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MATTHEW 24:26-34 | UNTIL HE RETURNS…

UNTIL HE RETURNS…

MATTHEW 24:26-34

NOVEMBER 27, 2016

 

 

NOTHING CAN BRING TEARS TO OUR EYES, A LUMP IN OUR THROAT, OR GIVE US GOOSEBUMPS ALL OVER, EVEN TO THE MOST HARDENED OF HEARTS, LIKE WATCHING SOMEONE’S HOMECOMING.

 

  • OUR SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN RETURNING TO THEIR SPOUSES; THEIR CHILDREN; THEIR FAMILIES; AND YES, EVEN TO THEIR PETS;
  • GRANDCHILDREN RUNNING TO HUG THE LEGS OF THEIR GRANDPARENTS;
  • YOUNG LOVERS RETURNING TO EACH OTHER’S ARMS AFTER MONTHS OF BEING APART;
  • THE PRODIGAL RETURNING HOME;
  • FRIENDS WHO PICK UP RIGHT WHERE THEY LEFT OFF, NEVER SKIPPING A BEAT, FROM THE LAST TIME THEY WERE TOGETHER.

 

COMING HOME – BACK TOGETHER AGAIN – IS ONE OF THE SWEETEST, MOST ENDEARING, MOST HEART-WARMING SCENES THERE IS;

 

SO MAYBE IT’S NO WONDER THAT THE SEASON OF ADVENT, THE CELEBRATION OF THE COMING OF CHRIST, BEGINS WITH THE ANTICIPATION OF HIS SECOND COMING, HIS RETURNING TO US; BEFORE TURNING TO THE EVENTS OF CHRISTMAS ITSELF, AND HIS FIRST COMING INTO THE WORLD.

 

THE EARLY FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST JOYOUSLY ANTICIPATED HIS RETURN ONE DAY… AND THEY THOUGHT IT WOULD BE SOON… DURING THEIR OWN LIFETIME…

 

BUT ALAS, THE RETURN OF CHRIST HAS BEEN DELAYED.

 

EVEN THE APOSTLE PAUL WHO INITIALLY BELIEVED THAT IT WOULD HAPPEN RIGHT AWAY, IN HIS LATER WRITINGS, BEGINS TO HEDGE A BIT AS TO WHEN CHRIST WILL RETURN.

 

THE FACT IS, INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS, CHURCHES, SECTS, CULTS, ETC. HAVE BEEN PREDICTING CHRIST’S RETURN ALMOST FROM THE MOMENT HE LEFT…

 

POINTING TO SIGNS OF THE TIMES, IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUALS THEY BELIEVED TO BE CHRIST RETURNED, OR THE ANTI-CHRIST WHO IS TO ALSO COME.

 

ALL SORTS OF PREDICTIONS HAVE BEEN MADE, ALL MANNER OF DATES HAVE BEEN OFFERED AS TO THE END OF THE WORLD, ALL SORTS OF END TIME SCENARIOS HAVE BEEN PROFFERED:

 

  • THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, BY HAL LINDSEY
  • THE LEFT BEHIND SERIES OF BOOKS AND MOVIES
  • THE CODE; Y-2K; AND THE LIST GOES ON AND ON.

 

IT’S NOT ALWAYS JUST BEEN THE CRAZY GUY WITH LONG HAIR AND A BEARD, CARRYING A SIGN THAT SAYS: THE END IS NEAR, WHO HAS SUGGESTED IT;

 

BUT BOOKS AND MOVIES AND TELEVISION PREACHERS AND SCAM ARTISTS AND WORST OF ALL, SELF-PROCLAIMED MESSIAHS LEADING GULLIBLE PEOPLE INTO CULTS AND SECTS, AND AT TIMES, INTO DEPLORABLE ABUSE AND EVEN MASS SUICIDE.

 

BUT IF THEY, IF WE, HAD JUST LISTENED TO CHRIST, TO WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT THE END, ABOUT HIS RETURN, WHEN AND HOW AND WHAT – WE’D ALL BE BETTER OFF.

 

IT’S LIKE TRYING TO GUESS WHEN THE GROOM WILL SHOW UP FOR HIS WEDDING, JESUS SAID;

 

(THOUGH IN MY EXPERIENCE, ESPECIALLY IN THIS DAY AND AGE OF “BRIDEZILLAS,” IT SEEMS ITS MORE LIKE GUESSING WHEN THE BRIDE WILL SHOW UP!)

