Thursday 28 November 2019

Matthew 24  v.36/44
On this first Sunday of Advent, our gospel passage refers to the return of Jesus Christ. The return of Jesus is mentioned 380 times in the New Testament so it is an important subject.
There is a call to be prepared to receive him when he returns, and a warning for those who fail to prepare.
In the earlier part of the Chapter, Jesus is talking with His Apostles on the Mount of Olives and they asked Him, ‘what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age’?      
Jesus answered, ‘there would be wars and rumours of wars,                                       nations would fight nations,--- there would be famines, ----earthquakes,----Christians would be persecuted ----people would turn away from the faith. ----there would be false teaching,---evil--wickedness. 
Over the years since Jesus spoke these words, each generation has sought to apply them to their time, but I put it to you that no generation can claim more relevance to them than this generation
We have wars going on perpetually in Africa; there have been wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, with Iran promising to wipe Israel from the face of the earth---- famines of unprecedented scale.
Christians are being persecuted in Islamic countries, with Churches being burned down, and barbaric action taken against them.  
People turning away from the faith, vitriolic attacks from atheists in the press, evil and wickedness in all the violence we see, and  politicians are telling us the greatest threat in the world is climate change. In addition, to all such events we have false teaching in the Church to placate the politically correct establishment.      
The Church is remarkably quiet about anything which is likely to upset people’s tranquillity or make them feel guilty.  But we are thinking here about the climax of world history, a point where any national psychopathic leader could, by pressing a button, unleash nuclear destruction on an unimaginable scale. 
In Genesis we have the story of how God saw a world of theft, much unrest in the world, marriage abused, sexual perversion, much like we have now.   
No one appears shocked any more at any behaviour as we see gay marriage legalised and people wanting the Church to practise, with few having any strong objection. Indeed, there are those within the Church who actively support the concept.
The Bible states God was displeased and decided he would judge the world, destroy and start again.  But God knew one man, Noah, who had faith and believed and led a disciplined life and had moral integrity.
God told Noah to build a boat, and gave him instructions to guide him; Noah did as God told him, going out into the desert to do so. People thought he was mad building a boat in the middle of the desert, but Noah trusted God, If it was in today’s world it would become a tourist attraction.
Just as God did not totally destroy the world, so neither will he destroy our world.  The Bible tells us God will not let that happen, He will intervene, and Jesus will then return.  So, we may be nearer to the end than many think or, want to believe. 
 Jesus stated all these things will happen in ‘the last days’.  The Bible determines the last days to be the time before the return of Jesus Christ, which can mean any time, not to be known.
Turning to v36 :where today’s reading begins. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
We must remember Jesus had a human character and a divine one. In his human life he learned things as we do, but in his divine nature as fully God, he had infinite knowledge. Here he was speaking in his human nature.
Verses 37-39: states the world will be going on as normal. As it was in the day of Noah, people were eating and drinking, ---marrying and giving in marriage, ----the earth was corrupt and full of violence, ----people were totally taken up with themselves. They were totally ignoring the fact that God was about to judge the world.
Isn't that how it is today? Isn't that how it is with many Christians?     
The suddenness of the coming points to the necessity to be prepared. Just as in Noah’s day people refused to listen to warnings and went on enjoying themselves in frivolous activities. There is nothing wrong eating and drinking and enjoying oneself, but when that comes to take over a person and spiritual duties are affected or neglected, they become unacceptable.
Verses 40-41: tell us it is going to be a time of judgement.  We say in the Creed, ‘He will come to judge the living and the dead.’  Jesus and the Bible are so clear about God’s judgement. In this passage Jesus stated two people will be together, one will be taken to be with Him, the other will be left.  A person who has accepted Jesus, who died on the Cross as their Saviour, will be safe on Judgement day.  A person who has not, will be left behind. There will be no chance to make a decision then, we have to be ready beforehand and decide we want to accept Him now.  When the final day comes, every chance to be saved has gone for ever; the door is shut and the Lord arrives.
The Bible states, ‘now is the day of salvation.’ God has given everybody a chance to decide and choose. These are Jesus’ words, not mine.
So, there is an end with Jesus’ coming again; we don’t know when; it will be unexpected; and there will be a separation.
And Jesus is saying here, in effect, that if you are not watchful, you could be like a man whose house gets broken into while he is asleep.
As many of us know, a lack of watchfulness allowing break-ins can be disastrous in this life.  If you knew a thief was coming at 2-0a.m. you would be ready for him, but thieves do not make appointments.  When you hear of burglaries in your neighbourhood you take extra precautions, such as checking all locks and doors and making sure the alarm is in working order.
But a lack of watchfulness is infinitely more awful in regard to eternal life.  As you prepare in this life to be ready for a burglar by acquiring an alarm system and securing your property, so you must prepare to be ready for Christ's coming, “at an hour when you do not expect him.”.
The people failed to accept their perilous situation until it was too late, the flood came and swept them all away.
There are four facts to consider. The first fact is, very simply, that This world is not going on for ever. The Bible is clear – there was a beginning and there will be an end, when Christ comes again. There will be no more pain or tears or death. Think of all the best in this life. Heaven and this new age will be infinitely better. That is the great Christian hope.  By contrast non believers are hope-less.
There are those who insist that this life is all we have, and when it is over, we are just to end up in a wooden box.  What a contrast for millions of Christians who die, confident of Christ’s return and an eternal future with him.
The second fact is that no one knows when he will come again – not even the angels in heaven. Nor, says Jesus, does he know when. It is only the Father.
The third fact, and this is most important, is that Christ’s return will be totally unexpected. It will seem a great surprise. 
The simple question is this, do you believe Jesus Christ, when he says he is coming again?  Because he doesn't tell us the date, it could be any time. It could be very soon – on the other hand it may not be. But because it might be soon, we need to be ready.
The fourth fact is that Jesus’ Second Coming will not only result in surprise, it will also result in a fearful separation. This is why those of us who have accepted Christ died to save us, and so follow his commands and worship him, should make every effort to convince those we love to turn to him or we will indeed be lost for ever when we leave this world.
My God bless his Word to us

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