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Matt 24-25: Preparing for the King's Return Print E-mail
Matthew
Monday, 26 September 2005

There is no lack of interest in the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world.  Whether it be books (the Left Behind series), television programs (there was a recent series on end times events entitled Revelations), or movies, it seems that people in general are very interested in the Last Days.  They want to know what is going to happen and, even more, when it is going to happen.  And this is no new occurrence.  Ever since Christ came the first time, and even before, there has been an interest in how the history of the world will come to a close.

Yet, unfortunately, with all this interest in the last days comes very little interest in being prepared.  We focus more on the timing of the matter than we do being prepared for it.  Granted, some emphasize the importance of being prepared, but most seemingly consider it just interesting to talk about or worse, simply a subject for a good fiction movie.  Our interest in the End Times is superficial and it misses the point of the biblical text.  The interest is there, but the preparation is not.

Our text this morning deals with the subject of the last days and the second coming of Christ.  Unlike what is popular in our culture, Christ does not specify times.  Rather, he emphasizes the importance of being prepared for his Second Coming.  Preparation is what is important to Christ and it is what we want to focus upon this morning.  I see at least three reasons that Christ gives us for being prepared for his return.

Yet, before we look at these, let me say a quick word about interpreting our passage as a whole.  Basically, there are three ways to see the text.  First, Christ is simply talking about the fall of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 a.d. when Titus, a Roman governor, besieged the city and burned the temple.  Second, Christ is simply talking about his second coming and everything refers to that.  Third, and I think the correct interpretation, is to see in these chapters a mixture of the two.  In other words, Christ is dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem at points and in other places he is dealing with his return.  We will try to note where this is clear as we look at the text.

Thus, let us now try to answer the question: why should we be prepared for the return of Christ?

First, we must be prepared because the days will be difficult (24:1-28).

Chapter 24 begins with Jesus leaving the temple and telling the disciples that soon there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down (v.2), which is a clear prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.  The disciples then come to Christ with two questions:  Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age (v. 3)?  The final discourse is in response to these questions.

In 24:4-14, Jesus tells them how the coming age will be characterized.  He speaks of wars and rumors of war, of nation rising against nation, of famines and earthquakes.  Yet, in verse 8 he concludes: All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.  Jesus is pointing out that the coming age will be characterized by all of these birth pains.  It does not seem that he is referring just to one event, but rather, to the entire age between his first and second coming.  And if we look at the history of the Church, we see that Jesus was correct in his prophecy.  Nation has fought against nation and continues to do so.  Wars and rumors of wars have been rampant.  Earthquakes and famine have been seen throughout the world.  Thus, Jesus is not just talking about the end of the coming age, he is talking about the entirety of the age.  The whole time between his first and second coming has been and will continue to be characterized by such difficulties.

Not only this, but Christ also tells us that the coming age, the age we are currently living in, will be characterized by many false prophets and teachers trying to lead people astray.  He warns us about this in three different places.  Look at 24:4-5, 10-11, 23-25, with me again.  In all of these texts we see that the coming age will be characterized by false prophets and teachers trying to deceive people.  And again, even a brief look at the history of the world since the time of Christ reveals that this has been the case. 

It seems that in 24:15-21, Christ is referring specifically to the destruction of Jerusalem.  He is warning the disciples that even in their own generation they will experience terrible birth pains.  The abomination of desolation, which is in reference to the book of Daniel, is most likely a reference to the desecration of the temple in 70 a.d.  Christ warns that during the destruction, men will need to leave the city in haste and it will be difficult for pregnant women and those will infants.  All of this points to what took place in 70 a.d.  Thus, we see Christ referring here to a specific birth pain, namely the destruction of Jerusalem, as he teaches about the difficulties that will characterize the entire age.

Let me say at this point, because these things have taken place in seemingly every generation since the time of Christ, people have expected the return of Christ in every generation.  Now in some ways this has been good and right because it caused God’s people to be ever ready for the return of Christ.  Yet, at times, even as we continue to see in our own generation, this has produced end time fanatics who think that through these signs they can predict that the Lord is coming back.  We should avoid such a response to wars, and earthquakes, and headlines.

Rather, as Christ teaches us here, we should simply be prepared to face such difficult times.  Again, look what he says in 24:4, 6, 25.  Christ has told us of such events that we will not be caught of guard or deceived by the false prophets and teachers.  Rather, we should labor to see that the gospel is preached to all the nations (see 24:14).  We are called to hold fast to our faith in Christ and press forward with the work of the Kingdom in light of such difficult days.

Second, we must be prepared because we do not know when He will come (24:29-25:13).

Like the disciples, we want to know exactly when the Lord is going to return.  But we see from the Lord’s teaching here that that is not for us to know.  The emphasis is not on dates and times, but on being prepared.  Yet, so often we forget this and become enthralled with talk of when the Lord will return.

