Are you preparing for what is coming and for the return of Jesus Christ?
Sometime back I was in a supermarket and waiting in line I happened to look to my left and there were some magazines and some things like Star News and one real authoritative one caught my eye that was entitled Weekly World News. The headline read (it was a huge, giant headline) that read across there and said repent and then below it, it said repent warns the world top bible scholars, the end of the world is near.
Are they right? Is the end really near? It's estimated that approximately 27 to 28 percent of the bible is prophecy. To me the date of the return of Jesus Christ is not nearly as important (oh I would love to know, talking about dates and various charts and graphs and this started then and this is prophesied to go so many days, so this is going to happen then, man it gets the body juices flowing and the mind just a working and it's exciting) but to me that's not nearly as important and doesn't matter as much as if you are prepared individually for what is coming and for the return of Jesus Christ. Obviously when we do look at prophecy and we look around the world today, we see tremendous world events are taking place. We read of terrorist killing innocent bystanders virtually on a daily basis, while at the same time we might read articles about peace in the Middle East that they're having this particular conference or this particular meeting or it looks like we're going to have "Peace in the Middle East."
Our economy seems to be hanging literally on a thread, it's extremely fragile. Racial hatred and bigotry seems to deepen daily. Our President made a statement I believe yesterday that he felt like he could have been the young man that was killed. Aids is exploding. When Betty and I lived in Texas an area high school conducted a blood donation drive and 10% of the teenagers of the student body tested positive for HIV, the aids virus. At least two teenagers and young adults in this country are infected with the aids virus every single hour of every single day.
We live in fearful times. Fearful times around the world. We live in times of global uncertainty. Prophecy seems to be fulfilled virtually on a daily or weekly basis as we see different pieces of the puzzle coming together. We don't have to set dates, we don't have to know that 3 o'clock on such and such a day or such and such month or such and such year, Jesus Christ is going to return or the great tribulation will start and so forth. Frankly we don't have to speculate. We don't have to get bogged down in minor, little technical points or for that matter, we don't have to get bogged down in major details about prophecy or archeology or charts or graphs or dates or whatever. But we do have to be ready for the return of Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians the fifth chapter, verse 22, picking into a thought here, he talks about the marriage type of marriage relationship and he goes into a spiritual marriage. He says:
Verse 23: For the husband is head of the wife, (That's not very popular today) as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
Verse 24: Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Verse 25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for Her, (The tenderness, the compassion, the love that a husband should have for his wife)
Verse 26: that He might sanctify her (Set her apart) and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
Verse 27: that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Christ is preparing a church to be His bride. He's preparing a people. Our seal talks about preaching the gospel and preparing a people, that God is preparing a people to marry His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He wants us to live as though we have that hope living in us. He wants us to live with a fervency, with a passion to be fired up and excited about His glorious return and His coming to this earth. Are you excited? Are you ready? Is your entire life centered around and focused on being with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?
In Revelation 19 we read a very beautiful picture here. We've got a couple that's hoping to be married here in a couple months and Mr. Holladay and I went to Rome this week and counseled another couple about marriage and marriage definitely seems to be in the air.
Revelation 19:6 Revelation 19:6And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunder, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.
American King James Version× And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thundering, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!"
Verse 7: "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready."
Are you dressed in your wedding garments? Is your hair fixed? Are you spiritually mature and ready to be the bride of the Lord of all mankind?
Verse 8: And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, (beautiful, definitely one of the most beautiful times I believe in any woman's life is when they walk down that aisle and they're dressed in white and that veil. There's just something about it. I remember when I got married, back two or three centuries ago, I do remember it very well and it honestly seemed like my heart stopped. I don't remember breathing. I remember looking down that aisle and here came Betty on her father's arm and I think I just kind of blacked out. Boy, my heart stopped and no breath would come and I thought that was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen in my entire life. (That's how Jesus Christ looks at and anticipates His bride and His coming wedding that He has designed.) clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
How long is your wedding dress? How many yards of material do you have of the fine acts of the righteousness acts of the saints?
