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Faith Bible Church, NY
April 9, 1995
Are You Ready for His Return?
Today is what is commonly referred to as “Palm Sunday.” (See: The Presentation of the King) The day that marks the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover week. What a glorious day it was. Matthew 21 tells us about that day. The people spread their coats and the branches of the palm trees before Jesus, and as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the they cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!”
That was the glory of Jesus’ first coming, His coming as the suffering servant, the redeemer of mankind. Later that week Jesus, the Lamb of God, became the perfect Passover sacrifice as the sin offering for man’s sin. He atoned for our sin in His death, and in His resurrection three days later gave us hope for eternity. Forty days after that, He ascended into heaven where He now makes intercession for us and is preparing an eternal dwelling place with Him for those that have placed their trust in Him.
Palm Sunday announced His first arrival as Messiah the selfless savior. We now wait for Jesus to return to Earth as Messiah the conquering King. And as we saw last week, when He returns everyone will know it. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (vs 30).
Starting in verse 32 Jesus begins to emphasize the need to be ready for His return, and He starts off with the parable of the fig tree.
THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE
THE SIGNS OF THE SEASON
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;”
A parable is simply a story taken from what is commonly known to make a point. The point here is simple. All of us are aware of the signs of the various seasons. At the end of summer, the first trees began to change color, and we know that Autumn will soon be upon us. The shortening days and the first snowfalls tell that Winter will soon come. The first crocus that sticks up through the snow tells us that Spring is just around the corner. And when the seed we plant in our gardens spring up, grow, and start flowering, we know that summer is next (although many of us get our first indication of the coming of summer by having swelled heads, stopped up noses and itching, watery eyes because of the high pollen count of late Spring).
This is the point of the parable of the fig tree. You are aware of the approach of the coming season by the signs in nature around you. When the fig tree buds and leaves then summer will soon be upon you. Jesus says in the same way you will know that His return is imminent because of the signs.
THE SIGNS OF HIS COMING
Look at verse 33, “even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” When you see these things then know that His return is imminent. What things? The signs He has been talking about in the previous verses. As the time of “Jacob’s troubles” (Jer. 30:7) starts there will be the “beginning of birth pangs” (vs. 8) that will indicate the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy has begun. The ever increasing wars, famines, and earthquakes along with the great apostasy and the proclaiming of the gospel by an angel (Rev. 14:6,7) are all marks of the early part of this period. The abomination of desolation and the unprecedented tribulation that follows marks the middle of the period. But when the signs in the sky occur, the darkening of the sun and moon and the stars falling from the sky, then take note that Jesus’ return as conquering king is at hand.
As verse 33 says, He will be, as it were, standing at the door of heaven ready to go through and return. Picture a stage door where the actors who are anxious to begin the final act are standing at there poised to enter while waiting for the cue from the director. Jesus will be at the door of heaven waiting for the cue from the sovereign director of all things to bring about the final event of the Tribulation period – the destruction of the Anti-christ and his armies.
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes [were] as a flame of fire, and on his head [were] many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13 And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And he hath on [his] vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. 17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; 18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all [men, both] free and bond, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which [sword] proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19)
THE CERTAINTY OF HIS COMING
Though we live in an age of skepticism that doubts the Word of God, there is no uncertainty that these things will take place and that they will take place in a short period of time. How certain? verses 34,35, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”
The generation that is alive at the beginning of this period will still be alive at the end of it. They will not have “passed away” until all these events take place.
Is Jesus coming back? No question about it! Will all that He said here be fulfilled? Certainly! Will these events happen in a short period of time? Absolutely! These things are more sure than the continuation of heaven and earth which, by the way, Jesus says will not continue but will pass away. Jesus word is eternal and it will stand. The present heaven and earth are not and they will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10). Tell that to the next cult group that is banking on eternity here on earth rather than spending it in the presence of God in a new heaven that He is yet to create (Rev. 21:1).
