What Time is It?

Posted: March 19, 2013 in Matthew

Matthew 24:36-42, “What Time is It?”

When will be the moment that Jesus comes back?  This has been the question that has stumped people (sometimes well-meaning Christians) for centuries.  Whether talking about the rapture or the 2nd coming (which are different events, as we’ll see) all sorts of people have attempted to guess the hour of Jesus’ coming – and they have all been wrong.  Thinking they found a key to the prophecies, or a hidden code in the Scriptures, as a result people have sold their possessions, convinced others of their calculations, and sometimes literally waited upon hillsides to watch for Christ.  In 1833, William Miller began proclaiming Jesus’ “soon” return to come somewhere in the timeframe between March 21, 1843 & March 21, 1844.  The date soon changed to October 22, 1844, and estimates say around 100,000 had their hopes crushed as Jesus never appeared.  (Subsequent explanations of Jesus’ hidden appearing led to the birth of the 7th Day Adventists.)

More recently were the failed predictions of Harold Camping, who made world-wide headlines proclaiming the rapture would take place May 21, 2011, and then October 21, 2011.  (Camping has since recanted, stating his attempts to predict the rapture were sinful.)  Failed predictions of the rapture and/or 2nd coming litter the history books, and it’s not difficult to understand why.  Christians want to see the return of our Lord & King.  From the very beginnings of the historical church, the original apostles were asking Jesus about the timing of His coming kingdom (Acts 1:6) to the close of the NT itself with John’s wistful prayer, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20), born again Christians want to see the return of Christ.  So though it’s foolish, it’s perhaps understandable why so many people attempt to guess the date.

What we find Jesus telling the disciples here is that they shouldn’t guess.  On one hand, He told them to watch the signs of the times – but on the other hand He makes it clear that no one can know the exact moment.  No one would know the hour; the key was to always be ready.

Remember the context so far.  Jesus had proclaimed the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish system of worship in the temple.  The temple complex would be so devastated that not one stone would be left upon another (vs. 2).  For patriotic, God-fearing citizens of Judea (as were the original disciples of Jesus), this was unthinkable.  They couldn’t conceive of how they could see the restoration of the kingdom if everything was going to be destroyed.  As they ascended the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem, a few of them pulled Jesus aside to ask about what He had prophesied.  They wanted to know when these things would happen, and what would be the sign of Jesus’ coming & the end of the age. (vs. 3)

With this, Jesus launched into what has become known as the Olivet Discourse – His most detailed set of prophecies regarding the end-times.  First He told the disciples not to panic.  Many things & troubles would come & go, but it wasn’t yet going to be the end.  Things would start to get really bad on a world-wide scale, and even those things would just be the beginnings of the sorrows (or birth-pangs – vs. 8).  The Great Tribulation would begin, and the people of God alive on the earth at the time (primarily described as Jews) would face tremendous persecution and deception.  The worst deceiver of all would stand in a rebuilt Jewish temple demanding to be worshipped, and that was the sign to the Jews to get out of Jerusalem & flee for their lives.  There would not have been anything in the history of the world to equal the trouble of that day, and unless God had shortened the time (out of His love for His people), all of humanity would be destroyed.  It’s at that point that the Son of Man will come, visible to all the world in all of the glory of God, gathering His people to Himself.  With all of that in mind, Jesus tells the disciples to look for the appropriate signs.  Like a fig tree that is about to bear fruit, the time will show when these things are about to take place – and when it begins, it will take place quickly – even within a generation.

As Ch. 24 comes to a close, Jesus seems to almost contradict Himself.  On one hand, He tells His disciples to look and pay attention to the signs, but on the other He says that no one knows the day or the hour.  Is it a contradiction?  No.  It’s simply different perspectives.  It’s one thing to recognize a general season, it’s another to know an exact hour.  Christians need to pay attention to the seasons, because no one knows the hour.  And because no one knows, we need to always be ready.