Verse 9: Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."
This is a true saying of God. This is coming to pass. This wedding is real. The King of Kings, the Lord of Lords is going to take a bride. His church and the wife has to make herself ready. You can be the bride if you are ready. Are you ready? Are you dressed properly? Do you have the spiritual nature and character that is pleasing to Jesus Christ? Are you prepared? Are you worthy to be the very bride of the Son of God?
II Peter 1:10 Therefore brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;
Verse 11: for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If we really do prepare, if we really are ready, if we really are striving to be like God, then He said we will have a way, an entrance that is supplied of abundantly to the everlasting kingdom of God. Then in verse 16.
Verse 16: For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
Verse 17: For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Verse 18: And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
Verse 19: We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;
Verse 20: knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation,
Verse 21: for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved
(guided and directed) by the Holy Spirit.
There's a lot we do not understand about prophecy. We do understand a tremendous amount about prophecy, we know there are some very rough times coming. We know that some horrendous events are going to take place around the globe and that mind staggering events are going to come, prophesied to come and what I think is our very near future leading up to the return of Jesus Christ.
II Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them and bring on themselves swift destruction.
Verse 2: And many will follow their destructive ways because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
Verse 3: By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
It's prophesied to have false prophets in the end time. It's easy to get people hyped up to get them excited about future events. If someone wants to "start their own church" I'll give you two hints to get the biggest following if you want "the largest following." Number one, be real strict, be real stern and number two, talk basically about nothing but prophecy. Certainly never, ever mention the love of God but talk about prophecy and I promise you, you will get a big following to follow after you. Because people are excited and they're hyped up about future events. Look at the ads on television. Look at the people that call into these physic hot lines wanting to know whether or not they ought to venture out the door and go to the grocery store, wanting to know who their future husband or wife will be, wanting to know if they will have children, wanting to know about their jobs or anything in the future. Look at the ads in the paper and magazines and things of people wanting to know what's going to happen in the future. The easiest way for a "false prophet" (by the way, notice the name prophet) to get a following is to preach prophecy, to stress end time events, have their charts, their graphs, their dates and the like, and all to predict "the end of the world." Oh, they have some interesting, sometimes mind stimulating thoughts, but the bottom line is, does it change your life to be like Christ? Does it motivate you or does it get you hung up on some point that can be "your baby, your pet doctrine" and actually take you away from, rather than toward Jesus Christ?"
It's important that we do understand end time prophecies and the end of the world, but that understanding must take place with an urgency developed in your heart to know that these things are near, to know as a result that it's time that we buckle down.
In the Olivet prophecy in Matthew 24, we'll read quite a bit here but I think it's necessary, I'll try to do it rapidly.
Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version× Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately saying: "Tell us when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?"
Verse 4: And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you."
We just read about false teachers, false prophets.
Verse 5: "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and (And as a result they're going to deceive many. I don't think this means they're saying I am Christ, they're saying no this is the Christ and follow Him, I'm following Him, but they're deceiving many.)
Verse 6: And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. (Which we hear of daily) See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Verse 7: For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places.
Verse 8: All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Verse 9: Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
Verse 10: And then many will be offended, will betray one another and will hate one another.
Verse 11: Then many false prophets will rise and deceive many.
Verse 12: And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Verse 13: But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
Verse 14: And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come.
Verse 15: Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place." (Whoever reads, let him understand).
Verse 16: Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Verse 17: Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house.
Verse 18: And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
Verse 19: But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days!
Verse 20: And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath."
I wonderwho many times we have prayed that our flight be not in the winter or on the Sabbath.
Verse 21: For then there will be great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no nor ever shall be.
Verse 22: And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; both for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.
Verse 23: Then if anyone says to you, 'Look here is the Christ!' or there!' do not believe it.
Verse 24: For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Verse 25: See, I have told you beforehand.
Verse 26: Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner room!' do not believe it.