Some people have argued that “this generation” refers to the generation alive when the nation of Israel was reformed in 1948. The basis of that is the speculation that the fig tree in the parable refers to Israel, which is sheer nonsense and demonstrates the allegorical interpretation these people give to the Scriptures. In short, the allegorical approach allows you to interpret the scripture into almost any meaning except what it plainly says. All you have to do is introduce what you think each element in a story is supposed to “really mean.” In the last decade there that been quite a few foolish people using this as a basis to set a date for Jesus’ return based on how long they think a “generation” is.
THE CONDITIONS OF HIS COMING
AN UNKNOWN DAY
But lets face it, setting a date for Jesus return is sheer foolishness anyway. Those who enter the Tribulation period will know it, and if they bother to read the Bible, they will also know what events will take place and what signs will indicate that Jesus is “right at the door” to return. They will not know the day or the hour because Jesus says so in verse 36 and repeats it in verse 42. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”
It is the height of arrogance for someone to claim that they know when Jesus will return when Jesus says that no one including Himself knows. If the second person of the triune Godhead does not know (because He has willing restricted certain aspects of His deity as part of His becoming a man), then what an absolutely stupid thing for any man to claim that he knows. Yet, there has been no lack of such people.
William Miller, a Baptist preacher from New York, did it in the 1830’s, and after his second prediction of October 22, 1844 failed, he wisely acknowledged his error and dissociated himself from the movement he started. However, others continued the movement, claiming that a heavenly event took place rather than an earthly one.
There are still several Adventist groups around, the largest being the “Seventh Day Adventists”, which follow the teachings of Ellen G. (Harmon) White who had been a follower of Millers. She was considered a prophet and gained quite a following herself. She added quite a few of her own ideas in her writings including “Sabbath-keeping” and dietary laws.
Charles Taze Russel, founder of the Jehovah’s Witness, was also affected by Adventism, and their propensity for date setting traces back to that. Russel wrote, “Out Lord, the appointed King, is now present, since October 1874, A.D….. and the formal inauguration of his kingly office dates from April 1878, A.D.” He stated that “the Millennium began in 1874, with the Return of Christ.” This group has set a lot of dates. October 1914, later changed to 1915, was supposed to be the time by which Jesus would establish the Kingdom God in the earth, later this was changed to the beginning of the tribulation period, and Jesus supposedly returned to earth spiritually that year. 1918 was supposed to bring the full consummation of the church. In 1925 Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. were supposed to return to earth. The 6,000 years of human history was supposed to end in Armageddon in 1975. I have the documentation for all these claims, and the later published denials of those claims.
But before we get too hard on this group for their date setting, lets clean up the evangelical camp first. Many fundamental churches were severely disrupted by the book “88 Reasons for Christ Return in 1988.” Harold Camping of family radio did no better by his predictions marking last year as the date (1994). These men and those who promoted their teachings should repent from the foolishness they spread among Christians who lacked the discernment to distinguish Biblical doctrine from the foolish speculations of men.
The fact that Jesus return in near at hand will be easily recognized by anyone that cares to take note of the signs around them. These things will not be hidden. You will not need complex explanations to understand it. It will be easily discerned that Jesus will soon return, but no man know the day or the hour of His return.
Even though the signs will be obvious, most people will not recognize them because they will ignore them.
AS THE DAYS OF NOAH
In verse 37 Jesus says, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.” What were the days of Noah like? Verse 38,40 “For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Life will just be continuing on like it always had, while they ignore the signs going on around them. They paid no attention to what Noah said (2 Peter 2:5 calls him a “preacher of righteousness”), and they paid no attention to what He was doing, and there was no hiding the ark or its warning.
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5 that the world will think everything is going great. They will be like Prime Minster Chamberlain of England who held up his treaty with Hitler and said, “Peace in our time.” These people will be saying “Peace and Safety!” but then, sudden destruction. Life will be going on as usual, and despite the signs, people will think they finally achieved peace and safety, and it will be at that point their world ends as the Lord returns suddenly.
