Sermon title:  CHRIST TOLD US TO “KEEP WATCH” AND TO “BE READY”

 

Matthew Matthew 24:29-44

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, October 27, 2019

 

 

 

We can tell that something in the Bible

is especially important

if it’s repeated over and over again.

 

God does that, because he doesn’t want us to miss it.

 

And in Matthew Chapters 24 and 25

our Lord Jesus tells us repeatedly

to watch for his coming

and to be ready for him to return.

 

How do we do that?

 

How do we watch for Christ’s Second Coming?

 

And how do we keep ourselves ready for Christ to return?

 

Well, we watch for his coming

by paying attention to Bible prophecy

and world events that fulfill Bible prophecy.

 

And we keep ourselves ready

by giving our lives to Christ,

trusting him for salvation,

and walking in his ways.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:23 says,

 

Now may the God of peace Himself

sanctify you completely—

that means make you holy—

and may your entire spirit, soul, and body

be kept blameless

at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

2 Peter 3:14 says,

... make every effort to be found

spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

 

So, when Christ returns,

we want him to find us

in the right condition—

justified,

which means that we are sinners saved by grace,

and sanctified,

which means that we have allowed the Holy Spirit

to lead us to live Christian lives.

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We’ve been looking at the sign of Christ’s coming—

the things Jesus said to watch for

to know that his coming is near.

 

And we are now up to Matthew 24:29,

where we find a part of the sign

that has puzzled Bible readers for centuries.

 

Beginning at Matthew 24:29, our Lord said,

 

29 "Immediately after the distress of those days"

'the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from the sky,

and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'

 

Now this is a difficult passage for many to understand,

and it’s been interpreted many different ways.

 

Commentators generally agree

that our Lord’s words here are figurative,

rather than literal.

 

The stars are much larger than the planet earth.

 

Most stars are so large,

that a million earths could fit inside one star.

 

So, the stars couldn’t literally “fall from the sky.

 

I believe that commentators from past centuries

had so much difficulty grappling with this passage

because it is speaking of events

that hadn’t yet happened when they lived,

and that they couldn’t imagine happening.

 

It will help if we remember what “distress”

our Lord was talking about,

when he said this would happen

Immediately after the distress” or “tribulation.”

 

It was the tribulation or distress upon the Jewish people

when Jerusalem was destroyed

and the Jews were carried off captive

into all the nations.

 

That distress lasted a long time.

 

The Jews were still scattered among the nations until 1948.

 

And they were still in distress,

because they were persecuted wherever they went.

 

According to the prophet Jeremiah at Jeremiah 29:18, God said,

 

“I will make them hated

by all the kingdoms of the earth.

 

People will curse them . . .”

 

And that’s where anti-Semitism comes from.

 

The Jews were not just scattered world-wide, but God said

at Jeremiah 29:18,

 

“I will make them hated

by all the kingdoms of the earth.

 

People will curse them . . .”

 

The Jews faced pogroms in Russia.

 

They were expelled from France.

 

British King Edward I drove out all the Jews from England.

 

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella

expelled all the Jews from Spain.

 

The “tribulation” or “distress”

of the scattered Jewish people

lasted for centuries

and reached a climax during the Holocaust,

when Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime

systematically killed 6 million Jews.

 

Their “distress” and “tribulation” didn’t end

until the restoration of the modern state of Israel

gave the Jews a homeland of their own, once again,

after being scattered worldwide for centuries.

 

Our Lord said, Matthew 24:29,

 

29 "Immediately after the distress of those days"

'the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light;

the stars will fall from the sky,

and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'

 

The parallel passage in Luke Chapter 21

confirms that this would happen

after the Jews had been restored to the Promised Land.

 

Beginning at Luke 21:24, Jesus said,

 

24 ... Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles,

until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

 

25 And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars;

 

and at the end of Verse 26,

For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

 

It places the “signs in sun and moon and stars

immediately after Gentile control over Jerusalem

comes to an end.

 

So, when the 1967 war took Jerusalem away from the Gentiles

and put Jerusalem back in Jewish hands,

was that event followed by

signs in sun and moon and stars”

with “the powers of the heavens ... shaken”?

 

Yes, because people began seeing things

in the sun and moon and stars

that they had never seen before

in all of human history.

 

In 1968, just months after the Jews took back Jerusalem

from the Gentiles,

and that centuries-long tribulation ended,

NASA's Apollo 8

made the first manned flight to the moon, and astronauts circled the moon 10 times.

 

The whole world watched, and

saw a sign in the heavens they had never seen before

as the 3-man crew of Apollo flew around the moon.

