Watching and Ready for the Last Days

March 6, 2022 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Are We Living in the Last Days?

Topic: Last Days Passage: Matthew 24:36–24:44

Are We Living in the Last Days?

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

March 6, 2022

 

Watching and Ready for the Last Days

If you have your Bible please turn with me to Matt. 24. This morning we are beginning a series called Are We Living in The Last Days? I’m sure everyone has been following the news and has seen the heartbreaking pictures and stories coming out of the Ukraine. Our Ukrainian brothers in Grace Partnership, who had flown into the US the week before the invasion, won’t be able to fly back into the Ukraine but will have to enter through Poland. Volodymyr shared with us that he had communicated with his family and everyone was doing well, but had just come out of a bomb shelter due to the Russians bombing an airfield not too far from Rivne.

Let’s pray for God’s intervention on behalf of the Ukrainian people, and let’s also remember to pray for the Russian people and especially our brothers and sisters in Christ in Russia. Many Russian civilians and even soldiers don’t want any part of this attack on their Ukrainian neighbors. Russia isn’t the enemy, the Bible tells us that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers of darkness in the heavenly places. So let’s pray for the Ukraine, for Russia, for our leaders and for the world.

These are certainly troubling times and as the world stands of the brink of the unknown, it lends a sobering backdrop to this series on the last days. No one knows what’s going to happen in Europe. At this point it seems inevitable that the Ukraine will fall to Russia’s superior military force unless God supernaturally intervenes. Will it all calm down? Will the Ukraine fall and the world be upset for a time and then move on? Or will things go from bad to worse, dragging more nations into the skirmish?

We don’t know. We hope for peace. We pray for peace. But we don’t know.

In Matthew 24 Jesus gives one of the clearest, most detailed descriptions of the last days found in the Bible. He says it will be a terrible time, worse than any time in history before or after to the point that if Jesus allowed it to go on, no one would survive. Like birth pains coming in waves and getting more and more intense, wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters, and God’s supernatural judgments will pummel the earth, culminating in the visible and glorious return of Jesus Christ with all his holy angels. But then in verse 36 Jesus says this:

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 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; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Matt 24:36-41

No one knows the day or hour of his return. Not even the angels in heaven know when that day is; in fact, not even Jesus’ human nature knew the day or the hour. So if you hear of someone claiming to know when Jesus is returning, you can dismiss them. Jesus says no one knows. He then goes on to say that as in the days of Noah, when people were eating and drinking and getting married and doing life right up till the first rain drops began to fall, so people will be doing life right up till the end. Two people will be working or walking or sleeping side by side. One will be taken (I believe that means taken in judgment) and the other left. It will happen so suddenly there won’t be time for the one person to change their status to be like the other person.

So if we don’t know, what then are we supposed to do? Jesus tells us in verse 42

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Keep watch and be ready. Jesus says because we don’t know when he will return - therefore keep watch and be ready! Look for Jesus and do what God gave us to do. Years ago a well known radio personality claimed that Jesus was coming back on May 21, 2011. Many of his followers sold their homes and unplugged from life in preparation for Jesus’ return. Of course, he was wrong to predict, but their response was also wrong. Jesus says watch and be ready. Look for Jesus and do what God gave us to do!

The early church lived with an eager expectation that Jesus could return at any moment. Paul mentions baptism in his epistles 14 times, he mentions the return of Jesus 50 times! That didn’t stop the early church from working for the Lord, it motivated them to work the harder for Jesus!

When I was a young Christian I thought things were moving so fast I didn’t think we’d get through the 80’s before Jesus returned. I wasn’t making predictions or anything but I really thought we were close. People during WWII thought Hitler was definitely the antichrist, but then it was over, and life went on.

This sense of, it’s getting close, and then it recedes can lead some to think that none of it means Jesus is coming back, it’s just the normal cycle of history. But Jesus gives us another way to look at it. Birth pains.

Birth pains come, intensify, and then recede. Then they come back harder, more intense, then recede. Jesus said that’s what the last days would be like – get bad, get intense, then calm down. Get bad, intensify, then calm down. You think the baby’s coming, then it doesn’t. There’s a delay, but it is coming!

For some people that delay will lead them to decide Jesus isn’t coming back. The servant says in his heart, “my master is staying away a long time” and starts to mistreat the servants left in his care. Others will see this cycle of delay and scoff as Peter writes in 2 Pet. 3:

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:3-4

Christian, let’s not let the delay dull our eager expectation that Jesus could return at any time. Watching for Jesus doesn’t mean checking out of life, just the opposite, it will lead to us leading a more careful and

godly life. Watching for Jesus has a purifying effect on our souls.