In 24:29 and following, it seems the Lord shifts the discussion to his return.  He has talked about the difficulties of the coming age and now he begins to talk about his return.  I want us to look closer at 24:32-35.  From the fig tree we learn the lesson that their leaves indicate that summer is near.  When we see all these things, referring to the difficulties and birth pains that we looked at before, taking place we know that the end is near.  In fact, examples of all these difficulties and birth pains actually took place in that generation, the destruction of Jerusalem being one of them.  Thus, since the coming age will be characterized by such signs, there should always be an expectation of the return of Christ in the age.  Every generation must be prepared for the return of the Lord because the signs continue to indicate that Christ is at the door.

Then Christ tells us plainly in verses 36-42 that we do not know the hour or the day.  Look at those verses with me.  Christ teaches us that even as it was in Noah’s day, so will it be when he returns.  People will be living life as normal.  They will be marrying, they will be raising families, they will be working, they will be preparing for retirement, they will be saving up for the big vacation, they will be trying to get ahead.  But the question that must be asked and that Jesus points us to in verse 42 is this: will they be prepared?  Will you be? 

The whole emphasis of the verses we have been looking is on our preparedness.  Christ offers a parable in 25:1-13 that continues this theme.  The parable reflects the culture’s approach to marriage.  The people would prepare for the bridegroom to come, whose coming could be quick or delayed.  Here we see that the bridegroom is coming, but some are prepared while others are not.  Some are wise while others are foolish.  Which category do you fall into this morning?  Are you those who have prepared for the coming of the bridegroom, or are you among those who are not prepared?  Jesus gives us the application in verse 13: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  Thus, Jesus teaches us in this passage that we must be prepared for his coming because we do not know when he will come.  

You may be saying at this point, ‘I see the emphasis on being prepared, but how exactly are we to be prepared for the coming of Christ?’  I am glad you asked for that question leads us to our last reason for being ready.

Third, we must be prepared because the King is coming to judge and only the faithful will be rewarded (24:29-25:46).

As we have seen, over and over again the emphasis is to be ready.  Jesus states this plainly several times (see 24:42, 44, 25:10, 13).  So then, the obvious question becomes: How can we be ready for the coming of the King?  What must we do to be prepared?

I believe that the answer that the text gives us this morning is that we are to be ready by remaining faithfully obedient to the King over the long haul.  Look at 24:45-45.  Here we see the emphasis on being a faithful servant to the master.  Yet, we see also that it is the wicked servant who will be punished.  Look at 24:48-51.

The parable of the talents also emphasizes the importance of being faithful to the master.  In 45:14-30, Christ tells the story of a master who leaves his servants in charge of a number of talents (or pretty large sums of money.)  The first two servants are faithful with what the master has given them and actually double his money.  But the third servant is foolish and decides to burry the sum.  It is upon this servant that the judgment falls.  Because he failed to be faithful in what the master had called him to do, the master casts him into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 30).

We also see the same emphasis on faithful obedience in the judgment of the sheep and goats in 25:31-46.  For most of us, this is a familiar teaching.  We see from verse 31 that the Son of Man will return to sit on his glorious throne and judge the nations.  At that time he will separate all people into one of two categories, namely either sheep or goats.  Then, we see that the King will pronounce blessings on the sheep: For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me (25:35-36).

Yet, before we conclude that we are saved simply by doing these things, look at how the righteous respond in 25:37-39.  They were not doing these things to try and earn their way to heaven.  They were not necessarily trying to do these things to gain favor with the King.  They were simply being who they were: righteous servants of the King, made so by the King and his sacrifice as we will see next week.  The sheep were simply faithful to serve the Kings brothers, which is seemingly not a reference just to the poor and needy, but rather a reference to the disciples of Christ.  Thus, our faithfulness to the King is evidenced by our care for those who are his.  As John tells us in 1 John 4:19-21.  Look at that passage with me.  Our love for our brother is evidence of our love for God.  Anyone who claims to love God and yet does not love their brothers and sisters in Christ is a liar according to John.  Thus, your faithfulness to the King will be evidenced by your faithfulness to love his Church, those who are his brothers and sisters.

Not only do we see blessings promised for the sheep, we also see the curse that will fall upon the goats.  Those who have rejected the brothers and sisters of Christ have given clear evidence that they do not belong to the King.  As we know, it is faith in Christ that saves us, but faith without works is dead.  Thus, those who do not care for the Kings people do not belong to the King.  They have never truly been given a new heart and forgiveness for their sins based upon the sacrifice of Christ.  Their lack of care makes that clear.

Thus, we see in this passage a clear call to be prepared for the return of Christ.  We know that the days will be difficult because the King has told us that they would.  Therefore, we should not fear, but persevere in our obedience to him.  We do not know when he will return.  Therefore, we must be prepared at all times for his return.  We know that only those who have repented of their sins and believed in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, evidenced by their love for the Church, will escape the coming judgment of the King.  Therefore, I ask you one simple question this morning: Are you prepared?  Have you repented of your sins and believed in the work of Christ?  Does your life evidence such belief by your care and love for the Church?  If it does, then are you prepared for the birth pains that will be felt in this generation?  Are you prepared to fight the good fight of faith for the long haul, no matter what comes?  In the end the question is simple and straightforward: Are you prepared for the return of the King?

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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