Matthew 24:36–42
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

  1. The first question we need to ask here is: which day?  Jesus says “but of that day,” indicating something specific, so we need to look at His specific context and answer.  There are many people and Bible teachers who look at what Jesus says about the taking of one versus another, and when they place that with the teaching of no one knowing the hour, they come to the conclusion that Jesus is talking about the rapture.  And certainly when it comes to the rapture, no one does know the day or the hour.  The Bible makes it clear that the rapture is imminent – it could happen at literally any moment.  There is not a single prophecy that yet needs to be fulfilled prior to the rapture taking place (that moment that Jesus blows a trumpet & those who have faith in Christ who died through the centuries are raised in resurrection, and those who are alive & remain are caught up together with Jesus in the clouds).  It’s the timing of the rapture that so many people attempt to predict, most recently the event in 2011, and prior to that in 1988, etc.  But – IS Jesus referring to the rapture here?  Good Bible teachers disagree (including those who do indeed believe in a pre-tribulation rapture of the church) – I personally side with those who think that Jesus is not speaking of the rapture.  As always, Scripture needs to be our guide & ultimate authority.  Let’s look at the context.
    1. Leading up to verse 36, nothing Jesus has said has referenced the rapture at all.  He taught about the beginnings of the birth pangs – about the deception of the Great Tribulation – about the abomination of desolation, etc., but nothing about the rapture of the Church.  The people that He has described as having faith in Him have been Jewish (they lived in Judea, they had concerns of the Sabbath journey, they looked to a Temple, etc.).  Although Jesus has used the word “church” (ekklesia) to describe His people elsewhere in Matthew, the word is not used at all in Ch. 24.  Instead, He refers to those who have faith in Him as “the elect” & it is the elect who are gathered together by the angels at Jesus’ 2nd Coming.  The only option for the Church is that we had already been raptured out of the picture before any of this began to take place.
    2. Again, looking at the previous context, the last event mentioned (prior to the parable of the fig tree) was Jesus’ 2nd coming (parousia).  This was the event the disciples had originally asked about, and it was the last event that Jesus described in great detail.
    3. Looking ahead to the following context in vs. 37, Jesus mentions this same event in the same wording. “…so will the coming (παρουσία) of the Son of Man be.”  Contextually in the Scripture, Jesus’ statement about no one knowing the day or hour of “that day” is literally surrounded by references to the parousia.  The evidence seems heavily weighted against this being a reference to the rapture.
  2. So if this is not a reference to the rapture, but is instead a reference to Jesus’ 2nd Coming, how can Jesus say that no one knows the day or the hour?  After all, didn’t Jesus just give a whole list of various signs that were clue someone in as to the events of the Great Tribulation?  Jesus told them that the gospel would be proclaimed in all the world to all the nations, and then the end would come (vs. 14).  Jesus told them of the sign of the abomination of desolation as a specific event pointing to the time (vs. 15).  In addition, the prophecies in Daniel seem to give some very definite timeframes – there is a 7-year period referred to in Daniel 9:27, which seems to have some further details given in Daniel 12:11-12, showing a specific date halfway through the Tribulation when the abomination of desolation would take place.  Plus, Jesus just got done telling the Jews to be sure to actively look at these various signs and understand when the time was at hand (so close, even at the doors – vs. 33).  How does this square with no one knowing the day or the hour?  Again, this is the difference between a season and a schedule.  The season might be right for azaleas to bloom, but no one knows the exact schedule of when the flower will actually pop out.  Jesus wants His people to look at the seasons, and understand the times in which they live, but He also says that no one knows the exact “hour” of His return except God.  Those who are alive during those days ought to be actively watching for our Savior, knowing that His return is so very close that they could almost taste it.  They won’t know the exact minute & second, but they’ll know as the time draws near, counting the hours as they watch the skies.
