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The Day and Hour Unknown (Matthew Sermon 129 of 151)

The Day and Hour Unknown (Matthew Sermon 129 of 151)

July 04, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Matthew 24:36-41

Introduction

Great glorious news, Jesus Christ is coming back. Amen. He is going to return. We're going to see Him; every eye will see Him. We who have trusted in Him in this life are going to be with him forever. We're going to enjoy a glorious existence with him forever, but immediately as soon as you hear those things, a question comes to your mind, and that is "When?"   It was the question in the disciples' mind that they asked Him on the Mount of Olives, "When will these things happen? What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" What's in front of us as we look at the text today is this question of the exact day and hour of Jesus's return and what will be the condition of the world when he does return. 

In 1942, British Christian thinker and writer and apologist, author C.S. Lewis wrote a fascinating book about temptation called The Screwtape Letters. It took an entirely new approach to holiness and struggling with sin than anyone had ever seen before. He presented the struggle with temptation from the perspective of the demons who are tempting us. It was a series of letters written by an older, more seasoned demon named Screwtape, giving advice to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood, on how to entice a British man, simply called "The Patient" in the book, and how to lead him to his damnation.

In his introduction to the book, Lewis writes these words, and they were in my mind this morning.  Lewis writes, "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence, and the other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves [the devils] are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist, an atheist, or a magician, with equal delight." That's a fascinating quote. What does it have to do with our text? As I was thinking about our text this morning it occurred to me that a similar kind of statement could be made about an interest in the exact date and hour of Jesus's return. It would run something like this. There are two unequal, but opposite errors into which our race can fall about the exact date of the second coming of Christ. One is to doubt the very existence of such a day, and to deny that Christ will ever return and show no interest in the topic whatsoever. The other is to believe and feel an excessive and un-Biblical desire to calculate through cleverness and nuanced Bible study the exact day and hour of Jesus's return.  I would not go so far as to say that Satan hails each error with equal delight. I don't think they're equal in this case. Someone who denies the second coming of Christ is not a believer and has everything to fear from the Second Coming of Christ. The wrath of God is coming, and they're not concerned about it at all. We're going to talk about those kinds of people in this text today.

Falsely Declaring the Time of the Second Coming

Then there are others who are fascinated with setting dates. It's been a Christian hobby, really, from the beginning of the church. This excessive interest in the exact day and hour of Jesus's return and our text address both sides. Verse 36 says, "No one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but only the Father." There have been centuries of speculation directly in the face of that text as to the exact day and hour of Jesus's return. The basic approach has been, "If only everyone else could be as clever as me and see what I'm seeing, then you would know exactly when the Lord would return." I think it follows the pattern of the whole number 666, "If anyone has wisdom, let him calculate the number of the beast." They're wanting to set themselves apart from the rest of the rabble of Christians and say, "Look, I know exactly what Jesus is returning, and so just follow my mathematics and my exegesis and you'll get it too." Some have just really desired to know the date, but didn't stop short of setting a date, but maybe a parameter, you know, "Within this time, I fully expect the Lord to return."

Even Martin Luther somewhat fell into this trap. In 1530, Luther, who was translating the Old Testament into German for the people, jumped out of order and went ahead to the Book of Daniel. He quickly got Daniel into the German language so that they would be ready for what he considered to be the impending end of the world. What had happened is that in 1526 Suleiman The Magnificent, the leader of a mighty Turkish Empire, had defeated a Christian King in Hungary at the Battle of Mohacs. It seemed the back door was open into Europe and that the Turks were soon going to ride right across the continent.  Luther, among others, expected that imminently, and he wrote this in a letter to a friend, "The world runs and hastens so excellently toward its end that I often feel very strongly as if the last day would come sooner than we can complete translating the Holy Scriptures into German." Just for your information, he finished translating the holy scriptures into German four years later. That's how impending he thought the Second Coming of Christ was.  Interestingly though, Luther did set a date for the second coming of Christ; it was 500 years after his time. He did that based on a pattern that the church fathers had taken of the six days of creation, and what with a day being like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. There's would be 6000 years of history, and then the 7000 year would be the millennial reign of Christ on earth. that's how they took it. They set a date based on that approach.

