CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING – CHURCH IS THE PEOPLE OF GOD
WE WILL CONTINUE TO DO CHURCH – WE WILL CONTINUE TO BE CHURCH
2020 VISION – WE NEED TO SEE THINGS CLEARLY – FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW
HOW AM I GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?
PART 3: BY BEING READY FOR HIS SECOND COMING
“I WISH WE’D ALL BEEN READY” (LARRY NORMAN)
AM I READY?
Over the last two sessions we have seen that the “wake-up call” of this time of crisis is to look at our lives and decide how we are going to be different from this time on. And we have declared:
- I’m ready for everlasting life – I am going to have an eternal perspective now
- I’m ready to make a difference by being the difference – by giving all I have to Jesus
But now there is something else…a “wake-up” call that has been echoing around the world-wide church since the outbreak of this Pandemic – many respected church leaders crying out the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24. After His disciples posed the following question to Jesus, He gave them the following answer –
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’
4 Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth-pains.
And then He warned them (and so us):
So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24: 44)
- Am I ready for His return – what we call His “Second Coming” and for the “End Times” that precedes this end-of-world event?
- Maybe what is happening now IS a “sign of the times”
- Maybe what is happening now IS the beginning of the “End Times”
And AM I READY for this???
ARE WE SEEING THE “BEGINNING OF BIRTH-PAINS”?
Many good and true Christians are proclaiming that we are seeing in this Pandemic, and the unprecedented effects that it is having on the whole world, the beginning of the End Times. What are they citing as evidence? Well, amongst other things:
- “wars and rumours of wars” (Matthew 24: 6) – unprecedented world-wide conflicts since 1914 that have killed hundreds of millions of people; and now the growth of world-wide terrorism (“rumours of wars”). There has been nothing like it since the dawn of time.
- Famines (Matthew 24: 7) – such as that in Ethiopia in the 1980’s, deforestation, desertification, hunger everywhere except in the rich “western world”.
- Pestilences (Revelation 6: 8) – pandemics such as AIDS and now Coronavirus which modern scientific medicine has been powerless to control.
- A heading towards a “One-world” government (summary understanding of much of Revelation) – a “new world order”. Science and technology are increasingly making our world a “global village”. Huge power bases have been developing – areas of control and influence by the US, Russia, China, the EU, and the Arab world. The UN, the WHO, and other pan-global institutions preach a world government. The new environmental lobby desire a one-world government. Politicians – led very much by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown desire a one-world government. Their aim seems noble – to bring peace and stability to our world – this is the desire of mankind but it is not what is prophesied will be the outcome at this time. I Thessalonians 5: 3 declares – “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
- Growing “Big Brother” state control over all we do and say and where we go, what we buy and how we pay for it – known in the Bible as “The Mark of the Beast” (Revelation 13: 16-17): already in at least 1 company in Scandinavia, employees have had a computer chip inserted under the skin which “clocks” them in and out of the factory and gives them “credits” with which to buy in the factory shop. In the last year it has been reported that China is using surveillance in growing numbers of cities to monitor not only movements but also actions of its citizens – rewarding those who act as “good citizens” and penalising those seen to not be acting as good citizens. Now we are being asked to possibly agree to mobile phone software that allows the government to monitor where we are and if we have been in contact with those who are Coronavirus positive. Bill Gates, of Microsoft fame, promotes the forced vaccination of all the world against COVID-19.
- Return of the Jews to Israel (eg Jeremiah 29: 14): On the 14th May 1948 the Jews proclaimed the State of Israel and most Bible scholars agree that this marks the fulfilment of an important prophecy preceding the End Times. Many scholars declare that their understanding of Scripture is that this generation (ie of those who returned) shall not pass away before the Messiah returns.
Many say that the next significant event as the “clock ticks” towards the Second Coming is the rebuilding of the Temple by the Jews – something that the State of Israel has sworn to do as soon as possible.
So…are the modern “prophets” right? Is this time, this Coronavirus Pandemic, a “wake-up” call that the End Times are now beginning?
I don’t know….
IS THIS REALLY THE “BEGINNING OF BIRTH-PAINS”?
- In 1914 the Jehovah’s Witnesses REALLY believed that Jesus was going to physically return to this world. In fact, when it didn’t happen, they continued to maintain that He HAD returned – but spiritually!
- Yes, this Pandemic is unprecedented in the way it has affected the “normal” life of the world but it is by no means the worst this world had seen. The Black Death of the mid-14th C killed maybe a third of the world’s population; the Spanish Flu of 1919 was far more devastating in cost of lives than the current pandemic. So WHY should we see this current pestilence as being any more significant?
- As for “wars and rumours of wars”…hasn’t our world seen more peace since 1945 than previous centuries put together?
In the 1970’s, basing predictions on the Jews return to Israel above all else, there was an incredible expectation in many areas of the church that the Second Coming was imminent. This was fuelled by books like “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the soon-to-come “Left Behind” series. Christians the world-round cried our to be prepared.
Dear friends of mine – instrumental in my teenage development as a Christian – sold-up and moved to a “small-holding” in the hills – as did so many – to wait and prepare for the Tribulation when they would need to grow their own food.