    1. Question: why wouldn’t God want people to know the exact schedule?  After all, if people knew the exact moment of Jesus’ return, wouldn’t that be a heavy incentive to ensure one’s life was right with the Lord?  Perhaps – but it would also be a pretty heavy incentive to put things off as long as possible.  The old cliché states, “when the cat is away, the mice will play.”  It’s not uncommon for teenagers to get into all sorts of trouble when they know that Mom & Dad won’t be walking through the door for another few hours, nor is it uncommon for employees to goof off when they know the boss is going to be out all day.  Yet attitudes change the moment they realize that the boss could be back any second.  If they don’t know when to expect his/her return, things go quite differently!  Likewise with people’s attitude regarding their Maker.  The difference is quite readily seen in the ER or ICU at a hospital.  Someone might not give God a second thought until they get a dose of reality knowing that they could face Him at any moment.  God wants us to be ready at any moment.  We are to live with the immediacy of God before our eyes, knowing we could see Him at any time. 
    2. That’s not only true of the days before the 2nd Coming, but of the Church age as well.  Any one of us could be called to stand before our Maker and God at any time, be it by death or rapture.  Are we living every moment with that kind of awareness?  Or are we hiding something away, procrastinating thinking that we don’t need to lay everything before the Lord?  We need to be ready!  Jesus gives us many details about His coming & also about His rapture, but He doesn’t tell us everything…and for good reason.  We need to be ready at ANY time.
  3. Notice who knows the schedule & who does not.  People certainly do not know the day or the hour of Jesus’ coming.  Angels do not know.  Apparently (at least at the time), Jesus did not know either.  Other Greek manuscripts translate vs. 36 as “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (NASB)  Textual debates aside, the idea is absolutely true as even the gospel of Mark includes the phrase “nor the Son,” without any difference in manuscripts.  When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, not even He as the only begotten Son of God knew the precise day and hour of His return.  (Which certainly underscores the foolishness of any mere human attempting to guess the date on our own!)  This brings up a really profound theological question: If Jesus is the Son of God (which He is), and if the Son of God is not less than God but is truly God (which He is), and God is truly omniscient, knowing all things (which He does), then how is it possible that God the Father knew something that God the Son did not?  We would think that there would not be a single thing that Jesus did not know, yet He explicitly said to His disciples that (at least for that day & time) He Himself did not know the hour of His own return.  There have been several suggestions.  Some blatantly suggest that Jesus was ignorant – that He erroneously taught that His return would be in the next few years & He was wrong with that, so He was just admitting His own lack of ability to know the exact date. (Of course, this is factually incorrect and downright heretical.)  Others suggest that since Jesus had a dual nature (God + Human), that this is one area in which Jesus acted in His humanity & not in His Deity.  Jesus often restrained His divine power on other days, so perhaps He did so again here.  This is certainly possible, though we know that Jesus did not hesitate to exercise His omniscience at other times (when He knew what was in the hearts of the Pharisees, etc.).  Another possibility is that Jesus simply chose not to know.  After all the Son of God is fully God, but He is also fully submitted to God the Father.  As Paul wrote to the Philippians, Jesus “did not consider it robbery to be made equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…” (Phil 2:6-7).  Jesus was completely humble before God, and the All-Powerful All-Knowing God the Son is still willing to be lovingly submitted before God the Father.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the head of Christ is God (1 Cor 11:3) – that is the relationship that they share.  As God the Son, did Jesus have the ability to know the hour of His coming?  Yes.  But it seemingly was the Father’s will that Jesus not know, so Jesus willingly obeyed.
    1. Ultimately, this is one question that remains a mystery to us.  The one thing we cannot say from this verse is that it somehow takes away from Jesus’ claim to being God of true God.  The Scripture is consistent in its testimony that Jesus is fully God.  This one verse simply introduces a bit more mystery into the relationship, but that is all.
  4. With this short statement, Jesus had introduced a profound truth.  This is not something He wants the disciples to miss, so He goes on to illustrate it.  Not just once, but a minimum of four times, including an OT example and at least three different parables that takes us from Ch 24 to Ch 25 (and possibly all of Ch 25 depending on how we see the transitions).  When God says something once, it’s always important.  When God says something twice, it’s extremely important.  When God says something over & over again, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of what He says – and that’s exactly what Jesus does here regarding the need for His people to watch and be ready for His return.

