November 9, 2008

Be Prepared to Meet the Son of Man - Nov 9, 2008

When a group of people sits down to plays a game of cards, sometimes one of them has never played before. Usually someone tries to explain the game to the person who has never played. After a minute of attempting to explain the object of the game, all the rules, various strategies, exceptions, etc. someone else will suggest, “Hey, let’s just play the game, and you can learn as we go.”

This could also be translate, “Hey, let’s watch you lose the first three or four games horribly. By then you’ll get the idea.”

Diving into a game of cards may well be the best way to learn how to play, but it’s not a real good strategy for winning. If you want to win, you need to prepare.

If you and I want to win on Judgment Day we’d better not dive in unprepared. We’d better be ready. The part of the Bible that we’re considering today shouts this message to us.

“Be Prepared to Meet the Son of Man”
1. Because preparations will cease when He appears.
2. Because there will be no warning before He arrives.

SERMON READING Matthew 24:29-36 (NKJV)

29“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! 34Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who is the Son of Man.

It was the week before Jesus was crucified. He and His disciples were walking toward the place where they were staying outside of Jerusalem. On the way, one of the disciples pointed out how massive and beautiful the stones of the Temple were. Abruptly, Jesus turned and told the disciples that in days to come all these great stones would be toppled. Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Later on, the disciples asked Jesus to tell them exactly when Jerusalem would be destroyed. They also asked if there might be some signs that would indicate when Jesus would return and when the end of the world was near.

It appears that the disciples thought all these things would come together. Jerusalem would be destroyed, Jesus would return and the world would come to an end – all at once. Of course this wasn’t the case. Jerusalem would be destroyed in just a few decades, in 70 AD. But Jesus’ return and the end of the world would not happen until a much later date.

When Jesus responded to their questions, He made it clear to the disciples that His return to earth would NOT be in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem. He said to them,

“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:26-27 NKJV).

Like lighting which cannot be hidden, but is seen from the east and the west, when Jesus returns to Judge the world everyone will know it. As it says in the book of Revelation:

“7Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him…” (Revelation 1:7 NKJV).

With the opening words of our sermon text Jesus begins to describe the Last Day when He will appear in glory. Then, the wheels will fall off the wagon of this world. The sin-tainted creation that we are familiar with will unravel, and come to its end.

Jesus says that the sun will wink out in the sky. Poof. Like God blowing out a candle it will be done shining its light on the earth. Without light from the sun to reflect, the moon will also go dark. Jesus says that the very stars of the sky will fall as the powers of the heavens are shaken.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah foresaw this strange and dreadful image. He wrote:

“All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved
and the sky rolled up like a scroll;
all the starry host will fall
like withered leaves from the vine,
like shriveled figs from the fig tree” (Isaiah 34:4 NIV).

And amid all these signs Jesus will appear in the sky.

When Saul saw the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus he said that Jesus was brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13). When the disciples saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration they said his clothes were as white as light (Matthew 17:2). When John was given the visions recorded in the book of Revelation he described Jesus’ eyes as burning like fire. John collapsed to the ground at the sight of Him. It was too much for him to take in (Revelation 1:14-16).

When Jesus returns, His appearance will speak volumes that all will understand. He does not return to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, but to separate the faithless from His chosen people. He will not return to offer forgiveness, but to judge sinful men and women and gather in those who have trust in Him. The wicked will be consigned to hell. Those who by faith in His blood have been washed clean of their sins will enter God’s presence forever.

This will not be a good time for getting ready to meet Jesus. If we are not ready when the Son of Man appears, we never will be. All preparations will cease when He appears.

So then, let us prepare to meet Him NOW, while preparations can still be made. How do we do this? How do we prepare to meet Jesus on the Last Day? We are prepared to meet Jesus on the Last Day by getting to know Him now, through the Bible. When we listen to the Word of God it tells us that our sins have been forgiven because Jesus suffered and died in our place. We prepare to meet the Son of Man by confessing our sins to God and receiving His gentle but powerful comfort. “You are forgiven by the cross of my Son”, He assures us.