In the 19th century, some theologians in England were looking at current events and again saw the awesome power of the Muslims, the Turks, and again, the power of the Pope.  There was always a focus among the Protestants on the Pope, who they considered the Antichrist. They began publishing works predicting the downfall of both the Turks and the Pope at the Second Coming of Christ. One of these men was named George Stanley Faber. In 1806 he published one work on the end of the Turkish power and the Roman Catholic Pope, who, he claimed to be the Anti-Christ. He published the same things again in 1853, using the number 1260 discerned from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 11 and also Daniel 12. Faber sought to determine the time of the end.  He figured out an important date, since both the Islamic side and the Roman Catholic side was huge, he zeroed in on the year 606, AD because that's when apparently the Bishop of Rome was established as chief among all the other bishops of any other metropolitan areas the leader of the Christian church. It happens to be also, according to his calculations, when Muhammad went into the cave and received the revelations that became the Quran, and so 606. You add 1260 to that, and you end up with the year 1864. I would have thought 1866, but that's fine. Maybe they had different math in England at that point, but at any rate, 1864 is the year he zeroed in on. Well, 1864 came and went, the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish empire, was every bit as powerful in 1865 as it had been in '64, and so it went. It continues on in the 20th Century. Hal Lindsey published The Late Great Planet Earth, and as I mentioned, with the budding of the fig tree, he said that he believed this was the reestablishment of Israel in the promised land and taking then that within one generation... Verse that follows, a few verses later, said within one generation of Israel's re-establishment in the promised land, you can expect to see the end. He expected it, at any rate. He said a biblical generation was 40 years, and so he arrived at the year 1988.

Well, he's not the only one that liked that year. I've mentioned before, “88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988”. This is a guy named Edgar Whisenant, who is a NASA engineer. He calculated it was gonna be on Rosh Hashanah, the new year, September 11th through the 13th, somewhere in there, 1988. He published a book, and said, "Only if the Bible is in error, and I am wrong, I would gamble my life, if I were king, that I'm not wrong, that the Rapture will occur around Rosh Hashanah 1988." Trinity Broadcast Network picked up on this, started airing programming that would prepare everyone for the rapture and for the second coming.  Finally, the great day arrived, September 13, 1988, it came, and it went as other days had done. When nothing happened by the end of September 13th Whisenant revised his prediction, suggesting the Rapture would come this time at10:55 AM on September 15. I assume that was eastern daylight time. When that failed, he revised it to October 3rd. Even when that date passed, Whisenant remained undaunted. He said, "The evidence is all over the place. It's going to be in a few weeks anyway." When it didn't happen in a few weeks, he said, "You know, I noticed an error in the Gregorian calendar," so he published something saying it was going to happen in 1990. And then in '91, and then '92. He published again in '93 and '94. Finally, he stopped publishing. So much for the date setter. 

Then people swing to the other side and say, "Therefore, there will not be a specific date of Jesus's return." It's the “opposite errors.” "There will not be a final generation, everything will go on as it always has." And that is not true, friends.  The text leads us in a different direction, it leads to say there's absolutely a date. The Apostle Paul said that God has set a date when He will judge the world with justice. The date is set. Jesus doesn't deny a date, He actually affirms a date here, he just says that only the Father knew it.

Now, interest in dates and the timing of Christ's return, as I said, goes back to the beginning of the church. Acts Chapter 1, after Jesus's resurrection, there are 40 days of training. Jesus is there with the disciples and they have a question. They say, "Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" Jesus said in Acts 1:7, "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority." So, there are times and dates the Father has set, but it's not for you to know. Instead, "You'll be my witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses to the end of the earth, to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth." That's what he said, be about the business.  Standing over all of these date-setting efforts are the repeated statements of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25. This one, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father." Verse 42, "Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." Verse 44, "So you also must be ready, because the son of man will come in an hour when you do not expect him." And then in chapter 25 and verse 13, "Therefore keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour."