37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

  1. Before we look at what Jesus was actually getting at here, please note that Jesus believed the account of Noah.  For all the ridicule that is generated about the idea of Christians believing in a global flood, as per the Genesis account regarding Noah, Someone vastly more knowledgeable than any other man believed the account: Jesus.  Jesus treats Noah as a real historical figure that went through real historical events, and He teaches those events exactly as the Bible teaches those events.  This is not a guy simply passing along whatever religious myths that were originally taught to Him – this is God the Son Who had been present during the very time that Noah lived teaching the real history of what had been going on upon the earth at the time.  Christian: beyond all of the historical and archeological data (which is abundant!) that lends itself as evidence for a global flood that was experienced by Noah, you have a far greater reason to believe the Bible as it was written…Jesus taught it that way.
  2. Jesus refers to Noah as an analogy of the times.  There will be things about the final days of the Tribulation that will reflect the days of the earth just prior to the global flood.  The analogy is a good one, when we pause to think about it.  Jesus doesn’t reference some random event out of OT history; He refers to the last time that the wrath of God was (literally) poured out upon the earth.  People have a tendency of thinking of Noah & the flood as a children’s story because we can look at fun pictures with all of the animals – we concentrate on the part about the floating zoo.  Yet that’s not the main point.  The main point of the flood was judgment.  This was a specific event in the history of the world when every human being on the face of the plant (save 8) was killed as God sent a flood of judgment.  God had created mankind as good, but man had fallen…and fallen hard!  There are only a handful of times that the Scripture records God as ever being sorry, and His making of man upon the earth is one of those things (Gen 6:6).  God obviously knew what was going to happen with humanity long before He ever created us (after all, the plan of Jesus in salvation had already been put in place before the foundation of the world) – yet even so, God seemingly regretted having made man once the effects of the Fall had taken its full course.  Mankind was bent on sin, thinking always upon it (Gen 6:5), and this was during an era in which people lived for centuries before death.  Thus God did not allow this to go unchecked.  All sin must have an answer, and God sent an answer early in the history of the world in the form of a flood.  That was the moment God poured out His wrath upon the world, while saving the remnant of people who had been loyal to Him in faith.
    1. If that aspect of the flood sounds familiar in regards to what Jesus has been teaching about the Great Tribulation, it should.  That is precisely His point here.  What Jesus described in Matt 24 has plainly been more than the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.  That event was huge to the people of Jerusalem & the entire nation of Israel, but in world events it was rather tiny.  Other cities had been destroyed in the past, and many more would be destroyed in the future – it was just the way things went.  If Jesus wanted to refer only to Jerusalem in all of His description of the trials of the people, He wouldn’t use language that describes God having to limit His wrath before all of humanity being destroyed, nor would Jesus use the first illustration of this as the global flood.  Jesus has had a world-wide focus the entire time He’s taught about the Tribulation, and in essence the flood of Noah is the only example in history that even approximates the coming time.  It’s the only other time in history that God poured out His wrath upon the world.  The first time was with a flood; the second time will be in plagues & fire.
    2. And yet there is still good news here: God’s people will be saved!  God is not capricious in His judgment, destroying both the righteous and the unjust.  God is merciful in His judgment – on several levels.  (1) God knows & loves His own people today, saving all those who believe in Jesus Christ from even experiencing the days of the Great Tribulation.  That’s the entire point of the rapture as He delivers us from the wrath to come.  (2) God knows & loves the people that will come to faith in Christ during the days of the Great Tribulation, and just as God delivered Noah in the midst of a flood, God will deliver His people in the midst of the awful day of His wrath.  (3) The only reason He saves ANY of us is an act of His mercy & grace!  He saves the righteous, but obviously we’re not righteous.  We’re sinners, just like everyone else – what happened that we might be saved?  Jesus.  When Jesus died upon the cross for us, He took the wrath of God in our place as our substitute.  Understand that in the cross was the fullness of God’s wrath.  Think of it as 7 years of global tribulation and an eternity in Hell all compressed into a single day…that is the equivalent of the Son of God dying for our sins the way He did.  Jesus went through it all so that you nor I would have to.  And because He did, now we can be seen as righteous in the sight of God.  Now we can be sure that God will save us as His righteous people because He will not pour out His judgment upon the righteous.
  3. So what did the days of Noah look like?  See vs. 38…

38 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, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