...we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this

hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3

How might you live differently if you knew Jesus was returning today? How might that affect your actions? Your thoughts? Your priorities? Things that seem so important now would suddenly be seen as trivial, and things that don’t seem important would suddenly have an urgency to them. Jesus is saying, live like that! Live as if I could return at any moment…because I could! Watch!

And be ready. Being ready means doing what God gave you to do and doing it faithfully. That’s what the four parables Jesus tells teaches us. Whatever God has made you: a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a friend, do it faithfully as unto the Lord! Stay busy! Let Jesus find us diligently and faithfully doing what the Lord gave us to do to the best of our ability!

Be the best husband, wife, mom, dad, friend, co-worker, neighbor, ministry worker, pastor, missionary, church member, you can be! When Jesus returns let him find us faithfully doing what God gave us to do.

The big thing Jesus gave us to do is the Great Commission. Preach the gospel and make disciples. That’s the mission of the church, and that’s the job of every disciple of Jesus. For some going might mean crossing the ocean to share Jesus, for others it might mean crossing the café to share Jesus. Both can be difficult, but sometimes crossing the café is harder than crossing the ocean to preach the gospel.

This is an area that I’m committed to grow in and here are a couple things I try to do:

  1. when I’m walking into a context with people, I’m asking God to give me eyes to see and a heart to share Jesus when the opportunity arises. Recently I’ve been growing a connection with someone and this past week he started sharing with me things that are heavy on his heart that he said usually doesn’t share with people. I’m not pushing, I talk about prayer and God and Jesus, but in a way I hope is relatable to him. Only God can meet his need, but I am asking God to use me. God will use you in situations as you make yourself available to His leading.
  2. I am deliberately working not to get distracted by lesser gospels. There are a lot of things we can get passionate about, and that’s not necessarily wrong, but let’s make sure we don’t substitute the gospel that can save eternal souls for a lesser gospel that can’t save anyone.

I don’t know if it’s just that I’m getting older, but I don’t want to argue and debate about things the way I would when I was younger. There used to be a hundred and one hills I’d die on. I remember getting into an angry argument with a Christian co-worker about the love of God. Before we were done we were hurling insults at each other over who better understood the love of God. Meanwhile a non-believing co-worker looked on.

Jesus gave us the Great Commission and then he left us in a broken and hurting world. Sometimes I feel weary with the hurt and pain I see around me. Sometimes I feel like checking out. Do you ever feel that way? Being ready means rolling up our sleeves and doing what we can to share the gospel of Jesus with those who don’t know him, and then trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work to save them.

Let’s make sure that when Jesus returns (should he return in our lifetime) he finds us busier than ever doing what he gave us to do.

One more thing I want to say about what it means to watch and be ready for Jesus’ second coming. If you read what Jesus says carefully, you’ll notice that the stakes for those who weren’t watching and ready are very high. They don’t just get surprised, laugh, and say, “good one, Jesus. You really got me!” No, they are “taken” in judgment. They are cut into pieces in one parable, shut out from the wedding feast in another, cast into outer darkness in the third, and told to depart from Jesus in the last.

We might start to wonder, are we saved by watching and being ready? Can we be lost forever if Jesus returns and we’re not watching and ready for him? We aren’t saved by watching and being ready for Jesus’ second coming. We are saved by believing and trusting in what Jesus accomplished in his first coming. We are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.

This tells me that keeping watch and being ready isn’t so much having prophetic timelines and trying to figure out if Putin is the antichrist. It’s definitely not predicting when Jesus is coming back.

I think at its core, watching and being ready is longing for Jesus to return to this messed up, sin-weary world and make things right. And it’s seeking to do what God’s called us to do until he does. And we can have that longing deep in our heart while at the same time wanting to watch our kids grow up, walk them down the aisle, welcome grandchildren, and live a long life.

But a part of every Christian’s heart longs for Jesus to come and make things right. One Christian’s longing might be stronger than another’s but it’s there. Just as one Christian might struggle with being faithful more than another, but the desire to do what God’s called us to do is there. It’s a by-product of saving grace.

Paul makes the clear connection between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming in Titus 2

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:13-14

See how it is all connected? We are eagerly watching for Jesus’ second appearing because in his first appearing Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us as his people and that in turn stirs our hearts to do good works. To do what God has given us to do. Watch and be ready. Look and long for Jesus while being diligent to do what God has given us to do. Let’s pray.

More in Are We Living in the Last Days?

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