The Timing of the Second Coming is Unknown

So today we're going to dig into the secrecy around the exact time and date of Jesus's return, what Jesus meant by that, and then just the general prevailing attitude that there will be of most of the people on earth concerning the exact time of Jesus's return. It is an attitude of complete ambivalence, atheism, unconcern. Both of these things are addressed in this text. First, the timetable, hidden even from Jesus in those days. God hides himself; we worship a God who hides himself, who doesn't put all his cards on the table, he doesn't show us everything about himself. Isaiah 45:15 says, "Truly, you are a God who hides himself, oh God and Savior of Israel." Psalm 97 and verse 2, "Clouds and thick darkness surround him." But God doesn't just hide himself, he also reveals himself as he sees fit. When he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, in Genesis 18, he said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I'm about to do?" and then He revealed what he was intending to do with Sodom and Gomorrah, and as you remember Abraham began to pray and intercede and really dicker with God over Sodom and Gomorrah. Or even more poignantly, Moses up on the holy mountain, wanted to see God. He went right to the heart of the matter, "Now show me your glory", he said.  And God responded, "I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion, but you cannot see My face and live. For no one can see me and live." And the Lord said, "There's a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. And when My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I pass by. And then I'll remove my hand and you will see My back, but no one can see my face." God is a God who reveals himself as he sees fit, to whom He has mercy, the ones He has compassion on, he opens himself up to them, but not fully, until the time comes when he will fully reveal Himself to us.

That's our inheritance by the way, a full revelation of God to us. His servants will serve Him, and they will see His face in heaven, God opening himself fully to us. But in the meantime, he is playing out his purposes, playing out His sovereign plan as he sees fit, to the ones he chooses. In Ephesians Chapter 3:4-6, Paul writes, "In reading this then, you'll be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men and other generations as it has now been revealed to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and shares together in the promise that's in Christ Jesus." He's saying, "Now there's a mystery that previous generations didn't have, but now through God's holy apostles and prophets, God has shown it to us and now we're telling it to you." God decides what to hide and for how long, when to reveal, and to whom. That's all-God’s sovereign purpose. He can do what He wants with that. Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God. But the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." Let's be very clear about today's text, there is definitely a time and date for Jesus's second coming, it's going to happen. That time and date has not been revealed. Both of those things are true. Jesus celebrates God's sovereignty in this matter. In Matthew 11: 25-26, Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Jesus celebrates the concealing, and He celebrates the revealing, and all of it by God's sovereign purpose.

So, we just stand like humble servants before God with our hands out and we say, "Give us today our daily bread. Give us what you want us to know." He will choose what that is, and He will choose to reveal Himself, and the exact timing of the second coming of Christ is set and it is knowable. God could tell us; he could have told us. But I think if you use a little common sense you can see why He didn't.  Imagine if it had been revealed and set, and you lived in the 13th century. There is no point in finishing Matthew 24 or on into the virgins or the talents or any of that, all of that gets removed because we just don't have the same stance toward the Second Coming. We definitely know it's not coming in our generation, because God's revealed when it was. But He's not doing that. "You don't know, so be ready any time. It could happen any time, so be ready. Your death could happen any time, the Second Coming could happen any time, you be faithful. Believe when you can, go get the oil for your lamp while there's time to go get the oil, because when he comes there won't be any time for it."  That's why I think He hasn't shown it to us. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels. Isn't that fascinating?

The angels are actually more inquisitive than you might think. It's really fascinating how many times, especially in the Old Testament prophets, angels are there kind of revealing some things to the prophets but then they're discussing among themselves and they don't know what's going on fully. You see this in the Book of Daniel, you see it in Zechariah and other places, where the angels are having conversations and they're interested. Daniel Chapter 12: 5-6 is one such example. "Then I, Daniel, looked and there before me stood two other angels, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, an angel, who was above the waters of the river, asking this angel who apparently knew more than they did, “’How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?’” What's the question? Basically, When? It’s the same thing the disciples want to know, the timing. They're inquisitive. 1 Peter 1:12 talks about this, "Even angels long to look into these things [the time and circumstances about Christ].”