  1. There is a sense that Jesus describes something that took place incredibly fast (and it did), but we also need to remember that this took place over a long period of time.  We’re not told the exact amount of time, though it seems that it would have taken less than 100 years.  The first mention of Noah in the Bible depicts him as 500 years old (Gen 5:32), and the Bible explicitly tells us Noah was 600 years old during the time of the flood (Gen 6:11).  Considering the size of the project, the lack of workers (most likely just himself & his family), and the time it took for all the animals to gather in, there’s no doubt this would have taken several decades.  So what happened during all of this time?  Did Noah just build a gigantic boat in his backyard & stay tight-lipped the whole time?  Did his neighbors never wonder what was happening?  Of course not.  Noah was vocal about the coming flood, telling people what was coming.  Peter calls him a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5).  We’re not told what he said or when he said it, but apparently Noah was faithful to pass on the warning of God just as he himself had been warned.  And yet he was ignored the whole time.  Can you imagine it?  Here is Noah, living differently from everyone else, worshipping the one True God whereas no one else cares & does whatever it right in his/her own eyes.  He would have already been looked upon as pretty weird.  Then he starts building a boat (likely nowhere close to a coastline) & starts preaching about the end of the world. No doubt people would have believed him to be crazy!  As the boat neared completion it may have sparked a few thoughts in people’s minds, but hey – they had seen it for years & nothing that happened.  Weird, foreign animals started coming in (peacefully!) from all over the world…that would have likely grabbed some attention, but still no one listened to Noah.  He was just that crazy Bible-thumping preacher.  Then Noah and his family boarded the ark with no way to shut the door and seal it tight…and then miraculously God Himself shut the door (Gen 7:16).  That’s the moment that the skies darken, and the ground breaks apart as torrents of water start pouring forth.  Noah didn’t seem so crazy then – but by that point it was too late.
  2. That’s what Jesus describes here.  The warnings were all in place & the time was at hand, but yet people just carried on in their lives as they had always carried on.  They did not repent from their sin – they didn’t have a revival – they didn’t have a period of mourning as fasting or any such thing.  People ate & drank as they always did – they went to parties – they got married & did all the things that they would have done if they never imagined having to face the wrath of God.  They had clearly been told of what was to come, and they would have seen the signs with their own eyes, but it did not change a thing.
  3. Likewise, that is the way it will be during the days of the Great Tribulation.  There will be sign after sign after sign, judgment upon judgment – and yet people will still not pay attention and repent.  It seems inconceivable that people will endure the things that they will endure during the Great Tribulation – all the while recognizing it as the hand of God – and still refuse to repent and place their faith in Christ, yet that is exactly what will happen.  God takes things to the point that He simply cannot be ignored.  Just in the opening years of the Tribulation (the birth-pangs), there will be worldwide war, economic turmoil, massive death of one-quarter of the population, and cosmic disturbances with people recognizing the day of the wrath of God (Rev. 6:16-17).  From there, it only gets worse.  In the Trumpet judgments, a third of the vegetation & ocean life are destroyed.  A third of the waters are poisoned as an asteroid or comet of some sort crashes into earth, and a third of the skies are darkened.  Demonic locusts are released to torment people, and a demonic army comes forth to kill a third of mankind (that is left).  And yet people still do not repent (Rev 9:20-21).  And even that’s not all.  With the bowl judgments, the plagues of Egypt seem to be repeated on a global scale as people are given sores/boils, all the water in the rivers & seas turn to blood, the sun becomes so hot that people are scorched, darkness covers the earth, rivers dry up, and a massive earthquake occurs seemingly leveling out mountains as great hailstones fall from the sky. (Rev 16)  You would think all of that would grab the attention of the world!  No doubt it does, but it doesn’t cause them to change.  They never repent & humble themselves before God.  In fact, they do the opposite and attempt to go to war against God.  Otherwise they carry on, business-as-usual.  When judgment does come, they mourn the riches and comforts of the city that God has taken away from them rather than their own sin.  Despite seeing the judgments of God with their own eyes, they are blinded to their need for forgiveness and mercy in Christ.  Like those of Noah’s day who saw it all for years, yet were surprised by the swiftness of God’s judgment, so will be the people during the days of the Great Tribulation.
    1. Perhaps this describes you today.  You’ve heard many times in the past about the judgment of God and the danger of your own sin, but you’ve refused to repent.  You’ve even seen from time to time how God has acted in your life, preserving you to this day.  You know that He’s been merciful to you, even saving your life – but you’ve chosen to turn away from Him, despite His clear call to you.  Today is the day you can stop running, and choose to listen to the call.  Don’t be like those who heard Jesus & turned away from Him, knowing what they were doing – only to be caught unaware when it was too late.  Respond to Him while you hear His voice – seize the moment to put your faith in Christ today!