Verse 27: For as the lightening comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Verse 28: For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
Verse 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.
Verse 30: Then 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.
Verse 31: And 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."
Some very tough times coming in our lifetime and our future I believe. God wants to know that you being in His Kingdom to be able to be in His eternal family means everything to you. That is everything you live for, that it is your life, it is your being, it's your purpose for existing, it's your desire and your wants. Notice the lesson of Matthew 24 as we continue in verse 36.
Verse 36: But of that day and hour no one knows (How many people have not read that scripture as they draw their charts and they do their figures and they get all these dates and this and that.) no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
Apparently Jesus Christ at least at that time did not know that only His Father knew.
Verse 37: But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Verse 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.
That there was daily life, that life was pleasant, that life was "good" that life was enjoyable, that life was going on .
Verse 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.
Verse 40: Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.
Verse 41: Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Verse 42: Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
Verse 43: But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
Verse 44: Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.
So Christ said you can draw your charts, you can get your dates, you can have your graphs and you can pretty well know that it will be sometime other than what you had picked out.
Verse 45: Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give food in due season?
Verse 46: Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. (Not the one that sits down, not the one who is in a hole somewhere that's scared and fearful.)
Verse 47: Assuredly I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
Verse 48: But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'
Why overcome today? Why start getting my wedding gown ready? Why do I have to worry about my character at this point?
Verse 49: and begins to beat his fellow servant and to eat and drink with the drunkards, (Live a life of
Verse 50: the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
Verse 51: and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
So what is important? Is it we're prepared and ready for the return of Jesus Christ? We don't have to know the exact day, we don't have to know the month, we don't have to know the hour. Christ stresses that we will not know the day or the hour, but we have to be ready and feel an urgency now as though it is going to come today or tomorrow. We don't have to know all the charts, we don't have to get out the graphs, we don't have to have this date or that date or something else to count from and to either add one year to or subtract one year from going from AB to BC, but we do have to live a life that is pleasing to Jesus Christ and to God the Father as though you were about to draw your last breath or feel your last heart beat. None of us, not a person in this room, has a guarantee that you will be alive tomorrow. You could die of heart attack, you could walk out the door and pull out here and a semi run over you. None of us have a guarantee. Your strong heart that you've had for all these years might all of a sudden just quit. We don't know. I was talking to someone this week and they said that their 54 year old brother died of a heart, very young, totally unexpected, didn't have "heart trouble." Just all of a sudden dropped dead. This next breath may be our last. If it is, would you be in the first resurrection? Will you be the bride of Jesus Christ? Are you ready? Do you have that cloak of righteousness? Do you have that wedding dress on? Are you prepared, literally the bride of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Is the return of Jesus Christ really real to you? I've seen a popular bumper sticker not so much in the last few years for some reason but it used to be very wide spread that said: "Visualize world peace." Do you visualize the Kingdom of God? Do you visualize the true prince charming, Jesus Christ coming back and taking you in His arms to marry you? Do we comprehend what is happening in the world around us? Do we have any idea and concept of what it's going to be like in God's kingdom, born of God, married to Jesus Christ? Is the return of Jesus Christ real to you?
Notice the next chapter.
Matthew 25:1 Matthew 25:1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
American King James Version× "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Verse 2: Now five of them were wise and five were foolish.
Verse 3: Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them.
Verse 4: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
Verse 5: But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept."
None of them had the fervor and the zeal and excitement of being married to Jesus Christ.
Verse 6: And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'
What an odd time to have a wedding, at midnight.
Verse 7: Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
Verse 8: And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
Verse 9: But the wise answered, saying 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves."
And of course the oil is a symbol of God's Holy Spirit.
Verse 10: "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding and the door was shut.
What side of the door will you be on when you hear that fateful click?
Verse 11: "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!"
Verse 12: But He answered and said, 'Assuredly I say to you, I do not know you.'
