End of Days Part 1
Ready or Not, Here He Comes
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 25, 2003
It fell to #3 this week.
I checked the Bestseller lists in the New York Times and the latest
book in the Left Behind series, Armageddon, after six weeks on the list
fell from #1 to #3. It’s really amazing to see the popularity of this
series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. And what’s even more
amazing is to see the hunger of people… churchgoers and
non-churchgoers… for anything dealing with the End Times.
Of course, we’ve talked about these books before. It’s fine and dandy
if you’re into them and enjoying them, as long as you remember that
they are fictional books written from the authors’ interpretation of
Scripture. They are not on par with the Word of God, and just because
Tim LaHaye says things are going to happen this way or that way doesn’t
mean it’s true. It’s simply his interpretation.
But these books do deal with an important subject matter: the End
Times. And I have discovered that there are very few things in life if
anything that people disagree more on. Everyone seems to have their own
interpretation and understanding of the Scriptural references regarding
the End Times, and they’re willing to defend their views to the death.
In fact, if Jesus doesn’t return exactly as they expect Him to, they
just might turn Him back.
But here’s the thing about the End Times: About a month ago, we
celebrated Easter. We reflected on the sacrifice of Jesus when He died
on the cross, and the victory over death when he rose again that first
Easter morning. But that’s not where His mission ended. It didn’t end
on the cross, it didn’t end with an empty grave. It will end when He
returns in glory.
It’s what we refer to as His Second Coming. And it’s part of what we
refer to as the End Times. We are only going to scratch the surface on
this topic today, and we’ll expand on it a bit over the next several
weeks through this End of Days series. But we’re not going to be able
to cover everything because we could literally spend months if not
years on the topic of the second coming of Christ and the other events
of the End Times. Some people have devoted their entire lives to the
study of Eschatology… the study of the End Times.
I should say up front that I’m not an expert in this area, nor do I
want to be. I shy away from the whole idea of interpreting prophecy. I
believe the Bible prophecies that Jesus will return again, and I
believe it will happen. But when I look at the prophecies in the Old
Testament about the first coming of Jesus as a baby, I can’t help but
notice how far off the “religious experts” of the day were. They
expected Jesus to arrive as a mighty conqueror who would overthrow the
Roman Empire, set up His kingdom, and restore Israel to its former
glory. They weren’t watching for a weak baby to be born as the son of a
woman who got pregnant before she was married. Nor did they expect him
to be raised by a poor carpenter. And they had no idea that he would
focus more on building a spiritual kingdom than a physical kingdom.
Every one of the prophecies about the birth and life of Jesus came true
to the letter, but the “experts” were way off with their
You do know what an “expert” is, don’t you? X being the unknown
quantity and “spurt” being a drip under pressure.
These experts were so far off that I can’t help by ask myself: What
makes me think I could do any better? So I don’t pretend to know
exactly how everything will unfold. I believe the Scriptures are meant
to give us the assurance that Jesus will return someday, and to let us
know that there will be certain events that happen along the way. But I
don’t believe they are meant to give us a comprehensive checklist to
make sure everything happens the way we expect it to or in the timing
we’re looking for.
My intention today and over the next several weeks is not to give you a
lot of data regarding the timing of Jesus’ second coming, but rather to
encourage you to be ready for when He does come. Over the course of the
series we’ll take a look at events associated with the End Times such
as the Tribulation, the Millennium, the Rapture, and the arrival of the
Today, we’re going to talk in general terms about why Jesus is coming
again, when He’s coming again, and how we should prepare for His
return. My hope is that you will leave here aware, and encouraged
regarding that wonderful day when He will come again in glory.
Now, there’s an Irish Festival going on right now and there are things
happening here this afternoon. And I have no idea when people will be
arriving to set up for the activities, so we better get going.
Three Questions about Jesus’ Second Coming
1. Why will He
Two main purposes:
A. To bring
reward and judgment.
1 Corinthians 4:5 (NLT)
When the Lord comes, he will bring our
deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. And then
God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.
The New Testament is filled with mentions of Jesus’ return to judge.
And Jesus Himself makes many references to His role as Judge. He will
judge men’s actions and their hearts. And what you need to know right
now is that generally your actions reflect your heart.
The Judgment is very real. But you can escape that judgment. I will
tell you how to do that later in the message, so hang on, okay?
But before I get too far into the negative, let me be quick to say that
Jesus will also be bringing reward with Him. His return will be a
terrible time for some, but a wonderful time for all who are living
within a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The second reason Jesus is returning is…
B. To bring His
people to Himself.
John 14:2-3 (NLT)
There are many rooms in my Father's home,
and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would
tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so
that you will always be with me where I am.
My friend John is visiting with us this weekend. We’ve been friends for
years, and I’ve known he was coming to visit for a couple of weeks. So
I was looking forward to his visit and did my best to prepare for his
Let me ask you: When you know you have company coming, what do you do
to get ready for their visit?