40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

  1. It would be easy to read this verse as referring to the rapture, but again we need to remember that the context has been the Great Tribulation.  Jesus has specifically been referring to His parousia, which was mentioned by name again in vs. 39.  The whole description of Noah was Jesus describing judgment coming to those who were unaware, thus we need to keep that in mind when we read of someone being “taken” & someone being “left.”  If this were referring to Noah, the person who was taken was taken in judgment by the flood.  Noah & his family alone were left alive on the ark.  Likewise here with the Great Tribulation.  Jesus knows the difference between those who have faith in Him & those who do not, and those who don’t will be taken in judgment.  Unlike a flood which sweeps everyone standing away, the wrath of God will come specifically to those who are unrepentant and without faith.  Just as sent the plagues to ancient Egypt while sparing the Hebrews, so will He send the judgments to the earth while sparing His people. 
  2. Even if someone interprets this verse as Jesus gathering His people to Himself (per vs. 31, the angels gathering His elect), contextually this still has to be the 2nd Coming & not the rapture.  The timing simply doesn’t leave much room for any other option.  (That’s not to say there isn’t disagreement here…many Bible-believing Christians & other Bible teachers come to other conclusions.  The important thing is that we look to the Scripture & let the Scripture guide our interpretation.)
    1. Question: what about those who would claim that this proof is definitive proof of a post-tribulation rapture?  There are a few responses.  (1) There are too many other Scriptures that speak of a pre-tribulation rapture that could come at any moment (such as the latter half of 1 Thessalonians).  (2)  The context simply doesn’t fit.  This one mention in Mt 24 would need to be taken away from the context of the parousia & made to fit the rapture in order for that to happen.  Nowhere has the church been mentioned – the entire focus has been upon believing Israel.  (3) What would be the point of the rapture?  The entire point of the rapture is to remove the church prior to the outpouring of God’s wrath.  If the church endures those days only to be caught up at the end & immediately return with Christ for the battle of Armageddon, what would be the reason to be caught up at all? … No, the more natural reading of the text is that Jesus is describing how during His 2nd coming He separates those who have faith from those who do not.  God saves His own in great & abundant mercy.
  3. BTW – why do most Bibles have “men” & “women” in italics?  Those words are not directly in the Greek, but are assumed by the text.  It’s safe to insert the words in translation because the gender of the “one” (for one taken, one left) is masculine and feminine, respectively.  This isn’t a comment on their activity, but rather a simply statement of distinction.  One is taken & the other is left – that’s really all Jesus is saying here.  In Luke’s version of this teaching, he quotes Jesus as saying there will be two people in one bed (Lk 13:34).  The KJV & NKJV also insert “men” here, but it is not necessary to do so (and Jesus is not making a statement on homosexuality).  The reason is the difference in wording.  Matthew quotes Jesus using the masculine “one” in both the man who is taken & the man who is left.  Luke quotes only the masculine “one” in the person who is taken, but not the person who remains.  Masculine words in Greek could be used for all-men, or a mix of men & women, but not for all-women.  Thus Luke records Jesus accurately, and the better translation would be “two people in one bed,” rather than “two men in one bed.”
  4. In all of the debate, don’t miss the point: not everyone is saved.  Two people could be standing side by side & only one is saved.  Two people could be engaging in exactly the same activity, and only one is saved.  Standing next to a Christian won’t spare someone from the wrath of God.  Salvation does not come from proximity – it’s not absorbed by osmosis – it only comes by grace through faith in Christ.  God knows those who have faith in Him, and God will save only those who have faith in Him.  No one knows the day that they will stand before God, so the key isn’t to hang around Christians, it’s to BE a Christian.

