Jesus the Master is Returning

noah

I suspect Russell Crowe and the producers of his latest film, in cinemas from next week, had wished they had released Noah in January at the height of the wettest winter on record. The film has inevitably aroused controversy. On the one hand for being creative with the Scriptures, but on the other for assuming that the Flood really happened.

It has certainly divided my Facebook friends. When challenged as to whether I really believed in the story of Noah. I simply replied, “Jesus clearly did, and that is good enough for me.” In our series the Passion of Jesus, as we prepare for Easter, we are listening to Jesus explain the meaning of his death, the significance of his resurrection, the implications of his ascension and the signs of his return. In the first half of Matthew 24, last week, we saw how Jesus answered his disciples’ question.

“What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).

I recommended viewing these verses through varifocal lenses. For Jesus describes: The Beginning of the Last Days. The Signs of the Last Days and the End of the Last Days. And all are in perfect focus.

In the verses before us today, Jesus elaborates on the events immediately preceding his return. I want to draw out three implications for us:

1. Jesus will return to an unsuspecting world
2. Jesus will rebuke unfaithful hypocrites
3. Jesus will reward his diligent servants

1. Jesus will Return to an Unsuspecting World

Let us make some observations:

1.1 No one knows when Jesus will Return

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36)

Anyone who claims to know is either a liar or a fool, or both. No one knows when Jesus will return

1.2 Most People don’t care that Jesus will Return

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 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; 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.” (Matthew 24:37-39)

It will be business as usual until the day Jesus returns.

That day will be very, very inconvenient. It is bound to cause chaos with arrivals and departures at Heathrow. There will be a collapse in the currency markets. Trading on the London Stock Exchange will be suspended. And there will be an exponential rise on complaints to the BBC. The fact is: No one knows when Jesus will return.

Most people don’t care that Jesus will Return. But…

1.3 Everyone will know when Jesus Returns

“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (Matthew 24:40-41)

What about the idea of the secret Rapture? Popularised by the Left Behind books and film, advocates believe Jesus will return secretly to rescue true believers. In one cataclysmic moment, millions around the world will disappear. Then life will continue on earth for between three and a half and seven years during a period of great suffering known as the Tribulation culminating in the Battle of Armageddon.  Jesus will then return visibly, defeat the Antichrist and reign on earth for a thousand years. On the one hand I’m glad that “end time” speculation has created a sense of urgency about getting right with God. But there is much that worries me as well.

The idea of the secret rapture has generated a lot of bad theology. It contradicts Jesus and undermines the gospel. There will be no secret rapture. Jesus tells us quite plainly,

“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:27)

So how are we to understand the illustration of one person taken and one left behind in Matthew 24:40-41?

Do you want to be taken or left behind? It is important to get this right. Confused? Don’t be. Every verse of scripture has a context.  If a verse appears ambiguous or unclear, we simply need to look at the verses immediately before or after for an explanation. What is the context? Twice in the preceding verses Jesus insists that the story of Noah provides the pattern for his return:

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 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; 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.” (Matthew 24:37-39)

Notice the “as” and “so” in verse 37. Then in verse 39, Jesus insists, “That is how it will be…”

So 40-41 is an illustration of the events described in verse 39. Who will be taken and who will be left behind? Well, who was taken in verse 39? The people who mocked Noah and did not believe his message. Noah and his family however were left behind, safe in the Ark. In a similar story, in Matthew 13, in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. when the servants ask, “Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?” Jesus has the master reply,

“Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30).

So do you want to be taken or left behind? Jesus is clear – there will be no secret appearing for his saints and then a visible appearing with his saints. It will be unbelievers who are taken away and believers left behind to enjoy his presence. The return of Jesus will be one event, visible, universal and cataclysmic. This is what the rest of Scripture has to say about the Rapture.

  • “My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? … I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
  • “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.“  (1 Corinthians 15:52)
  • “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
  • “by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21)

No one knows when Jesus will return.
Most people don’t care that Jesus will Return.
Everyone will know when Jesus Returns

Jesus will return to an unsuspecting world.

2. Jesus will Remove God’s Unfaithful Servants

“But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:48-51)

The return of Jesus is intended to be a day of great joy and celebration. But it will also be a day of great sadness to those who have ignored or rejected Jesus. Observe that Jesus regards everyone as a servant of God.  We are either living in submission to God or in rebellion against God – but we are all servants whether we recognize him or not.
Think about it, we are all created in the image of God.

He has revealed himself to everyone through the beauty and wonder of creation and the convicting voice of the conscience. We all enjoy his good gifts of food and drink. We has entrusted to us gifts, talents and abilities for the service of others. Jesus here distinguishes between faithful and unfaithful servants but he regards all are servants.

To our Master we remain accountable, none more so than on the day he returns. The fate of those who have rejected Jesus is bleak. The expression Jesus uses here “cut … to pieces” is the same expression used in Exodus 29:17 to describe the way a sacrifice is cut up as an offering to God. So even in judgment, God will be glorified. If people reject the precious sacrifice of Christ for their sin, they must pay with their own lives. Jesus will return to an unsuspecting world. Jesus will rebuke God’s unfaithful servants.

3. Jesus will Reward his Diligent Saints

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come… So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Matthew 24:42-47)

This is the primary reason Jesus is returning. To reward his servants with greater responsibility.  Three things we are told to do between now and then:

3.1 Be Watchful

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42)

This means be vigilant. Be thoughtful. Constantly aware that Jesus may return at any moment. Review our priorities daily, our choices thoughtfully, our actions prayerfully in the light of Jesus’ imminent return.  Be watchful.

3.2 Be Faithful

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45)

You know Jesus never commands us to be fruitful.

He does command us to be faithful. Faithfulness will lead to fruitfulness. Faithful to what we already know of God’s will. Faithful to the one who has called us to follow him.
Faithful in the use of the gifts and talents he has entrusted to us. Be watchful and faithful.

3.3 Be Serving

“It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Matthew 24:46)

This is why we emphasize serving at Christ Church. It is why we expect and encourage every one who regards themselves a member of Christ Church to serve on one of our teams.  It is part of our DNA as a church because serving is part of the DNA of every child of God. We have a three fold mission summed up in the words – Win : Build : Send – the three dimensions of the church – sharing Jesus with unbelievers, serving Jesus family and sending some to share Jesus and the serve believers elsewhere. We feel serving is so important, so essential to our growth as believers and so central to the mission of the church, at Easter we will invite you to renew your commitment to Christ and membership of his church. Then after Easter, on the second Sunday of every month,

we will focus on a particular team, celebrate its members and pray for those who serve. In this way we will raise the profile of serving at Christ Church. Wisdom comes from knowing our purpose. Maturity comes from fulfilling our purpose. What is our mission? To know Jesus and make Jesus known. There are, by implication, three things however, that Jesus has not commanded us to do.

Procrastinate “he’s not coming” – instead be watchful.
Speculate “he’s coming today” – instead be faithful.
Coordinate “we can help his coming” – instead be serving.

“It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Matthew 24:46-47)

Because, Jesus will return to an unsuspecting world.
Because Jesus will remove God’s unfaithful servants
Because, Jesus will reward his diligent servants.

While we have time, let us use every opportunity God gives us to tell others how much God loves them. How he wants them to know him through Jesus. Lets use this Easter and our services to introduce our family, our friends and neighbours to Jesus. For it may just be the last Easter we celebrate together. Jesus said “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  (John 13:17).

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