Verse 13: Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
Every single one of them, all ten of them slumbered and slept. Every one of them had let down. In the end time Christ warned that everyone would fall asleep, that they would loose their burning desire for God's kingdom, that they would grow complacent and loose the urgency of the times in which we now live. In this end time when we're warned about false prophets, warned that because iniquity would abound, the love of many would grow cold or wax cold, warned that men would be lovers of themselves, rather than lovers of God, were warned that large groups would be lukewarm rather than be on fire and full of zeal for God, warned that there will be falling away, warned that brethren would betray brother and parent and child and child and parent delivering them up to be killed, warned not to grow weary in well doing.
Romans 13: 11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
Verse 12: The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light.
Verse 13: Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, nor in strife and envy.
Verse 14: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Now is the time to wake out of sleep, to come out of sleep. If you are like the others have become complacent, have you fallen asleep, give yourself a nudge, give yourself a pinch, if you need to slap your face or whatever is necessary to wake up. It's time to get excited about the Kingdom of God. It's time to be thrilled about the prospect of being the bride of Jesus Christ. It's time to be so excited and enthusiastic about an opportunity to have eternal life as a spirit being born into the very family of God and it's time that you live like you want to be there.
Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version× But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.
Is your prayer thy kingdom come? Are there a lot of sad and unpleasant things I believe are going to transpire between now and the return of Jesus Christ? Things that we hate to see but yet will have to happen, but the end result is going to be peace, blessing, prosperity and the establishment of God's Kingdom upon this earth.
I Thessalonians 5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.
Verse 2: For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
Verse 3: For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
Verse 4: But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this day should overtake you as a thief.
Verse 5: You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
Verse 6: Therefore let us not sleep as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
Verse 7: For those who sleep, sleep at night and those who get drunk are drunk at night.
Verse 8: But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation.
Verse 9: For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Verse 10: who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
Verse 11: Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
We are right now, forty-one years closer to the return of Jesus Christ, then we were in 1972. The prognosticators of that paper that I mentioned at the beginning said it was all going to come to pass and the world would fall, the United States in particular in 3-1/2 years. Who knew, well that's past now, I actually saw that article longer than that, but what if they had been right? I think that all of us have a lot of growing to do. We have a lot to accomplish as a church and I think that we all realize that we have a tremendous amount to accomplish individually in our spiritual growth. I know that no matter how long we have, I feel like it's going to be a tremendous hassle at the end to accomplish all of the growth that's needed to be accomplished to be born of God.
What are you willing to go through to prove your love to God and to prove to God that being born into His family and being the bride of His beloved Son means everything, everything to you. That you would forsake, give up, go through anything to be able to attain that.
II Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Not that we can brag and here he's talking specifically about the ministry, that they were performing.
Verse 8: We are hard pressed on every side (Some of you can say amen to that. Hard pressed on every side, trials and tests, deaths in the family, sicknesses, different things that you have to go through.) yet not crushed, we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Verse 9: persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed,
Verse 10: always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (As He lives through and in us.)
Verse 11: For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
You may have to be one that is a martyr, that has to give your life as a witness to this world that Jesus lives in you.
Verse 12: So then death is working in us, but life in you.
Verse 13: But since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I believed and therefore I spoke," we also believe and therefore speak,
Verse 14: knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.
Verse 15: For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Verse 16: Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
Verse 17: For our light affliction (He's talking about being put to death, He's talking about being a martyr, He's talking about all these things that beset Him and those around him and He calls it a light affliction compared to the tremendous glory that they're going to have.) which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
Verse 18: while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
What are you looking at? What's your focus? What is your life dedicated to? Is it dedicated to eternity or just to this physical life that we now live?
II Peter 3: 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Verse 11: Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
Verse 12: looking for and hastening, (desiring anticipating, wanting, looking for) hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
Verse 13: Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Verse 14: Therefore beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
That's why you're here.
I don't know how much time we have, I can get up here and give you dates, I can speculate, we can be stimulated, but I do know the main thing, the important thing is, are you ready? I know we'd better be prepared. Are you prepared to be the bride of Jesus Christ?