Jesus once told His disciples:

“…the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”” (Luke 9:56 NKJV).

By working simple faith in Jesus, in our hearts, God has fully prepared to meet Him when He returns.

In the verses before our reading Jesus described some of the signs that would indicate that Jerusalem was about to destroyed. These signs would enable anyone who recognized them to escape from Jerusalem before it was too late.

Jesus then went on to talk about some of the other things that would happen while His visible presence was gone from the earth. These events would be signs that His return was coming, but only in a general way. In other words, these signs, though they would precede the Last Day, could not be used to pinpoint when Jesus would return.

When we examine all the things that Jesus said would happen before His return to Judge the world, we find that they are completed.

The Holy Spirit came to the apostles on Pentecost and enabled them to preach the Good News of forgiveness with boldness. As predicted Jerusalem was destroyed. The apostles were martyred for preaching Christ’s message of free forgiveness. Many Christians fell away from faith. Many false prophets appeared. The Antichrist was revealed. The love of many grew cold. The Gospel was preached throughout the world. All these things predicted to precede the End are done. Nothing is left to be fulfilled before the return of the Son of Man.

This is the second reason why it is so important that we are prepared to meet the Son of Man. There will be no warning before He arrives.

In verses 32-36 Jesus talks about how the sprouting fig tree is a sign that summer is near. Then He tells His disciples:

“33So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! 34Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matthew 24:33-34 NKJV).

Since Jesus was just talking about the end of the world, when you read these two verses for the first time it seems like Jesus is saying that the Judgment Day would come within the lifetime of the disciples! But it didn’t. And that was never what Jesus meant.

Most likely that Jesus is again talking about the signs which would precede the destruction of Jerusalem. Those signs would appear before the generation of the apostles had died out.

Others believe that Jesus is using the word “generation” not to indicate a group of people with similar birthdates, but a group of people with similar characteristics. The “generation of the wicked” or the “generation of the righteous”. If this is what Jesus meant, then He was emphasizing that there will be no Christian Utopia here on earth before the end of the world comes. Nor will the Christians become extinct before the Son of Man returns. From other parts of Scripture we know that there will be both unbelievers and believers on earth when Jesus returns.

Either way, all signs predicted to precede the return of the Son of Man have been completed. No signs remain with which a person could predict the day and hour on which the Son of Man will return. Only the Father knows that day and hour.

We are Christians who live in these Last Times. We are thankful for this reminder that only the Father knows. For it reminds us to pay no attention to the fortune teller who predicts when the Last Day will be. We will busy our souls not with futile predictions, but with preparations to meet our Savior rightly.

Part of remaining prepared to meet Christ is being on the lookout for sins in our lives which are growing. Sins which seek to drive a wedge between us and Jesus.

Toward the end of Jesus’ conversation about the end times, He spoke the following warning to His followers:

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36 NKJV).

When we see our sin growing stronger in our lives, we must flee to Christ Jesus and seek His forgiveness and love. We must drag those sins that weigh us down to His cross and give them to Him in sincere confession. He promises to forgive what we confess to Him. He fully removes our guilt by His cross.

For me, all this talk about being prepared to meet Christ reminds me that if it feels wrong, I shouldn’t do it. I don’t want to bring sins into my life and tend them like houseplants. I want to feed the faith instead. I want to come back to Jesus daily, feeding on Christ. Meeting with the unseen Son of Man. Praying, confessing, reading. Talking with my friends in Christ. Growing in Christ so that when I meet with Him it will be the joyful reunion of old friends.

In the third chapter of John’s Gospel it is written:

“14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:14-17 NKJV).

Be prepared to meet the Son of Man. Continue to believe that He is your great God and Savior. Then you will be properly prepared to not only MEET Him on the last day, but to GREET Him with words of love, praise and thanks. And by faith in Him, you will also be prepared for meeting anything that this world might send your way before the Son of Man returns. Amen.

The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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