Topical Scripture: Matthew 24.36-44
This morning we begin with life-changing facts: the shortest war in history was fought between Zanzibar and England in 1896; Zanzibar surrendered after 38 minutes. Dueling is legal in Paraguay so long as both parties are registered blood donors. Donald Duck cartoons were banned in Finland because he doesn’t wear pants. If the population of China walked past us today in single file, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction. A snail can sleep for three years. You share your birthday with at least nine million other people. Women blink nearly twice as much as men. And the electric chair was invented by a dentist.
Sometimes we know more than we want to know. And sometimes we know far less. No topic has generated more debate among Christians of this generation than ours today. Typically the result has been more heat than light.
Today we close our series on the Christ you never knew: eight pictures of the real Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. We do so with this text, because it makes the other seven pictures of Jesus urgent and vitally significant for your soul and mine. Right now.
Let me show you why.
Get ready to meet God
“No one knows about that day or hour,” our text begins (v. 36). “That day” refers to the return of Jesus Christ, commonly known as the Second Coming. The visible, glorious return of Jesus Christ to this planet. This is the subject of our text and our study today.
About its timing, “No one knows.” Not the angels in heaven. Not even the Son of God. Only the Father himself. It is blasphemy for us to claim knowledge Jesus Christ does not have. Anyone who tells you when Jesus will return is wrong. No one knows.
And so everyone must be ready. Jesus gives us three reasons why this is so.
First, his return will be unexpected. Here our Lord cites the days of Noah (vs. 37-39). The world refused to believe that the Flood would come, until it did. And all who were not ready, perished.
Second, we must each be prepared to meet God. Here Jesus points to two men in the field and two women at work with a hand mill.
Today he’d point to two men in their offices and two women at work, or waiting in the carpool line, or somehow at least as busy as men.
They likely know each other, and are perhaps even father and son, mother and daughter.
But their close relationship is not enough—they must each be ready. One is, and one is not. One is saved and one is lost.
Last, Jesus could come now. Here he warns them of the thief in the night (vs. 43-44).
If the owner of the house knew when the thief was coming, he’d be ready. This is the whole point of our alarm systems today—to tell us and the police when the thief is coming. But he doesn’t know. In precisely the same way, we don’t know when Jesus will return. A thief could be at your home right now. Jesus could be returning right now.
Again and again Scripture makes this plain. For instance: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4).
Remember Jesus’ warning to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3: “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (v. 3).
Here’s the summary of our text today: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (v. 42).
“Watch” is imperative, addressed in the second person plural and so to us all. We do not know—this is a categorical statement, with no exceptions. So we must be ready—every one of us. Today.
“The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10).
Jesus’ last words recorded in Scripture are these: “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).
Why get ready?
What if it were today? Would you be ready? Why get ready? Why live in preparation, ready each day? Consider these facts.
First, you don’t know when you will meet God. He may come for you, or you may go to him. No knows when that day will come for them. No one.
Pompeii was destroyed by the volcano Vesuvius in A.D. 70 (check date). The entire city was sealed by lava, and preserved. Fascinating finds have been made as a result. A hand clutching a bag of gold. A soldier standing at attention. A man cutting a piece of bread, his dog at his side. They didn’t know. Neither will we.
Abraham Lincoln didn’t know he would meet God on date; or John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963—presidents don’t know. Yitzhak Rabin didn’t know he would meet God on date—prime ministers don’t know. John Lennon didn’t know he would meet God on date—celebrities don’t know. Neither will we.
We must be ready to meet God today, for today is all we have.
A second fact: spiritual procrastination is a temptation of the enemy. Remember the old story about the meeting in hell: how will the demons best tempt mankind? One said, “I’ll tell them there is no heaven,” but the devil knew that wouldn’t work. Another said, “I’ll tell them there is no hell,” but the devil knew we’d not believe it. Then a third said, “I’ll tell them there is no hurry.” And Satan said, “Go.” And he did.
If you’re certain that this message doesn’t apply to you, that you’ve got all the time in the world to prepare to meet God, guess why.
One last fact: the best way to live life is to be right with God, right now.
Even if you don’t die for 40 years, or Jesus doesn’t come for 40 generations, the best way to live this day is to be right with God.
G. Campbell Morgan was a great expositor and a powerful man of God. His secret? He said, “Every morning when I awaken I remind myself that I must be ready to meet God today.” Jonathan Edwards was the greatest theologian America has ever produced, and the preacher of the First Great Awakening. Why? His resolution: I will live every day for Jesus. Billy Graham is considered by many to be the greatest living Christian today. His secret? He lives every day as if it were his last, ready always to meet God.
This is the best way to live every day. Including this day.
So, how do we get ready to meet God today?
First, make certain of your own salvation. Ask Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and take charge of your life. Be sure that you have given your soul to him.
Next, take a spiritual inventory today. Ask the Spirit of God to show you anything wrong between you and your Father. Write it down, specifically. Ask God’s forgiveness, and claim his mercy. Do this often. Our ministry staff did this during our staff retreat this week, with great joy. Do it today.
And take all the time your soul needs. Someone asked the evangelist Gypsy Smith how to bring revival to his church. He said: get a piece of chalk, draw a circle around yourself, and pray until everything inside that circle is right with God. Then revival will come. Get everything inside your circle right with God. Today.
Across our series we’ve learned important facts about Jesus Christ. As he loved Matthew the tax collector, so he loves us all. He defeated the devil, and will defeat him in our lives as well. He heals our hurts, brings God to us, works miracles today, and wants to be our Lord and Master. He defeated death. And he will come again for us all.
Are you ready right now? If this were the end of your life, would your life end well?
The Olympics have the attention of the world, and especially those who win. What of those who finish last? One such athlete deserves our notice.
At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania finished last. By the time he reached the stadium it was dark, the race long over. Akhwari was bleeding, his right leg bandaged, obviously in great pain. But he dragged his leg around the track and finished the race.
A reporter asked him why. He said, “My country didn’t send me here to start the race. My country sent me here to finish it.”
If this were the last day, will you finish your race well?