Be Ready for His Coming
42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 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. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.
45 “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? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50 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, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There is a “rule” of Bible exegesis I often quote that goes like this; “Anytime you see a ‘therefore,’ go back and see what it’s there for.” Typically what follows a “therefore” is a command. Here is the general A, B, C pattern that is prevalent in Scripture. A) A description of God: Either who He is; what He has done for us; how He feels about us; etc…. Then B) the “Therefore.” Followed by C) A command. So, you see, many of the commands in the Bible are actually a response to God. Often times we simply focus on after the therefore, which is good – but we miss out on a whole lot if we ignore the before the therefore (Before the Therefore was a title of one of my sermons). Just focusing on after the therefore is kind of like biting the peel of an orange and not getting any of the delicious fruit! After the therefore, minus before the therefore becomes legalistic and harsh. So, the conclusion of Matthew 24 begins with a “therefore.” This is a little different than the A, B, C template I described earlier – but the “therefore” is still a response to what Jesus said earlier. By now, we know what was said prior to this therefore. It is Jesus answer to the question, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” I have summarized Jesus’ response in the check list below:
- Birth Pains (False Christ’s misleading many, wars and saber rattling, ethnic disputes, power struggles within nations and geographical areas, famines and earth quakes [natural disasters]).
- A 7 year peace treaty with Israel.
- Rebuilding of the Temple (This could take place before or after the peace covenant).
- Abomination of Desolation at the mid-point of the peace treaty.
- Great persecution of Jews and Christians – During this tribulation: Many fall away from faith, False Prophets, lawlessness increases and love grows cold.
- Gospel preached to the whole world.
- Return of Jesus.
Before we move on to the “after the therefore,” since this is the last correspondence for our Matthew 24 study, let me briefly touch on a couple of passages we skimmed over. First, you may have noticed a check mark that we have not discussed about the Gospel being preached. This comes from the end of the initial broad overview portion of Jesus’ response. Let me put it in the context of its preceding verses:
9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
When I was in seminary, at the center for the International Mission Board at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, there was a giant illuminated world map with a bullet point at every area of the world in which (to their knowledge) the gospel has not been introduced. They are constantly strategizing ways to get to areas which are unreached and sending missionaries. To many, they see this as a prerequisite for Jesus to return (based on verse 14). Many believe that missionary work is paving the way for Jesus to return. While, I have tremendous respect for the work of missionaries, and while I agree with what they are doing, I don’t see our efforts to bring the good news to unreached people groups as a prerequisite for Jesus to return. It seems to me, by a close reading of verse 14 in context that this is going to take place supernaturally, at least with supernatural assistance / protection. Think about it, this occurs at the end of the great persecution; how will the gospel reach unreached peoples at this time? Furthermore, it seems to be an announcement that Jesus will be returning and His kingdom will be set up on earth (Millennial Kingdom when He will physically reign on earth). The antichrist and his forces have been persecuting believers for over three years, and seemingly getting the better of them. Remember verse 22; “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” The forces of the evil will think that victory is at hand for them as believers and even certain nations are fighting back (seen elsewhere in Scripture). And then, somehow, God will call believers in various areas to deliver a prophetic message that the return of Jesus and His kingdom are imminent! Those announcing this gospel (good news) will be protected, equipped and enabled by God’s power. I also would consider the possibility that modern technology might be used to deliver the gospel message. In any case, this seems to occur just before His physical return. I see this more as an announcement for believers and enemies of God; more so than an evangelistic call at this time. Take a look at the literal translation in Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, “14 and this good news of the reign shall be proclaimed in all the world, for a testimony to all the nations; and then shall the end arrive.”
Let’s look at one final passage that we kind of glossed over.
Parable of the Fig Tree
32 “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; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
I will spend just a little time here because I believe this is pretty easy. I try to follow a rather simple rule of Bible interpretation; I have named my rule, “The Most Obvious Reading of the Text.” In other words, when you look at what was said, in context, what is the most obvious interpretation? This is a guideline, not a 100% rule, because it can get tricky with translating languages and the gap in cultures (original audience vs people reading today). But, it is a pretty good guideline to go by I believe. Regarding the passage above; I have heard people speculate here that Israel is often symbolized by a fig tree, and therefore, what is being conveyed here is that once Israel becomes a nation again, that generation will not pass away until Jesus returns. “A generation” can be translated in various ways, but I have heard everything from 40 years to 100 years. However, I think the most obvious reading of that text is quite simple; just as when you see a fig tree’s branch begin to bear leaves you know the summer is near…. When you see the things taking place that Jesus’ just described, you know His return is near. The events Jesus is describing is represented by a fig tree blooming; inserting Israel’s rebirth is not the most obvious reading of the text and wouldn’t have made much sense to the people He was speaking to (who were in Israel).
Now, onto the “after the therefore” in verse 42; I believe the message is very clear: Based on everything which was just said about Jesus’ return, live your life as if His return is imminent. If you knew that Jesus would return one week from today, would you live the next seven days differently than you would otherwise? I believe most of us probably would. How about one year from today; if He was returning one year from today how would you live the next year; would it be different than you would live otherwise? Notice the analogy of a Master leaving and the slave (servant) not realizing that the Master’s return would be so soon…. The Master here represents Jesus and the servant represents mankind. If the servant only knew when his time would be up (and the Master would return), his conduct would have been much different. I believe that the analogy of the Master assigning the servants responsibility is a very significant description of believers in the Body of Christ. We have different tasks and God equips us each to carry out our tasks. Not everyone is a preacher, not everyone is an evangelist, not everyone is a teacher. But whatever your role is in the Body of Christ; first seek what that is if you are not sure and second, be busy doing it. The bottom line is that nobody knows when Jesus will return, so conduct yourself as if it will be today (each day). How will you treat people today; how will you spend your time today; will you spend some time in prayer, meditation, Scripture study, assembling together with other believers, telling others about Christ, teaching others about Christ, worshipping the Lord? Different servants have different responsibilities, so when the Master comes be busy living out your calling. In other words, take your post in the Body of Christ.
Now that we are done; I will leave five questions for discussion. Feel free to address any one of them; or ask a questions / make observations about something else. Nothing is off the table. By the way, I am not going to lure you in with these questions and then correct your opinion. As Velvet says, controversial issues are controversial for a reason…. because sincere people see them differently. After the doctrine of salvation (how you are saved), I don’t see much to divide over in theology.
- What do you think Christians in America should do if we see that the abomination of desolation has taken place in Jerusalem?
- Do you think Jesus will rapture believers before the great tribulation?
- Any thoughts about the mysterious doctrine of the Millennial Kingdom?
- If the “Body of Christ” is all believers in the world and Jesus is the Head, that means that we (believers all around the world) are to perform physically what Jesus would do if He were here (or what He , the Head instructs the body to do). What do you see your role being in the Body of Christ?
- Are there any other things you have heard about end times which you are curious about?
I’m up for as much discussion as you are willing to bring. But, I hope you will meditate on the five questions in any case.