(shop, clean house, vacuum, make beds, free up time, etc.)
The Bible tells us that Jesus is preparing for our visit. Only it’s
more than a visit… we get to spend eternity with Him in heaven. What a
tremendous proposition. And what’s more, He’s looking forward to having
Doesn’t that do something for you? Do you understand that Jesus, who is
God, loves you more than word can say, and that He has invited you to
spend eternity with Him, and that He’s looking forward to it? I’m in no
rush to get there, but when I get there it’s going to be fantastic.
The Bible mentions other reasons for His return, but these are the two
biggies. He is returning to bring reward and judgment, and to bring His
people to Himself.
Let’s look at the next question…
2. When will He
If you’re looking for a
good argument, just ask this question to a couple people. Opinions
differ greatly, and many godly people will just about fight to the
death about when they think Jesus will return and what has to happen
first. People from the time of the apostles have tried to figure out
when Jesus will return.
One of the early Christians, around 110 A.D. wrote, “The last days are
upon us. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is about all time,
eternal and invisible.”
Another Christian writer wrote in 375 A.D., “There is no doubt that the
Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established in his early years
and in a few years will achieve supreme power.”
Hippolytus wrote that Christ would come back in the year 500.
The years leading up to the year 1000 were filled with predictions of
the second coming of Christ… It was so widely believed that the people
didn’t even plant their crops, they left buildings laying in decay, and
some people were left starving. It was their version of Y1K.
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…”
A little know fact was that Christopher Columbus devote believer and a
student of biblical prophecy. He wrote a volume called “The Book of
Prophecies,” in, which he predicted that the world would end in 1556.
He even wrote, “There is no doubt that the world must end in one
hundred fifty five years.”
The year 1666 saw an explosion in end times speculation. One pastor
wrote in his journal, “every time a storm has hit this year the church
was full of people waiting for Jesus.”
I remember this one. There was a man named Edgar Whisenant who was a
former NASA employee who thought he had it all figured out based on
mathematics and historical events. So he wrote the book, “88 Reasons
Why the Rapture will Occur in 1988.” But here we are 15 years later.
So all kinds of people throughout history have tried to predict when
the Second Coming would occur, and they’ve all failed miserably. Yet
people continue to try.
So let me take a shot at it. Let me give you my very best answer to the
question of when Jesus will come again. There’s a blank in your notes
where you can write the answer in, so get ready to write this in. Okay?
Here it is:
A. I Don’t Know.
Matthew 24:36 (NLT)
"However, no one knows the day or the hour
when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son
himself. Only the Father knows."
I don’t know, won’t know and shouldn’t know. That’s what my Bible tells
me, and I think it’s a little presumptuous and a whole lot arrogant for
me to tell Jesus that I’ve figured it out.
Okay, I know that’s not the answer some of you were looking for. So I
have been able to refine it a bit. The date of Jesus’ return is…
B. Sometime in
How’s that for going out
on a limb? But the truth is we don’t know the date and can’t know the
date. In fact, there are only two things we know for sure about His
We Know for Sure:
Jesus has kept every
other promise… there’s no reason to think that He’s not going to keep
Luke 12:40 (NLT)
You must be ready all the time, for the Son
of Man will come when least expected."
It could be today. It might be next week. It may not happen for another
100 years, it may not happen for another 1000 years. We simply don’t
Why shouldn’t we know? Have you ever thought about how things might be
different if we did have a set day? Say, 2050? What if we knew Jesus
was returning in 2050? I think one of the things that would happen is
this: we would become apathetic about doing what we’re here to do. God
has given us the mission to spread His Word around the world, and if we
knew Jesus wasn’t coming back until 2050, I think we would put it off.
I tend to be a procrastinator, and my natural inclination is to put
things off as long as possible. So if we knew we had until 2050, I
think we would put off the things we should be doing until, say, 2047.
But since we don’t know the date, there’s a sense of urgency. Jesus
could come back at anytime, so it’s urgent that we spread the Word, and
it’s urgent that we make sure we ourselves are right with God. There’s
no putting it off, because we don’t know how long we’ve got.
We know Jesus is coming back sometime, but we don’t know when. You may
even wonder shy it hasn’t happened already. Let me read another verse
2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
The Lord isn't really being slow about his
promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for
your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time
for everyone to repent.
I think the main reason Jesus hasn’t returned yet is because God is
waiting for as many as possible to come to faith in Christ. But when He
does come, you’ll know it. You won’t read about it in The Guardian the
next day or see it on CNN that night.
Isaiah 40:5 (NLT)
Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together. The LORD has spoken!"
There’s one position about the End Times that I think is Biblical and
simple. And I think you’ll understand it, so you don’t have to worry
about me handing out any charts and graphs. It’s called “Pan” theology,
and states that it will all “pan out” in the end.
