End of Days Part 1
Ready or Not, Here He Comes
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 25, 2003

 

Main Passage: Acts 1:6-11

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 interpretations.

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 AntiChrist.

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 come again?

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 visit.

Let me ask you: When you know you have company coming, what do you do to get ready for their visit?

PARTICIPATION

(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 us around.

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 come again?

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 the future.

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 return.

 

What We Know for Sure:

  • He’s coming back.

Jesus has kept every other promise… there’s no reason to think that He’s not going to keep this one.

 

  • It could be today.

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 know.

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 for you…

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 Jesus personally.

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 His service.

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 by Allies

 

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?

Prayer

 

 

(Much of this message was adapted from “But Wait - There’s More!” by Brian La Croix)

 

 

 

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