Listen to Sermon Audio
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Destiny came down to an island, centuries ago, summoned three of the inhabitants and asked, “What would you do if I told you that tomorrow your island will be completely inundated by an immense tidal wave?”
The first man, who was a cynic, said, “Why, I would eat, drink, be merry all night long!”
The second man, a mystic, said, “I would go to the sacred grove with my loved ones and make sacrifices to the gods and pray without ceasing.”
And the third man, who loved reason, thought for a while, and finally said, “I would assemble our wisest men and begin to study how to live underwater.”
What would you do if I told you that tomorrow we would experience the most cataclysmic event in world history? An event more dramatic than when the heavens opened and for forty straight days a deluge fell upon the earth almost wiping out the entire species of Homo-sapiens.
What would you do, if you knew without doubt that Jesus was going to return tomorrow?
Not as a helpless baby who after His birth was seen by only a select few. But as the Son of Man preceded by trumpet sounds and coming on the clouds with power and great glory, in such a way that all people everywhere would see Him at once?
What would you do today if you knew tomorrow Jesus would return, as He promised He would, to initiate that mysterious sequence of events associated with the end of time as we know it?
Would you like the man of reason, begin to figure a way to live with the negative consequences of such an event? Or would you be the mystic sacrificing and praying as you waited? Or would you just carry on, life as usual, like Noah’s neighbors, who were warned that a little rain was going to fall, but who were content for years to eat, drink, and be merry?
For to be sure, a few days before Jesus suffered and died on the cross He spoke to His followers about the things that would come in the “last days” and delivered a similarly clear message: “I am coming again, at a time you cannot know and will least expect; so I advise you . . . if you are not ready . . . get ready!”
I want to discuss just two aspects of the second coming of Christ.
The first thing I note about the 2nd Coming of the Lord Jesus is it’s a SECRET! “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).
Throughout church history, many have gone out on a limb to predict when this event would occur. One of the early church father’s Ignatius in 110 AD wrote: “The last days are upon us. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible.” In the year 236 AD a church leader named Hippolytus predicted that Christ was sure to return by 500 AD. The years prior to 1000 were filled with predictions of the coming of Christ people were so sure of the Lord’s coming, they didn’t even plant crops. In the 1500’s Martin Luther wrote, “We have reached the time of the white horse of the Apocalypse; this world won’t last any longer.” The year 1666 saw an explosion in end times speculation. One pastor wrote in his journal, “every time a storm hit this year the church would fill up with people waiting for Jesus.”
For over 2,000 years of history, thousands of sincere, devout, and otherwise knowledgeable people have seen the end as about to happen but they have all been wrong. All of these people had or will have one thing in common. They either missed or disregarded the text we read today: Jesus said that no man knows the day and the hour.
The 2nd aspect of the 2nd Advent is to realize that it will be a day of SELECTION.
“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 (Matthew 24:40-41).
I think it interesting to note that these people are involved in the same activities whether they are taken or left. I would’ve said, “One man was at a prayer meeting and the other was at a casino” or “one woman was home cooking dinner and the other was out on the town.”
But Jesus says, here are two outwardly identical people; one is selected the other is rejected. Which begs the question, what is the selection based upon? Simple really; the people selected are those who have selected to chosen to put their trust in Christ.
Why should we have to do that? Because we have this strange propensity to sin, that is to live our lives the way we wish with no thought of how God might want us to live our lives. It is the human condition into which we are born and will accompany us till we die. The unfortunate thing about our sinful human condition is that it disqualifies us to be with God.
How in the world are we going to overcome the sin problem?
The natural human inclination is to try and overcome it ourselves by ‘living a good life.’
For example, one school of thought says that if we are going to be prepared to meet the Lord then we must give up, and I quote, “Colored clothes for one thing. Get rid of everything in your wardrobe that is not white. Stop sleeping on a soft pillow. Sell your musical instruments and don’t eat any more white bread. You cannot, if you are sincere about obeying Christ, take warm baths or shave your beard. To shave is to lie against Him who created us, to attempt to improve on His work.”
Don’t laugh too hard; that instruction comes from a textbook of a 2nd century School of Theology.
But they had it all wrong! The bible is so clear on this. There is no way, even if we perfectly keep God’s moral law that we can overcome the sin problem on our own. The only thing sufficient to cover over sin is the blood of Christ:
For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Romans 3:25).
And that is precisely why Jesus came the first time. To give His life as the only offering that could secure the forgiveness of sin. The writer of the letter we know as Hebrews wrote:
But now, once for all time, He (Jesus) has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by His own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for Him” (Hebrews 9:26b-28).
I’m not asking you if you believe in God. Jesus said, “You believe in God, now also believe in Me. For there are many rooms in My father’s house and I am going to prepare one of them for you and when everything is ready I will come and get you and take you to be with Me” (John 14:1-3).
I’m not asking you if you have always been a good, moral person. I’m not asking you if you are a church-going person. I’m asking you whether you have ever reached the point in your life where you have confessed your sin and asked for forgiveness.
Have you un-wrapped the gift Christ offers? I am afraid some are sitting with the package on your laps unopened. I am afraid that some might get up and carry the gift with you all week without opening it and march right back in here next Sunday and sit down with the opened gift on your lap.
Have we un-wrapped the gift by having faith in the death of the Christ for the forgiveness of our sin?
The Lord is coming back!
I don’t know when, but I do know He’s coming.
By the way, you know why He didn’t tell us, don’t you? Because if He had told us he would come on Christmas Day of 2017 we would have all waited until after Thanksgiving to get ready. He didn’t tell us when because He knew that if we knew we would wait till the last minute!
Don’t let it be for you like it was in Noah’s time:
In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 24:37-39).
C. S. Lewis wrote: “When the author walks onto the stage at the end of the play, you know the play is over.”
Christ is someday going to walk out onto the stage in a moment in time so overwhelming
that it will strike either irresistible love or fear into every human heart! But it will be too late then. The play will be over! The selection will have been made. There will be no more chances.
In the Book of Revelation, John pictures Jesus standing at the door of our hearts and knocking; promising that if we open the door He will come in and make His home with us. Could it be that He is standing at the door of your heart and knocking right now?
There is a story told by Dr. Joseph Stowell, past President of Moody Bible Institute, as he visited a home for mentally handicapped children. While being given a tour of the facility, he noticed that most of the windows were covered with tiny little hand prints. He asked the director, what they were all about. The director replied, “The children here love Jesus and they’re so eager for Him to return that they lean against the windows as they look up to the sky.”
How about you? Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!