A SUDDEN JUDGEMENT
How suddenly? Verse 40,41 describe it, “Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.” In Noah’s day, the people were busy carrying out their normal activities of life, then Noah and his family entered the ark, God shut the door, and the flood came. At the return of Christ, people will be going about their normal activities and then suddenly judgement will be upon them.
There is quite a bit of debate and discussion about who is taken and who is left behind in these verses. In light of the general context of God’s judgement of this chapter and the specific context of verse 39 that it was the wicked that the flood “took away”, it is most reasonable to understand here that it is the righteous that are left and the wicked that are taken away into judgement. This is not a reference to the rapture of the saints. That would have already occurred.
The ones that are left are the righteous that will enter into the millennial reign of Christ as normal humans who have been saved, but they have not been glorified. We know that the earth is populated with normal humans during the millennium because Isaiah 65 lets us know that babies will be born, and those that already have their glorified bodies will not be involved in pro-creation (Matthew 22:30). The wicked will be removed from the earth in the sheep and the goat judgement (Matthew 25:31f). That only leaves those only those who were saved during the tribulation and physically survived through it to be able to go into the millennial kingdom. And that is who is referenced in these verses. Two men are working in the field, suddenly one is removed for judgement and the other is left to enter the kingdom. Two women are grinding at the mill, suddenly, one is removed for judgement and the other is left to enter the kingdom. The emphasis is on the suddenness of His return and the lack of preparation by the people despite the warnings.
THE WARNING TO BE READY
In verse 42-51 Jesus verbalizes these warnings once again and then gives two illustrations.
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
Are you ready for His return? If you knew that a thief was going to break into your house at a certain time, you would prepare yourself to prevent it. If you knew a thief was going to break in and you did not know the time, you would prepare yourself to be ready for him whatever time he came. It is the same with the Lord. We know He is coming as a “thief in the night,” as 1 Thess. 5:2 puts it, so we had better prepare ourselves so we will be ready no matter when that will be, and He will come at a time when people will not expect it as we have already pointed out.
The second illustration further describes this:
THE FAITHFUL SLAVE
“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” The good and faithful slave, the sensible slave, will do the work his master gave him to do whether the master is around or not. For us as Christians, it is not so much a sense of fear that motivates us to fulfill the tasks that Jesus has left for us, but a desire to do what is right and please Him, our master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says here that there will be a great reward for such a person. Faithful stewardship will result in greater stewardship.
THE EVIL SLAVE
But what about the evil slave? Verse 48, “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and shall cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; weeping shall be there and the gnashing of teeth.”
The evil person is not really even motivated by proper fear because they always figure that the day of reckoning is a long way off. The mice will play when the cat is away, and evil people will do the same when there is not someone standing their to make sure that they are doing their job. It is true in every aspect of the society around us, and it is true among some who proclaim to be Christians.
This really becomes a mark denoting the difference between the true Christian and those that make a false profession. Those that do not really know Jesus will not do what He commands unless they are forced too while the true Christian delights to obey the Lord.
When Jesus returns, those with false professions of faith in Him will be judged according to their works, or lack thereof. They will be assigned a place among the hypocrites, for that is what they are; and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. What place is that? It is outside the kingdom in a place called the “outer darkness” (Mt. 8:12). It is hell.
Are you ready for His return? Unless you have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior you are not ready, but can get ready. Talk with myself or one of our church leaders about how to receive forgiveness for your sins and become a follower of Christ.
If you have made a profession of faith, is it a true one or a false one? Will you be found a faithful and sensible slave of Jesus Christ, or an evil one? Do you do what Jesus says out of a desire to please Him who you love? Or do you resent Jesus commands and have a life characterized by doing your will rather than His will? If it is the latter, you need to repent. Again, I invite you to talk with myself or one of our church leaders and get your life right with the Lord today. You do not know when He will call you into account, either by ushering you into eternity through a sudden death, or by His return.
Are you ready? If so, rejoice, His promise is sure and we long for Him to come back. If not, then get ready. We are here are ready to help you do so.
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