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

  1. Jesus underscores the point here (and He’ll do two additional times between Ch 24-25).  If we don’t know the hour, then we need to be ready at all times.  Notice the emphasis at this point isn’t on the non-believer, but the believer. “You do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”  If the non-believer needs to observe the signs of the times to repent and place his/her faith in Christ, why does the believer need to watch the times?  Actually, Jesus has repeatedly told the believers to watch.  That was the whole point of the parable of the fig tree (vss. 32-33).  As the days of the Great Tribulation approach and get underway, Jesus wants His people to properly observe the time and prepare to see Jesus face to face.  Why?  Why would believers need to be ready?  Wouldn’t someone who has faith in Christ always be ready to see Him?  Not necessarily.  People can have faith in Christ and still walk in faithlessness.  We all have times in our lives in which we start getting our eyes upon the things of the world, perhaps jealous of some of the things that other people get that we don’t.  All Christians have been made righteous in the sight of God, but the reality is that we don’t always walk in that righteousness.  Everyone has occasions that we slip into sin – perhaps even seasons of sin.  I know of several times in my life in which I would have been terribly embarrassed to have been called to see Jesus at that moment.  That’s not the way any Christian should live (despite the dispensation in which we live).  We ought to live at every moment ready to see our Lord face-to-face.  We want to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  If we live without the expectation of seeing Jesus at any time, then we likely won’t be ready to see Jesus at any time.
  2. There is another reason to always be ready: it helps believers live in hope.  We cannot overstate the difficulty there will be living in the days of the Great Tribulation.  It will be bad for people all over the world, but believers in Christ will have the added trials of discrimination and persecution.  There will be Christians who likely go hungry as they are unable to purchase food (which would only be available to those who take the mark of Antichrist).  The Bible is explicit that multitudes of Christians will be martyred – too many to be counted by John.  Those days will be hard, but not hopeless.  For those who live in those days, they have the grand hope of seeing their Lord come upon the clouds and bring an end to the Tribulation.  Jesus doesn’t want them giving into despair, but rather living with the grand hope and expectation of seeing their coming King at any moment!

Although we do not live in the days of the Great Tribulation, the application is really no different with us.  We do not wait for the 2nd Coming, but we do wait for the rapture, and we likewise do not know the hour it will take place.  It could happen at any moment, perhaps even we finish worship this morning. (And how could would THAT be?!)  Are you ready to see Jesus?  Do you live with the hope of seeing Him face-to-face?  We do not have to lose heart as we look around at the decay of our culture.  Certainly we might wish things were different, and we ought to always stand for righteousness in the face of a culture that departs from God (just as Noah preached righteousness), but we need not fear or get depressed because of it.  The moment is at the door – the time is at hand that Jesus will call us to Himself.  We are to be ready!

Jesus starts with the declaration that no one knows the hour of His return – not even He knew.  He acknowledges that most of the world will not care about His return until the moment it is too late.  He tells us that only those who have faith in Him will be saved at the moment of His return because God always knows His own.  And He exhorts Christians to watch for His return, being always ready.  People can know the seasons, but no one can know the hour.  Thus every moment is a moment that a person needs to be ready to see the Lord.

The obvious question is simply this: are you ready?  Virtually everything Jesus taught about the imminency of His 2nd Coming at the end of the Great Tribulation is also true of the rapture today.  It is no exaggeration to say that it could happen at literally any moment.  All Christians everywhere need to be ready to see our Lord and Savior.  If there is some sin that we’ve let fester in our lives, the time to give it up & repent is now.  That’s not something we want to have as we see Jesus.  If there is some way we’ve been procrastinating away from service or from sharing our faith, the time is now.  We don’t want to see our Lord Jesus knowing that we’ve left important responsibilities undone.  Be ready to see Jesus, because there is no doubt that you will indeed see Him.

Beyond the imminency of the rapture is the reality of death.  No one is guaranteed another sunset, much less another heartbeat.  Anyone who has spent any time in hospitals knows that life can come and go in an instant.  If you are not living every day with the understanding that you could be called to see your Maker, then you’re not really living in reality.  The Bible tells us that it is appointed to every person once to die, then we face the judgment (Heb 9:27).  Don’t put off what cannot afford to be put off.  Make sure that your relationship with the Lord is absolutely settled.

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