 

Within a few months of that,

the whole world was captivated again

by another never-before-seen sign in the heavens

as the men of Apollo 11 landed on the moon’s surface.

 

The world heard Neil Armstrong’s words

as he described

one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

 

It was as if the heavens had lost their power;

“the powers of the heavens” were “shaken.”

 

The stars and planets were no longer unreachable,

but had now fallen beneath human feet.

 

Manned space exploration

produced signs in the sun, moon and stars

that had never before been seen in human history.

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Beginning at Luke 21:25, Jesus also said there would be

 

“On the earth,

nations will be in anguish and perplexity

at the roaring and tossing of the sea.

26 People will faint from terror,

apprehensive of what is coming on the world,

 

Some interpret that to be ‘the sea of mankind’

with popular uprisings

disturbing people all over the earth.

 

Others understand it to mean the literal sea, the ocean.

 

I think it may refer today’s rising sea-levels

that cause coastal storms to be more destructive.

 

In recent decades we’ve seen tsunamis and coastal storms

devastating low-lying coastal cities and towns

with huge loss of life.

 

Destruction of property

from the “the roaring and tossing of the sea

has cost the insurance companies unprecedented losses

and has led the government

to completely revamp

the federal flood insurance program.

 

People are terrified and perplexed

as to what to do

to protect coastal cities from rising sea levels.

 

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The events Jesus told us to watch for

as part of the “sign” of his coming

are upsetting to unbelievers.

 

The world wars, famines, disease epidemics,

sea-level rise, tsunamis and coastal storms

have all led to

men fainting from fear and expectation

of that which is coming on the earth.

 

But these events should not be terrifying to us.

 

We shouldn’t be discouraged

as this world faces more and more problems.

 

Because, as Jesus said at Luke 21:28,

 

“When these things begin to take place,

stand up and lift up your heads,

because your redemption is drawing near.”

 

As we see this world descend

into more and more wickedness and unbelief,

we can ‘lift up our heads’

because we know that

the time of our deliverance is getting close.

 

Yes, as our Lord told us in Matthew Chapter 24,

we will soon be delivered

from all the troubles of this world.

 

Beginning at Matthew 24:30, he said,

 

30 "At that time the sign of the Son of Man

will appear in the sky,

and all the nations of the earth will mourn.

 

They will see the Son of Man coming

on the clouds of the sky,

with power and great glory.

 

31 And he will send his angels

with a loud trumpet call,

and they will gather his elect

from the four winds,

from one end of the heavens to the other.

 

This is the Rapture,

when Christ takes us all home

to live with him in heavenly glory.

 

We can be sure it will come true,

because Christ added at Matthew 24:35,

 

35 Heaven and earth will pass away,

but my words will never pass away.

 

The Apostle Paul described the same Rapture events

when he wrote at 1 Thessalonians 4:16,

 

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven

with a loud command,

with the voice of an archangel,

and with the trumpet of God,

and the dead in Christ

will be the first to rise.

 

17 After that, we who are alive and remain

will be caught up together with them in the clouds

to meet the Lord in the air.

 

And so we will always be with the Lord.

 

Everything points to Jesus returning very soon,

but we can’t predict exactly when.

 

Whenever anyone has attempted

to set a date for Christ’s return,

they have proved wrong.

 

Our Lord told us to “Keep watch!”

but he did not tell us to try to set a date.

 

We know that would be wrong,

because he went on to say at Matthew 24:36,

 

36 "No one knows about that day or hour,

not even the angels in heaven,

nor the Son, but only the Father.

 

When Christ was on earth,

apparently even he didn’t know the day or hour of his return.

I would assume that he knows now, of course,

but we won’t know until it happens.

 

And that’s the lesson

of the remainder of Matthew Chapter 24 and Chapter 25.

 

Here Jesus goes on

to give us illustrations and parables

teaching us to be ready at all times,

because we don’t know just when he will come.

 

Beginning in Matthew 24:37,

he compares it to the flood of Noah’s day.

 

Today’s culture views Noah’s ark

as part of a children’s story.

 

But references all through the Old and New Testaments

show that the flood of Noah’s day

was an actual historical event.

 

There was a world at that time

that had become unredeemable

because it was so filled with sin and violence.

And Christ tells us

that the end of our world

will be sudden

and will take people by surprise,

just as the flood of Noah’s day did

when it brought that wicked world to an end.

 

Beginning at Matthew 24:37, Jesus said,

 

37 As it was in the days of Noah,

so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

 

38 For in the days before the flood,

people were eating and drinking,

marrying and giving in marriage,

up to the day Noah entered the ark;

 

39 and they knew nothing about what would happen

until the flood came and took them all away.