God has hidden this particular issue from the angels and their inquiries. Amazingly, the text says even Jesus didn't know.  How in the world can I stand here and tell you that Jesus is both incarnate God, and yet didn't know something? But that's precisely what I'm going to tell you. Jesus says, "No one knows that day or hour," and so it's somewhat implied, but He goes ahead and makes it plain.  Here we come to infinite mystery, the mystery of the incarnation is a far greater mystery than the time and date of Christ returned. It's a deep mystery.  At Christmas time, we sing the Wesley hymn “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing,” and it says there, "Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die." In some way, He lays his glory aside. He who being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but He made himself nothing, or literally emptied himself. Some theologians came up wrongly with what they call the theory of kenosis, that Jesus laid his deity aside. Friends, Jesus can't lay his deity aside any more than God can lie or cease to exist. Jesus is God, He always has been God, and He always will be God, and He can't lay his deity aside. The universe, your physical and spiritual existence, depends on Jesus' deity. It's not something He lays aside.

But what He does is He chooses not to display its fullness when He comes to Earth. He is glorious, infinitely glorious. The Bible says that God dwells in unapproachable light, but He laid that aside. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Nothing in his appearance that we should desire Him. So, He laid that by. He looked like an ordinary guy, an ordinary Jewish man. He is omnipresent, and He clearly laid that aside, He can only be one place at one time. That's why He said, "It's to your benefit that I go away, so I can send the Holy Spirit." He is omnipotent, but He chose not to use his power, certainly not to save himself, not to turn the rocks into bread out in the desert. He restrained his power and didn't do everything He could do. He didn't come down off the cross, though He was the Son of God.  He was omniscient and chose not to know things. Okay, now, you may have trouble with that. How can you be omniscient and not know something? This is where the atheists have us, they think. This is ridiculous. You can't be both omniscient and not know something. Well, Jesus was. The fact that He was omniscient is shown again and again in the Gospels.   Matthew 12:25, "Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them," etcetera. How many times does that happen? Remember, one guy hosting him thinks, "If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman it is that's touching him." And Luke tells us in the account, Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." That's a bit eerie, if you think about it, Jesus just knowing what you're thinking. Or this one, as He's making preparations for the Passover. He sends Peter and John and says, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover." "Where do you want us to eat it?" That's a very practical question, when wanting an address or someone to rent from or something like that. And Jesus says, "As you enter the city, there's going to be a man there carrying a jar of water. Go up and follow him, he'll lead you to the room."

I don't have that kind of stuff happen to me. I'm not able to say, as you drive into Durham, there's going to be a red pick-up truck, and I want you to follow it. It'll take you right to the store where you need to go. That kind of stuff doesn't happen, but Jesus, Jesus knew all things. They came and told him that Lazarus was sick. Two days later, He told his disciples, Lazarus is dead. What was his source of information? His omniscience. Nobody came and told him that he was dead, he just knew. Or in John 18:4, Jesus went out to be arrested, and it says Jesus knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and said, "Who is it you seek?" Then up on the cross, Jesus knowing that all was now complete, and so that the Scripture was fulfilled, said, "I thirst." John is always showing us the deity of Christ, and that includes omniscience. However, there is also biblical evidence of the limitations of his knowledge. For example, this one. When he was a little boy, in Luke 2:52, it says Jesus grew in wisdom. That means he had more wisdom at one point than he had earlier. He's learning stuff. He's learning things. Or this one, as He's making his way to raise Jairus' daughter, a woman subject to bleeding for 12 months pushes her way through a crowd, touches the hem of his garment, the Father seems to have healed her directly through the Son without the Son knowing about it. Jesus stops and says, "Okay, who touched me?" The disciples at that moment thought that was crazy, “Everyone's touching you.” They thought that it was a silly question, but it wasn't. But Jesus, I don't think, is playing at that point. He didn't know who touched him, and He wanted an encounter with the person, whoever it was. The Father healed the woman directly through Jesus, and then Jesus learned who she was. The Bible says that Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered in the Book of Hebrews — He learned obedience.

