The Second Coming of Christ, Part 8
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, March 24, 1996
Copyright © 1996, P. G. Mathew
Watch and be ready! This is the exhortation of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:36-51. Jesus was teaching his disciples about the signs of the end of the age and his second coming. In this passage we find him telling the disciples, in the light of the events to come, how they should conduct themselves.
What does it mean to watch? The Greek word is agrupneo, which means to be sleepless, or gregoreo which means to keep awake, from which we have the name Gregory. Was Jesus telling his disciples not to sleep? No, that would be impossible. Human beings have to sleep. Was he telling them to forsake the world and enter a monastery? Some people have done that, thinking that is what it means to watch and be awake, but that is not what Jesus meant.
Be Watchful Against Worldliness
No, Jesus was saying that, in view of his coming again, those who are his disciples are to live their lives on a daily basis in view of the kingdom of God, the coming of Christ, and our union with him. Titus 2:13 tells us that Christ's glorious appearing is the blessed hope of the church and we must always keep that foremost in our minds. To be watchful, then, means we should not be embroiled in the affairs of this world in terms of worldliness. In Luke 17 Jesus warned, "Remember Lot's wife!" Why? She was a worldly person who forgot all about the kingdom of God. Her perspective was governed by this world. But we must keep away from worldliness. The fog of worldliness may come on us, but we must resist it.
In Luke 21:34 Jesus said, "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life." We have a tendency to be absorbed with the affairs of this world. We naturally desire to be powerful, rich, or famous. We tend to accept the standards and values of this world rather than the standards and values of the kingdom of God But what did Jesus say? "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap." Worldliness is a serious danger.
John spoke about worldliness as the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boasting of things (1 John 2:16). This worldliness is an ever-present danger for the church and individual believers. Why? Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to entice us into these things (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
In Matthew 13:22 we read from the parable of the sower, "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth" and elsewhere we read "pleasures of life," "choke it, making it unfruitful," rendering it insensitive and unresponsive to the things of God. A person may read the Scripture, come to church, and listen to the word of God, but nothing happens to that person because there is a coating of worldliness in his or her spirit. So that is what Jesus Christ is warning us against. Be watchful! he says. Be careful! Be awake and alert to the values, commands and perspectives of the kingdom of God. We must avoid spiritual somnambulance, meaning spiritual sleep and moral laxity.
What Does It Mean to Watch?
Does watching mean trying to figure out when Jesus is going to come? No. It simply means knowing and doing the will of our master, Jesus Christ, as we await his return.
This watching is clearly defined by our Lord in Matthew 24:43, 45, and 46. Jesus said, "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into." And verse 45-46: "Who, then, is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household, to give them their food at the proper time? It would be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns." In other words, a child of God understands the will of God, delights in the will of God, and engages in doing the will of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
No Man Knows the Day or Hour
When will Christ return? In verse 36 we are told that no man knows the day or hour. That is a universal negative--no man. We are told that no angel knows. Then we are told that not even the Son knows, speaking about our Lord Jesus Christ in his human nature, in his humanity, in his submission to the Father. Not even the Son knows! Yet some people actively engage in predicting the time of Christ's coming. They say, "Well, you may not know the day or the hour, but we can find the year and the month and the week." Such speculation is foolishness, but throughout Christian history people have done this type of speculating.
In the sixteenth century Michael Stiefel said that Christ would return October 19, 1533, at 8:00 a.m. We must ask, did he not read the Bible, where it says no man knows the day or hour? Did the Father, who alone knows, reveal this knowledge to Stiefel? No. Stiefel's speculation was wrong, and Christ did not come then. Others engaging in this type of speculation included a fine theologian, Johannes Albrecht Bengel, who said Christ was going to come June 18, 1836. The Millerites in America said April 23, 1843 was the date. There have been many people in the twentieth century, some even quite recently, who have claimed to know the dates and times of Christ's return. So far all these people have been disappointed in their expectations. It is sad to see people make such errors. Those who make such predictions should, in humility and repentance, ask forgiveness of God and of the church for leading people astray through their speculations.
Jesus said the Father alone knows--no one else. But he also tells us we must be careful, ready, watchful, and engaged in the task of serving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength as we wait for his glorious appearing. We are to fight against secularism and worldliness. We are to separate ourselves from the values of the world, and set our eyes on Jesus Christ alone, the author and finisher of our faith.
How Do We Watch?
How do we watch? First, we must be filled with the Spirit on a daily basis. We must come under the control of the Holy Spirit of God, that he may enlighten our minds and empower us to be obedient and faithful to our Master.
Secondly, we must study Scripture. If you love me, you will keep my commands, Jesus told us in John 14:21, 23. We must study the Scripture in order to know the will of the Master so that we can do the will of God.
Thirdly, we must be active and productive in serving God. In the parable of the minas in Luke 19 Jesus said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return" (v. 12). This is speaking about Christ going away. "So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back'" (v. 13). Occupy until I come back, in other words. God has given us a task to perform--to be witnesses to Christ and his glorious gospel through our lives and our words. To watch means to be engaged in doing the will of God.
An Example of Watchfulness
St. Paul was the most productive of all apostles. The whole book of 2 Corinthians speaks about his productivity and hard work for the gospel. At the end of his life Paul said, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:6,7). Now, Paul was not in a monastery, away from the world, saying that he was watching. No, he wholeheartedly engaged himself in the preaching of the gospel. He was a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the book of Philippians Paul said he desired to depart and be with Christ. "But," Paul says in Philippians 1:22, " if I am to go on living in the body" meaning if the will of God was that he live longer in this world, "this will mean fruitful labor for me." For Paul, and for us, watching does not mean some kind of inactivity. It means sober living and active doing of the will of God.
Why Should We Watch?
Why should we be watchful? Jesus says it is good for us. Look at Matthew 24:45-46: "It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions." It is good. When Jesus Christ, the Master, returns he would say, "Thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord." He will honor you and grant you greater responsibility.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you to avoid being caught up in the fog of worldliness! We must be watchful, especially as we go through middle age. If we are not careful, we will be ever wanting more this and that and the other. The deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of life, and anxieties of life can overtake us. When we see other people possessing more things, we can develop a spirit of unhappiness and complaining, resulting in a loss of our laughter, our glow, and our joy. I have seen this happen to people.
Be careful. Don't be blinded by the god of this world. He will entice you anyway he can, but you must be careful and remain ready for the return of Christ. Someone said that Robert Murray M'Cheyne asked his congregation once, "Do you think Jesus will come tonight?" One after the other each said, "I don't think so." Then M'Cheyne read Matthew 24:44 to them: "So you also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
Are You Watching?
Have you trusted in Jesus Christ? Let me assure you, he is coming again. If you have not trusted in him, the wrath of God is abiding upon you. Christ the Judge is coming soon, as we read in Matthew 24, and those who have not trusted in him will dread his appearing. But believers, those who are watchful and ready, will rejoice because their redemption is drawing nigh. The elect of God will endure to the end. They will persevere through tribulation and not be deceived. No hair of their heads shall perish, even though they may be martyred. The elect will be saved.
What will happen when Christ comes again? The dead in Christ shall rise first, and then those who are living will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound and we shall be united with Christ to be with him forever.
This is the blessed hope of the church! We need to keep that in mind. We need to be watchful, filled with the Spirit, and studying the Scripture. We need to be active and productive for Christ, doing the will of God. And when Jesus comes again, it will be good for us. May God help us to be watchful until we die or he comes again. Amen.
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Copyright © 1996, P. G. Mathew
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