Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The End is Nigh - er


There is a lot of talk this week about the end of the world coming this Saturday, May 21.  There is other talk about the Mayan calender and how the world will end one year from then.  The first is a prediction by a man who predicted this same thing some years ago, but claimed he got the math wrong.  His views on salvation are also heretical and so I would not take his prediction with much credence, if any at all.  As for the Mayan calender, I would not hold much credence to that either.  The Mayan civilization no longer even exists, but I hear that their ruins are wonderful to visit.  If they were no in tune with the future, you would think they would have seen their own end coming.  So a civilization that could not see or stop their own end should be listened to to tell us when our end is?  I think not.  The problem with these ideas is that it muddles the fact that the end of the world is coming.  There is a judgement day, and that day will be more horrible than any of these other predictions can even imagine.  What's more, is that no one knows when this day will happen and it can begin at any time.  Here is what the Bible says.
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah [were], so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two [men] will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two [women will be] grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.  Matthew 24:36-41 NKJV
A few important lessons about the real Judgment Day can be found in these few verses.  The first lesson is that we have no idea when it will happen.  Jesus is clear that no one knows when.  Even the angels, who dwell in Heaven with God, have no idea.  All those people who gave us 88 reasons why He would return in 1988 to the people who say it will end next week or next year are liars from the start.  They deny the clear indication in Scripture that no one knows the day or the hour.  I know one person predicted the year, but that is just playing semantics.  Jesus did not mean literally that no man know the day or the hour, meaning one can know the week, month, or year.  Jesus meant that we just have no idea at all when it will happen, only that it will happen. 

The other lesson is related to the first.  If we have no idea when it will happen, it will happen as a surprise.  If we knew when it was coming, it would not be a surprise.  We would spend our time preparing and counting down the time.  Jesus says here that it will be just like in the days of Noah.  People will be going out their lives just like they always do.  People will be working, playing, marrying, divorcing, having children, planning for the future, going on vacations, watching sports, etc.  Jesus, by saying that two will be working or in the field and one will be taken, includes even Christians in being taken by surprise.  He indicates that, just like the rest of the world, Christians will be going about their lives when suddenly the end begins.  Just as in the days of Noah, the world will not know that judgement is coming until it is already here.  Furthermore, even Christians (should the rapture come before the Tribulation), will not know they are being raptured until they are present with the Lord.  There will be no warning.  There will be no lead up.  There will be no billboards, radio shows, flyers, RV's, Fox News Alerts, or anything else.  It will just happen suddenly, without warning, and without reprieve. 

This, of course, begs the question.  If the end of definitely coming, and we do not know when it will come, how will we ever prepare for it?  The Bible is clear, we are to always be prepared because it can come at any time.
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.  Matthew 24:42 NKJV
We are to always watch for the coming of our Lord.  If we do not have a time to expect him, we must expect him at any time.  Jesus shared a parable to illustrate that idea.
Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five [were] foolish. Those who [were] foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was [heard]: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us [some] of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise answered, saying, '[No], lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!' But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.' Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.   Matthew 25:1-13 NKJV
Before we begin, we need to understand what is being represented in the parable.  The ten virgins are the church as a whole.  It is not the body of Christ, per se, but just bodies that fill a church each Sunday or those who associate themselves as Christians.  The five wise virgins are those who truly have received Christ as Lord and Savior and the foolish virgins are the ones who are just pretending or deceived.  The Bridegroom is Jesus Christ.  And, finally, oil is representative of the Holy Spirit.  The general theme of the parable is being ready for the return of our Lord.

With that in mind, let us see what Jesus is telling us.  In just about any church with any bit of Bible teaching will teach that Jesus is going to return.  All who go to church (even those who only attend on Easter and Christmas as that is generally part of those messages) know that Jesus is going to come back.  Those who are truly saved are ready for the Lord in that they have the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our redemption to come.  It is the seal by which we know we are His.  Then there are the others.  These are the ones who come to church week after week maybe because it is where they went as a child, maybe they like the music or fellowship, or maybe they like the idea of Jesus, but for whatever reason they never truly made that commitment.  After a time of waiting and growing weary in waiting, the Lord will suddenly return.  Those with the Holy Spirit, that is the ones who truly have accepted Jesus as Lord, jump up to meet their Lord and are taken away to their wedding.  Those who did not have the Holy Spirit were left behind and nothing could make up for the decision for Jesus they never made.  They come to the sad realization that years of pretending may have satisfied themselves, their friends, and their families, but it does not satisfy their Lord.  They were left behind to face the day of wrath.  They can still be saved, but not being saved until after the rapture, they are left to endure through the Great Tribulation until the Lord ultimately brings them home. 