And nothing happened…and gradually people became less and less interested – till now, the Second Coming is rarely preached on – let alone mentioned.
THE WARNING – THE “WAKE-UP” CALL
This lack of interest was predicted. Peter declared (2 Peter 3: 3-4):
you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’
I don’t know whether the things we are seeing happening ARE signs of the end times but this I am certain of:
- These things might not be “The End” but they are preparing us for it
- These things might not be the “One World Government” but they are preparing the ground for it
- These things might not be the “Mark of the Beast” but they are preparing the world for it
Nobody knows the Day of His Coming – but He IS coming and He Himself told us to BE READY
It feels to me a little bit like the way that Churchill put it:
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning
And as such, we need to be always ready for His return – and this current pandemic is a “wake-up” call for us to be ready – as Jesus Himself tells us so forcefully –
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS (MATTHEW 25: 1-13)
‘At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 ‘At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”
7 ‘Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.”
9 ‘“No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”
10 ‘But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 ‘Later the others also came. “Lord, Lord,” they said, “open the door for us!”
12 ‘But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”
13 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Let’s break this down to see how Jesus is telling us that we need to be always ready for His return.
- “At that time” (v 1): Following directly on from Matthew 24 this is referring to the Second Coming – and is focusing on Jesus’s call that “you also must be ready” (Matthew 24: 44)
- “The Kingdom of Heaven” (v 1): So Jesus is referring specifically to the Kingdom of Heaven here – He is talking to His church – to His people – to the ones who are citizens of His domain – His rule. He is talking to us. He is warning us to be sure that we are ready for His Second Coming.
- “virgins” (v 1): these 10 “virgins” represent us – you and me – Christians. We are called “virgins” because we have been made pure and holy by God
- “lamps” (v 1): the lamp represents our lives – which includes our faith in God and our testimony to the world. Yet, a lamp is of no use unless it is filled with oil and is alight – we are told to let our light shine in the world (Matthew 5: 15-16)
- 5 of the virgins are “wise” and 5 are “foolish” (v 2): It is said by many scholars that the “wise” refers to the Christians who are truly “born again” , living passionately for Christ and eagerly awaiting His Second Coming. They believe that the “foolish” are those who are not fully committed to the life of the disciple and are selfish in their lifestyles and temporal in their living – wanting their peace, prosperity and provision now rather than eagerly awaiting eternal life. Maybe here we need to remember Christ’s warning of Matthew 7: 21-23 that not everyone who calls “Lord Lord” will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
- “oil” (v 3): throughout the Bible, oil refers to the Holy Spirit. We are called by Jesus to ensure that our lives (lamps) are filled with the Holy Spirit so that we are living out the Truth daily
- But, “the bridegroom was a long time in coming” (v 5): when Jesus returned to His Father in Heaven there was an expectation by many that His return would be soon (in human terms). But He never said that. In fact, He said that only the Father knew the time of His return (Matthew 24: 36). What we are told is that mockers will increasingly arise who will say that He is never coming back (2 Peter 3: 3-4)
- Because of the “long time in coming” we are told that ALL 10 of the virgins became “drowsy and fell asleep” (v 5): we are ALL prone to “switching off” and taking our focus off of being ready for His return – this is human nature. But it is a warning for us to take note of and again we must heed the cry of Paul in Ephesians 5: 14 for us to “wake up”!
- “come out to meet Him” (v 6): the church is called to be ready for His Second Coming. Scholars argue over what event this is talking about – whether the so-called “Rapture” or “Millennial reign” or something else – but the principle is the same for all – we must be waiting and ready NOW for His return -whenever that might be.
- The “foolish” virgins are NOT ready at His return and have to go away “to buy oil” (v 10): they are not ready in that their lives are not right – they are not living faithfully and fully for Jesus. This verse suggests a realisation that they have to now sort out their lives. However, they have been left outside and miss the wedding banquet. There are two schools of thought on this one. The first is that it is too late for them and they are “lost” – miss out on eternal life as they were never really true disciples of Jesus. The second school of thought, thankfully, is the suggestion is that the “wedding banquet” (v 10) is the time of rejoicing and celebrating that Jesus (the bridegroom) has with His Church when He catches them up into Heaven with Him (the Rapture) and that the “foolish” virgins who have been “left behind” will sort out their lives but will have to live through the rest of the Tribulation before Jesus returns to earth as King.
- The “wise” virgins “who were ready went with Him into the wedding banquet” (v 10): Oh, the joy of those who are always ready for His Second Coming! Their reward is great! And how are they ready? They have put their faith In Him and have ensured their eternal future (Like the Philippian Jailor people are crying out “what must I do to be saved?” the answer to which is always “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” – Acts 16: 30-31). They are living for Him now, longing for eternity, and forever looking for His Second Coming.
- The challenge for us all is “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour” (v 13): Are you ready for His return? It might not be today, and it might not be tomorrow. It might not even be in our lifetime. That doesn’t matter. We must live from now on as if each day was our last on earth and as if this very day He will be coming back for us. This Pandemic might not be the beginning of the End but it is certainly a “contraction” in the “beginning of birth pains”.
Are you ready?