 

That is how it will be

at the coming of the Son of Man.

 

Yes, the unbelievers of this world

will be totally wrapped up

in everyday life,

until Christ suddenly returns.

 

The will be taken by surprise

when the Lord whisks us all away to heaven

and leaves the unbelievers

to face destruction.

 

But we don’t have to go into an Ark,

like Noah and his family did,

because the place of safety

is Christ himself.

 

When we put our trust in Jesus for salvation

and commit to obey him as our Lord,

he puts his Holy Spirit in us,

and we are miraculously adopted as children of God.

 

From then on we are “in” Christ

as part of his body.

 

People who look at us can’t see that we are “in” Christ,

but God the Father sees us

in that spiritual place of safety, in his Son.

 

So, when Christ returns, we are found “in” him.

 

It is a place of safety, comparable to Noah’s Ark

that kept 8 people alive through that worldwide flood.

 

When Christ returns

he may find us standing right next to unbelievers,

but he will pick us out of the crowd

and take us to heaven.

 

Jesus went on to assure us of this at Matthew 24:40,

where he said,

 

40 Two men will be in the field;

one will be taken and the other left.

 

41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill;

one will be taken and the other left.

 

The Lord won’t have any problem

identifying who belongs to him, and who doesn’t.

 

In the parallel passage beginning at Luke 17:34, Jesus said,

 

34 I tell you, on that night

two people will be in one bed;

one will be taken and the other left.

 

35 Two women will be grinding grain together;

one will be taken and the other left."

 

37 "Where, Lord?" they asked.

 

He replied, "Where there is a dead body,

there the vultures will gather."

 

Revelation 19:17 elaborates on

the vultures eating the dead bodies of those left behind.

It says,

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun,

and he cried out in a loud voice

to all the birds flying overhead,

 

“Come, gather together for the great supper of God,

18 so that you may eat the flesh

of kings and commanders and mighty men,

of horses and riders,

of all men slave and free, small and great.”

 

But, first, Christ will pick us out

from among the unbelievers,

and will take us to heaven,

leaving behind those who face destruction.

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Are you ready for Christ’s return?

 

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

 

Are you walking close with him, from day to day?

 

If you don’t know Jesus,

you need to turn to him in prayer

and tell him that you accept his free gift

of salvation from your sins,

and tell him that you will follow him

and obey him as your Lord.

 

It’s very simple:  Trust and obey.

 

Trust Jesus to save you,

and obey him as your Lord and Master.

 

You can speak that prayer in your heart right now.

 

You can just say to him,

“Jesus, I trust you to save me,

and I’ll follow you as my Lord.”

 

You can put it as simply as, “I’m yours, Lord Jesus, save me.”

 

He will accept your simple prayer.

 

At John 6:37, Jesus promised,

“I will never turn away

anyone who comes to me.”

 

Don’t put it off.

 

Do it now.

 

Continuing at Matthew 24:42,

we see why we don’t dare put off

our decision for Christ.

Jesus said,

 

42 "Therefore keep watch,

because you do not know

on what day your Lord will come.

 

43 But understand this:

 

If the owner of the house

had known at what time of night

the thief was coming,

he would have kept watch

and would not have let his house be broken into.

 

44 So you also must be ready,

because the Son of Man will come

at an hour when you do not expect him.

 

You may think you have another week

to think this over.

 

But, “the Son of Man will come

at an hour when you do not expect him.”

 

It may be his Second Coming,

or it may be when he comes for you,

when an unexpected accident

suddenly claims your life.

 

Our Lord Jesus compared his Second Coming

to a thief breaking into a house at night

when the homeowner didn’t expect it.

 

The Apostle Peter heard him say this,

and what Peter later wrote in his Second Letter

shows that Peter never forgot it.

 

Years later, he wrote about the coming destruction of this world,

and the need for all of us to be ready.

 

At 2nd Peter 3, beginning with Verse 10, he wrote,

10 But the day of the Lord

will come like a thief.

 

The heavens will disappear with a roar;

the elements will be destroyed by fire,

and the earth and everything done in it

will be laid bare.

 

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way,  

what kind of people ought you to be?

 

You ought to live holy and godly lives

12 as you look forward to the day of God

and speed its coming.

 

That day will bring about

the destruction of the heavens by fire,

and the elements will melt in the heat.

 

13 But in keeping with his promise

we are looking forward

to a new heaven and a new earth,

where righteousness dwells.

 

14 So then, dear friends,

since you are looking forward to this,

make every effort to be found

spotless, blameless and at peace with him.