peter wrote: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus, trusting His heavenly Father willingly, carried on His shoulders our sins, everything from the sins that we consider the worst to the sins that we don’t even notice.  Why?  The apostle Paul explains: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, (and here’s the why) so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Peter adds: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) You see, it is by the death and resurrection of Christ alone that God makes us holy.  This act of grace and mercy on God’s part is the only way for us to be ready for the Last Day whenever it comes.  By faith we receive the holiness Christ paid for on the cross and now distributes through the Means of Grace.

My friends, it is the Holy Spirit who makes us ready by creating the faith in our hearts that believes in Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.  The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to build and sustain that faith.  It’s the Word combined with water according to Christ’s command, the Word that we hear with our ears, and the Word that comes with the body and blood of Christ as we eat and drink the bread and wine that God works through to save us.  It’s by that faith that we are on guard, awake, and watchful.  It is the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith in Jesus Christ that keeps us ready for the return of the Son of Man who will come in power and glory.

And faith not only prepares us for the coming of the Son of Man in glory, but, if the Lord waits to return, it also prepares us for that day when we shall leave this world through the door known as death.  Just as no one knows the day that the world will end, so none of us knows if we’ll be around when it comes. 

Whether we leave this world at the end of our own life or at the end of the world, it is the same gift of God that is the readiness that comes by faith that saves us. You see, the source of our confidence is not our goodness, it is that God saves us by the Father’s grace, for the Son’s sake, through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith freely offered to you and to all. 

In His Name, Amen.