And that is the point I want to bring home today.  The Bible is clear that when the Lord returns, it will be a surprise.  We can not anticipate when it will happen, but we know that it will happen.  It can happen today or it can happen one hundred years from now, but it will happen.  The Lord will return.  God's wrath will be poured out on earth.  His wrath will not be a five month earthquake as being predicted for this Saturday or even a day of   unspeakable natural calamity as some believe will happen next year.  It will be seven years of Hell on Earth.  It will be relentless and only get worse and worse as time goes on.  No pandemic, no natural disaster, no nuclear disaster, no nothing we have ever dreamed or imagined can rival just how bad it will be.  Once it begins, God will not turn back His wrath, but let it run its course as explained in Revelation until the world stands before the Great White Throne and faces their final judgment. 

For those of us in Christ, this should not be a time that scares us. I am not saying to look forward to the horror to come, but to our redemption.  When Jesus returns, it is to take us home.  If that is not something you desire or something you look forward to, then you really need to check your heart.  Do you really have Jesus, do you even want him?  I mean, to say that you love Jesus but do not eagerly await his return does not make any sense.  That would like if my wife were on a trip and I tell you I miss her with all my heart but then tell you I am not eagerly awaiting her return, you would look at me funny.  The same is true for our Lord.  We need to be eagerly awaiting Him.  We need to be living like we are eagerly awaiting Him.  Taking that same example for my wife, if she were finally coming home and could walk in the door at any instant, I am not going to have the place a mess while sitting lazily on the couch and give her a little nod when she walks in. No, I will have the house cleaned up, welcome signs, probably standing on the porch and maybe even walking down to the street every so often to see if I can see her coming.  I also could not say I was ready or even desiring her to come home if I was surfing the internet for porn or had a mistress over.  In fact, if any of those were true, I would probably not want her to return at that moment.  The same is true for our Lord.  If we are living like we desire His return, we will be living for Him.  We will not be spending our time in sin.  We will not be spending our time living for ourselves.  We will not be spending our time doing anything we would be ashamed of if He came back.  Finally, and my last time using this illustration, if my wife was returning soon I would tell other people.  I would be so excited I would not be able but to make it part of my conversations with friends and families and it would probably even come out to complete strangers.  I would probably even post it on Facebook.  I would be so excited at her return that I would not be able to contain myself from sharing that information as often as I can.  We must do the same for Jesus.  We should be so excited that we can not help but to tell others that Jesus is coming back.  It should be part of our conversation with friends, family, and even strangers.  We should post it on our Facebook wall, Tweet it, text it, and email it.  Nothing should be able to contain our excitement for the return of the Lord.  All in all, if you want Jesus to return, start living like you really want it.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner [of persons] ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  2 Peter 3:10-12 NKJV
For those who do not know Jesus and for those who are just pretending to know Him, this should scare you.  The Day of Judgment is worse than any nightmare you would have ever had, worse than any horror movie that could ever be envisioned by man, harder than any war you could have ever been in, more unspeakable than any natural disaster you have ever lived through or heard about, and more vicious than any genocide or holocaust you have ever read about.  And unlike any of those, there will be no waking up, no end credits where you go home and go on with your life, no peace treaty to end hostilities, no receding floods or subsiding fires, and no strong army to come save you.  It is the culmination of every horror you have ever imagined and then some.  It truly is the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.  It is the day when any question as to God's acceptance of sin will come to an end.  It is a day you should dread with every fiber of your being.  And it is a day that can happen at any time.  Oh, and even if you do manage to live through the series of horrors you can only hope to stand before God in judgement.  That is unless you repent.  That is unless you come to Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior.  God has offered all of us a lifeline to escape the calamity to come.  It is a lifeline that is available to all who ask for it.  It is not something we have to earn through works or something that we have to hope for that God will choose us to send it to.  No, it is a free gift available to all through Jesus Christ who died for your sins.  And so, that horrible day of judgment is coming and can happen at any time.  No heretic, psychic, palm reader, scientist, pastor, priest, spirit, or angel can tell you when.  No man, weapon, bunker, great works, or army can protect you from it.  But God wants to save you from it.  All you need to do is believe and ask. 
For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."  Romans 10:13 NKJV

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