Friends, that is not consistent with omniscience. Just because we can't put that together in our brains doesn't mean that He's not omniscient, and it doesn't mean that He's not God, and it doesn't mean that He didn't learn something. I'm telling you right now, Almighty God has never learned anything, and He never will. All of God's knowledge is immediately accessible to Him right now. Yesterday is as bright as today, as bright as tomorrow. He knows it all immediately. He doesn't work things through, there's not a train of thought with God. If I told you your circuit breakers are going to start tripping here, that's omniscience. God knows everything and He doesn't learn anything, and that's essential to deity. But Jesus, although He was a son, learned obedience from what He suffered [Hebrews 5:8.]  This verse is the clearest of all, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." There is infinite mystery here, I can't solve it for you, I'm just laying out what the Scripture says. So be challenged, be troubled, be provoked to deeper study, realize there's milk and meat in the Bible, and go for it, friends.  I think you run into trouble to deny either side, so let's not deny either side, let's just humble ourselves before the Scripture.   I believe He knows all things now. He knows the exact day and hour now; He's just not telling us.  I might put your prayer time into something else. How about this? "Lord, prepare me for your Second Coming. Lord, help me to be active and ready doing the things you want me to do between now."

Be Ready for the Second Coming

Why? Because in the days that Jesus comes, there's going to be a whole generation of people who mostly don't even think about it. Why? Because that's the way all men have always lived in every generation. Back in the days of Noah, and so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Look at Verse 37, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Since the day is a mystery, people must be ready. For the next 58 verses in Matthew's Gospel, there's basically just one theme. "You don't know the day or hour, so be ready and be faithful now." That's basically where we're heading.  You need to be reminded in many different ways, four different parables, to get you ready and your mind around this. You don't know when the Son of Man is coming, so be faithful, be vigilant, be ready all the time, be about your master's business. That's the lesson.

The Second Coming is going to be like it was in the days before the flood. The people of that generation were exceedingly wicked. Genesis 6:5, "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. And so, in the days before the flood, he told Noah that he was bringing wrath and judgment." Genesis 6:17, "I'm going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens. Every living creature that has the breath of life in it, everything on earth will perish." God raised Noah up not only to build the ark, but I believe to warn his generation of the impending judgment of God, and I think he did warm them. 2 Peter 2:5, it says, "If God did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people but protected Noah,” who was a preacher of righteousness, and seven others, then He knows how to protect us from the coming judgment." That's the point that Peter makes. Peter calls Noah a preacher of righteousness.  You can imagine that he's working on the ark, we don't know for sure how long it took the ark to be built. Some say 120 years because of a statement, and that may have been, but that's not definite, but it did take a while. In the days when the ark was being built, the spirit of Christ, I believe, was in Noah preaching to that generation that they should repent and turn, lest they be swept away. What was the fruit of his ministry? His family, and that's it. If you should ever feel like, "You know, I'm just not much of an evangelist. I mean, I share the Gospel, I talk about Christ crucified, I do what I can, but nobody ever comes to Christ." That's not your responsibility, friends. Let's be faithful to share the Gospel and let God move, but Noah was faithful in his generation to warn them of the coming wrath, and so must we be. We must be faithful to warn our generation because they're not ready. The Lord is going to come back, He's going to be riding on a white horse, his eyes are going to be like blazing fire. He's coming before the armies of Heaven and He's going to sweep away the wicked, He's going to judge them eternally.

Friends, without faith, it is impossible to get ready for that day. Let me say that again. Without faith, they won't be ready. Our neighbors, our co-workers, our unsaved relatives, they're not going to be ready without faith. Hebrews 11:7, "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family." Faith makes you fear the coming day and causes you to flee to Christ. Part of unbelief is to make no preparations for the coming wrath, and many will think that life goes on as it always has. Look at Verse 38 and 39, "For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all the way."  That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Life goes on. Don't we say that? Life goes on. Part of the wisdom of God in concealing the Second Coming is to ensure that in some way life will go on as it always has, right up until that final day.