But make no mistake – Jesus will return, visibly. No one will miss it.
And it could be any time.
3. What should
I do to prepare?
How do we get ready? How
do we prepare to meet Jesus?
A. Get to know
Remember when I said
earlier about Jesus coming to bring judgment? That judgment is very
real. And the Bible says that because of our sins, we will fall short
in that judgment. But Jesus also said that if we come to Him in faith,
we can escape that judgment. Now that’s a deal you shouldn’t pass up.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)
“Not all people who sound religious are
really godly. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won't
enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my
Father in heaven. On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we
prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed
many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go
away; the things you did were unauthorized.’”
Keywords: “I never knew you.”
This is important: you can’t be good enough to get into heaven. There’s
no amount of good and noble deeds you can do that will earn you a
ticket to heaven. Because it’s not based on anything you’ve done or
ever will do; it’s based on what Jesus did for you on the cross. In
this case, it’s not about what you’ve done… it’s about who you know. Do
you know Jesus personally?
Are you ready to meet Jesus? If He were to come today, would He
recognize you as one of His followers? If not, why not get ready right
now? Simply pray and ask Jesus to forgive you for the times you have
hurt Him and rebelled against Him. Apologize for the wrongs you have
done. And accept the gift He has offered of a new life on earth and a
home in heaven. If you have questions or need help, talk with me after
the service, or talk to a friend who you know and respect.
So the first and most important step in being ready for the Second
Coming is to know Jesus personally. After that, then the next part of
being prepared for Jesus’ return is to…
B. Be active in
Doing good things
doesn’t earn our way into heaven, but our actions are the evidence of a
personal relationship with Jesus. The priority is to know Jesus, and
the way we live should naturally be affected by that relationship.
Matthew 24:46 (NLT)
“If the master returns and finds that the
servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.”
If we do a good job then we’ll receive a reward. What should we be
doing a good job at?
Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have
been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and
make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to
obey all the commands I have given you.
We are to go into our world and make disciples. Here at Sunrise, we’ve
described this in our mission statement as “introducing individuals to
Christ and helping them grow…” That is our business. That’s why we’re
here. That’s what we aim to accomplish. Are you willing to be part of
the team Sunrise as we strive to accomplish this?
This is a longer passage, so I haven't put it in PowerPoint. But I want
to read it for you, because it illustrates so well that the way we live
and the way we treat others impacts how we will be judged:
Matthew 25:31-46 (NLT)
"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.
All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate
them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place
the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the King
will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my
Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me
a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was
naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I
was in prison, and you visited me.'
"Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you
hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a
stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When
did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' And the King
will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of
these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'
"Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, `Away with you,
you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his
demons! For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and
you didn't give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn't
invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I
was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'
"Then they will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or
thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?'
And he will answer, `I assure you, when you refused to help the least
of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.' And
they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go
into eternal life."
So you need to know Jesus, personally, you need to be active in His
service, and you need to…
C. Stay ready.
Matthew 25:13 (NLT)
“So stay awake and be prepared, because you
do not know the day or hour of my return.”
If I’m at home and I’m anticipating someone coming to pick me up, I put
my coat on and get me shoes on and make sure I’ve got my wallet and
everything else I’ll need so that I’m ready when they arrive.
Jesus could come back any moment. And Jesus mentioned that we should be
waiting in anticipation. Look forward to His coming.
G. Campbell Morgan, who was a preacher in the 1900's, expresses His
anticipation of the Second Coming this way:
“To me the second coming is the perpetual light in the path which makes
the present bearable. I never lay my head on my pillow without thinking
that: maybe before the morning breaks the final morning may have
dawned. I never begin my work without thinking perhaps he may interrupt
my work and begin his own.”
~ G. Campbell Morgan
There’s a song I used to listen to as a teenager that said:
If you believe He’s coming back tomorrow,
Then live like He is coming back today.
~ from If You Believe on Virtues
I’m going to ask you to
close your eyes and I want to give you a chance to respond this
morning. First of all, if you’re ready and waiting for Jesus to come
again, if you know Him personally and have everything squared away with
Him, then I just want to encourage you to relax. When the End Time
comes and Jesus returns, there’s not a thing you can do to stop it,
change it, or slow it down. So don’t get caught up in figuring out what
Jesus clearly told us we wouldn’t understand. Just rest secure in the
knowledge that because of your faith you have a wonderful future in
store for yourself in heaven.
But perhaps you’re here this morning and you aren’t ready. Perhaps
you’ve never begun your own personal relationship with Jesus and you
sense within yourself a need to do that today. If that’s where you’re
at, you can begin that relationship today. I’m not going to mention you
by name or embarrass you in any way, but I want to pray for you. So if
that’s where you’re at this morning, would you acknowledge that by
raising your hand?
(Much of this message
was adapted from “But Wait - There’s More!” by
Brian La Croix)