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encouragement theology

Be Ready!

Thoughts from Matthew 24…

We are now past the midpoint of 2021, yet it is still good to reflect on the previous year. How many of us, in 2019, would have believed anyone who predicted what actually happened in 2020? We experienced a virus that shut down the world. Our country saw severe political and social unrest. Many of us went through job and workplace changes. None of us were prepared for 2020!

But it is hard to prepare for the unexpected. No one could have predicted these recent events, nor do we completely know what is going to happen over the next couple years. 

But if we can’t anticipate the unknown, how well do we do at preparing for events that we do know will happen? Are we ready for the future?

Jesus was talking with His disciples about their great temple when He gave them a disturbing promise: it would all be totally destroyed! But He had much more to tell them when they asked about the future. How would they know when He returned? What should they look for?

These same warnings and promises from Jesus Christ are as meaningful for us today as they were for His disciples two thousand years ago. There will be unrest and confusion. Believers will face persecutions and mistrust across the world, but don’t be led astray. Trust in the Holy Spirit (see here). There will be a time of trouble, greater than has ever happened before, but do not fear — God is still in control and He will return in power (see here). He will come and destroy those who oppose Him, and take away His own forever!

But Jesus had a specific point for teaching us about these events. He concluded by repeating the message four times — be ready! You don’t know when He is returning, but be ready! Be ready! Be ready!

Be Ready for Him!

Matthew 24:36-44
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Mark 13:32-37
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Luke 21:34-36
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

We don’t know when Jesus Christ will return.a It might happen today. It may not happen within our lifetime. But one thing we do know for sure — Jesus is coming back, and we will all answer to Him. Are you ready?

“Since no one knows the day or the hour, the believer is to watch and be prepared at any moment for His coming.” – Toussaint1

The Lord gives the example of those who lived in Noah’s time. They were so caught up in the actions of daily living that they failed to notice God’s coming judgement.b 

The second example shows the severity of God’s judgment. Two people will be living life together when one will be swept away.c There will be no time to repent or make it right — it will be immediate!

How do we prepare for Jesus Christ to return? He gives two examples to show us how to be ready for Him.

Be Faithful!

Matthew 24:45-51
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The first example contrasts the wise and wicked servant. The wise servant has already shown his faithfulness to his master and is occupied with caring for His household when He returns. But the wicked servant has ignored his master, abusing his fellows and living for the pleasures of life. This is the same warning that Jesus gave early in His ministry, when He taught, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, see here). We can say the words, pretend that we are a servant of Jesus Christ, but unless we truly believe Him and obey Him, we are not prepared for His return. Like the wicked servant, we will be separated from Him forever!

Be Prepared!

Matthew 25:1-13
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose 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, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The second example contrasts the wise and foolish bridesmaids.d The marriage customs in that day involved the bridegroom coming to fetch the bride, and then, accompanied by a great procession of friends and neighbors, they would proceed to their new home for a great marriage celebration (see also information about marriage customs here). This procession included young women carrying bright lanterns to light the way.9 In the Lord’s illustration, ten young women were waiting through the night for the bridegroom. But five of the women didn’t bring oil for their lamps, and so missed the procession and were excluded from the marriage feast. They knew the bridegroom was coming, but they weren’t prepared. There was no time to go and buy oil when the bridegroom arrived, nor could they share oil from others. Likewise, the Lord’s point is that you cannot share the faith of others, nor will there be time to get ready when He returns. Unless you believe in Him now, you risk being left outside, hearing Him say, “‘I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23, Matthew 25:12).

“But they had failed in that which could alone give them a claim to admission. Professing to be bridesmaids, they had not been in the bridal procession.” – Edersheim9

Conclusion

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ, then you are running out of time to turn to Him. Don’t be caught without Him!

For those who know Jesus Christ personally, God’s message through Paul is relevant here. Paul taught the Thessalonian Christians about the Lord’s return in the above passage. We may think we are living in peace and safety, but we don’t know what tomorrow will hold. 

But there are instructions and encouragement for God’s children:

  • Keep awake and be sober! Be alert and prepared, always looking forward to His return!
  • Put on the armor of salvation. Jesus Christ has saved us and He will protect us!
  • God will save us from His wrath and destruction on the world!
  • Encourage one another and build each other up!

Previous post: The Coming Trouble


References

[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 24:32-25:13, pages 278-285

[2] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 24, The King Reveals the Future, Part 1

[3] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 25, The King Reveals the Future, Part 2

[4] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 70, The Budding Fig Tree, Luke 21:25-38

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 24:32-51, pages 73-74

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Mark 13:28-37, pages 127-128

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 21:29-38, pages 211-212

[8] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book V, CHAPTER VI: THE EVENING OF THE THIRD DAY IN PASSION-WEEK, ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES: DISCOURSES TO THE DISCIPLES CONCERNING THE LAST THINGS (St. Matt. 24; St. Mark 13; St. Luke 21: 5-38; 12: 35-48.), https://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.x.vi.html

[9] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book V, CHAPTER VII: EVENING OF THE THIRD DAY IN PASSION-WEEK-ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES-LAST PARABLES: TO THE DISCIPLES CONCERNING THE LAST THINGS-THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS-THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS-SUPPLEMENTARY PARABLE OF THE MINAS AND THE KING’S RECKONING WITH HIS SERVANTS AND HIS REBELLIOUS CITIZENS (St. Matt. 25: 1-13; St. Matt. 25: 14-30; St. Luke 19: 11-28.), https://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.x.vii.html

[10] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 12, https://www.christianity.com/jesus/life-of-jesus/harmony-of-the-gospels/31-jesus-silences-his-enemies-and-the-olivet-discourse.html

[11] John MacArthur, Could Jesus Come Today?, Matthew 24:32-35, Jul 8, 1984

[12] John MacArthur, Ready or Not—Here I Come!, Part 1, Matthew 24:36-42, Jul 15, 1984

[13] John MacArthur, Ready or Not—Here I Come!, Part 2, Matthew 24:43-51, Jul 22, 1984

[14] John MacArthur, The Fate of the Unprepared, Matthew 25:1-13, Jul 29, 1984

[15] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, 2005, Matthew 24:32-51, pages 1173-1174

[16] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, 2005, Mark 13:28-37, pages 1247-1248

[17] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, 2005, Luke 21:29-36, page 1324

[18] D.A. Carson, Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Zondervan, 2010, Matthew 24:32-25:13


Notes

[a] Matthew 24:36 says, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Jesus had limited His knowledge on earth, as shown by excluding Himself in this knowledge. Only the Father knows. Some commentators may use this as a case for arguing that the members of the Trinity do not share everything (i.e. the Father knows, but not the Son), but this verse does not argue that the Son will never know — only that He did not know at that time.

[b] Matthew 24:37-39 covers the judgement on Noah’s contemporaries. Note that Jesus did not emphasize their wickedness here, only that they failed to be ready. God’s judgement was already set, and they failed to take warning!

[c] The events of Matthew 24:40-41, where one is taken and one is left, has been often interpreted in terms of the rapture — that Christ will take away the believer, leaving the unbeliever. But is not a description of the rapture, but rather the severity of God’s judgment.1 See more details about the rapture in the post here. The verb “taken” in Matthew 24:39–41 means “taken away in judgment.”5 Those who are not prepared for His return will be swept away — pulled from their daily activities!

[d] The term “virgin” can also be used for “maiden”, or “young woman”. It is not about their purity in the context of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), but rather their roles in the wedding procession. They are bridesmaids.3 14

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