That's the essence of the day of faith that we're in now, so that we can see ahead by faith in something that isn't around us. When it's not happening to us, we are able to look ahead and say, "The Word of God says judgment's coming, I need to get ready." Only faith can give you seriousness about the Word of God. There's this great delusion going on. People think that because God hasn't interfered up to this point, He never will. They think that because God hasn't interfered up to this point, He never will. There's a plain Jane kind of sameness to what Jesus talks about here, not people whoring and stealing and murdering right up until the day that Jesus returns, but people will be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. They'll just be living their lives.  You've got to eat and drink to survive, the human race has to have marriage, giving in marriage, procreation in order... These are just things that... They're good things, they're gifts of God. Jesus isn't finding fault with them. He does that in other places, but not here. He's saying just, "Life is going to go on." There will be life and somewhat within that structure, the pursuit of happiness. People will assume, and they always assume, that things will be the way they always have been. In 2 Peter 3, "You must understand," says Peter, "that in the last days scoffers will come scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, where is this coming, He promised?" Who is that coming? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget, says Peter, that long ago, by God's Word, the Heavens existed, and the Earth was formed out of water and by water. By those same waters, the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. God has interfered before, and they forget it.

By the same word, the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. They're saying, "When is this coming? I don't see any evidence. I don't see any proof that there ever be. Everything's just going on as it always has." They're going to be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.  The last wedding on earth. I did the best I could to just fantasize about what that would look like. So here it is, this is the last wedding on earth. The bride is excited about her special day. She gets up on her big day and has a professional hairdresser to look after her hair. He works on it for 90 minutes, she looks in the mirror and hates it, but what can she do? I mean, she's out of time. There are wispies flying everywhere. She gets in a little argument with him, but there it is. She argues with the hairdresser. Jesus is going to return in 4 hours and 53 minutes, but she doesn't know anything about that.   She has breakfast with her mother, talks about the wedding, it's dominated her mind for weeks now, the big day has finally arrived. She eats lightly, a bowl of fruit and some low-fat yogurt. She wants to be sure the bodice isn't too tight. She fusses with her mother over the dress that the mother is planning to wear. The mother remembers what it was like when she was a bride. She doesn't argue with her daughter, just gets her through that time, remembers the emotion and nervousness of the bride's wedding day, she doesn't want to ruin it. Jesus is coming back in three hours and 10 minutes. The perspective bride returns home, begins to pack a little bag she'll use to take to the church. She's got her magnificent wedding gown, it's already there, packs the jewelry, cosmetics, shoes. The maid of honor comes, they look at each other and squeal with girlish excitement. They settle on the bed and talk excitedly for a while about the future, about their years of happiness together, all the things they're going to enjoy together, she and her groom.

When they get up from the bed and begin to resume their preparations, the Second Coming of Christ is just 2 hours and 16 minutes away. She drives to the building with her mother and maid of honor, dressed in her magnificent wedding gown.  She admires herself in the mirror, her mind is dominated by her own beauty and by the wedding. She's nervous, worried about a bunch of details. Will the groom show up? Will he do okay? Will the justice of the peace do a good job? Will anything strange happen? She can hardly imagine the Second Coming of Christ is now a mere 47 minutes away. The big moment has finally arrived, the music swells, she begins her processional down the aisle, all eyes are on her for a moment. Pretty soon, they're not going to be on her. And why? Because at that precise moment, the heavens are ripped apart, and Jesus returns in front of a heavenly army. He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him. He's going to interrupt that day, he's going to step into history and interrupt, and whatever plans people had made are finished at that point. He has the right to do it. He's going to send out his Elect at that moment or send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his Elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Jesus will end life as we know it.

Bankers in Germany, in Stuttgart, planning for another day of money making, profits and investment, their day is done. Wheat farmers in the Ukraine planning for a harvest, their day is finished. Biochemical researchers in England having a staff meeting to talk about the next generation of blood pressure medicine and all the profits they're going to make, they'll make no profits from that medicine. Actually, it's never even going to get made. History is over. All over the world, life on that final day will begin as it always has. Merchants will be selling, buyers will be buying, architects will be designing buildings, coal miners going down into the ground to get coal, and Jesus will step into it and end it all. He's going to send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and will gather his elect from the four winds, one end of the heavens to the other. We've already talked about this; this is the Rapture.  Verses 40 and 41, "Two men will be out in the field, one will be taken and the other left. Two women grinding with a hand mill, one will be taken and the other left."

Do you realize what that is? That's the beginning of an eternal separation that's talked about multiple times in the Bible.  Those taken and those left behind. Those taken are the Elect who have by then come to faith in Christ, all of them. None are missing. Those left behind are the non-elect who rejected the Gospel. Matthew 25:46, "They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." There's your separation — the final separation. Many passages teach it. John the Baptist in 3:12 says of Jesus, "His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor. He'll gather up the wheat into his barn but burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." There's your separation. Several parables speak of it. The wheat and the weeds, both of them sown together in the same field they grow up together, can't really tell the difference. The workers want to root them up, but he says, "No, but you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest."  As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, said Jesus, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all those who do evil. They'll be gone forever, and they will trouble us no more, and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." There's the separation. 

Again, in the same chapter, there is the parable of the dragnet. "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. And when it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore and then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad away. And that's how it'll be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Then in the next chapter, in Matthew 25, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him, all the nations will be gathered before him and He will separate the people one from another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He'll put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." There is a precision to the separation, there'll be no mistakes made. All the Elect will be on one side, the non-elect on the other, all the believers on one side, the non-believers on the other. They're the same, Elect and the believers, it's the same thing. Not-elect, non-believers, same thing. Separation, perfect, no mistakes made. Angels aren't going to leave anybody behind that should have been gotten, and they're not going to grab anybody that shouldn't have been grabbed. They know exactly what they're doing. What is the basis of that separation?  In eternity past, it's God's sovereign choice. In time and space, it's your response and mine to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It's really that simple. The believers in the Gospel will be with Him forever. 

Application

What applications can we take from that? Come to Christ now, while there's time. We haven't heard the trumpet call of God this morning, have we? Not yet. We haven't heard the voice of the archangel, the angels haven't been dispatched yet, there is still time now. You're hearing the Gospel, here it is: God sent his Son into the world, who took on a human body and lived a sinless life under the law of God, a perfect sinless life. He wove for us a garment of righteousness that He now offers you freely, if you will just simply believe in Jesus, repent of your sins and trust in Him. He died on the cross for your transgressions, your sins. He paid the death penalty so that you don't have to go to Hell. Believe in Him, trust in Him, and you'll have eternal life.  God will send an angel and rescue you out at that time, at the right time. Trust in Christ.

Secondly, if I can just speak to all of you, don't be deceived by the humdrum of ordinary life. This is not all there is. The real story is spiritual here. It has to do with the advance of the Gospel, the Great Commission. It has to do with brothers and sisters in Christ, growing in grace in the knowledge of Christ. It has to do with answered prayers. That's what's going on, not the business of life. We need to do the business of life, we must, but that's not the ultimate story. 

Thirdly, obviously, do not seek to set dates or pursue a knowledge that God will not give. He's not going to answer that prayer, so instead you should pursue a heart of wisdom to do the things that God's laid before you to do. Therefore, fourthly, labor in the Kingdom until He comes. Let's be about the Master's business. What is your ministry? What's your spiritual gift? Are you using it? You have your five talents or your two talents or your one talent. Are you using it? Are you investing it for the glory of God? Are you out and about doing the things of the Kingdom, or are you living like a non-Christian as though this world is all there is? 

Fifth, be ready constantly, both for the day of your death and the Second Coming. I can't say it too much, you don't know when either one is. Be ready now, today. Six, be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to you. God has given you a ministry, He's given you a family, a spouse perhaps, He's given you money, He's given you days. “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Be good stewards of the grace of God. Seventh, do not be deceived by the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. God ordains trials for us to shape us and prepare us for that final day. We're not going to be wealthy and prosperous in this life with a wealth that we can take with us to the next. Therefore, don't be deceived by the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Finally, say with me, "Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord." We ought to seek Him and pray that He would come and say, "I want you to come. Come today if it's your will, Lord. But if not, make me ready and come, Lord Jesus."

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