 

OR THE END WILL COME, JESUS SAYS, LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT, WHO KNOWS WHEN OR HOW;

 

AND ON ONE OF THE LAST OCCASIONS THE RISEN CHRIST IS WITH HIS DISCIPLES HE SPECIFICALLY, POINTEDLY, EXPLICITLY TELLS THEM THAT IT IS NOT FOR THEM TO KNOW THE TIME AND THE SEASON OF HIS RETURN;

 

THAT HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW, ONLY THE FATHER IN HEAVEN KNOWS FOR SURE;

 

SO, JESUS SEEMS TO SAY, IN THE MEANTIME, GET BUSY BEING A BELIEVER; GET BUSY BEING THE CHURCH; QUIT WORRYING ABOUT WHEN THE END WILL COME, AND GET BUSY LIVING OUT YOUR FAITH IN THE PRESENT, AND FOR THE FUTURE, AND LET GOD WORRY ABOUT THE END.

 

AND AFTER SOME 2016 YEARS HAVE NOW PASSED, YOU’D THINK WE’D PRETTY MUCH HAVE GOTTEN THE MESSAGE BY NOW!

 

SOME STILL DABBLE FROM TIME TO TIME, WONDERING ALOUD, IF THIS IS IT; IF THE END ISN’T COMING SOON;

 

BUT, HONESTLY, MOST OF US, MOST OF THE CHRISTIANS I KNOW ANYWAY, WE’VE STOPPED WATCHING AND WAITING FOR THE END TO COME; WE’VE STOPPED SPECULATING ON CHRIST’S RETURN;

INSTEAD, AND THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE AS WE GET OLDER, I THINK, WITH 2016 YEARS OF COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCE UNDER OUR BELTS, WE BEGIN TO FIGURE THAT WE’LL BE GOING TO CHRIST, LONG BEFORE HE COMES BACK HERE TO BE WITH US!

 

OF COURSE, THAT DOESN’T MAKE OUR HOMECOMING WITH CHRIST ANY LESS SWEET;

 

AND IF YOU THINK THE RETURNING HOME OF A VET TO HIS FAMILY PUTS A LUMP IN YOUR THROAT, WARMS YOUR HEART, BRINGS A TEAR TO YOUR EYE, IMAGINE WHAT THE HOMECOMING OF YOUR LOVED ONE, OR YOUR OWN HOMECOMING WITH CHRIST, WILL BE LIKE!

 

AND, IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, AND THE WAY SOME OF THOSE EARLY WRITERS OF THE BIBLE DESCRIBE THE END TIMES, AND HOW HORRIFIC THE WORLD WILL BE PRIOR TO CHRIST’S RETURN, PERHAPS IT’S A BLESSING THAT WE WILL GO TO BE WITH HIM, LONG BEFORE HE COMES BACK TO BE WITH US.

 

THERE’S A REASON, OF COURSE, THAT THE BIBLICAL PASSAGES LIKE THE ONE WE READ FROM MATTHEW THIS MORNING, OR IN THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE LIKE DANIEL, OR REVELATION, ARE SO SCARY;

 

THEY WERE MEANT TO BE THAT WAY; THEY WERE WRITTEN WITH A SPECIFIC PURPOSE IN MIND:

 

THEY WERE WRITTEN THAT WAY TO SCARE THE HELL OUT OF PEOPLE, AND TO SCARE PEOPLE OUT OF HELL, AND INTO BELIEVING, INTO HEAVEN;

 

THEY WERE WRITTEN THAT WAY TO GIVE PEOPLE A CLEAR CHOICE – TO CHOOSE LIFE, OR CHOOSE DEATH; AND AS A WARNING AS TO WHICH CHOICE GETS THEM WHERE.

 

THEY WERE ALSO WRITTEN THAT WAY TO ASSURE THOSE WHO HAD CHOSEN FAITH, WHO CHOOSE LIFE, THAT THEY HAVE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE, AND TO HAVE NO FEAR, COME WHAT MAY.

 

MANY OF US IN THIS POST-MODERN PERIOD NO LONGER THINK IN THESE TERMS; WE DON’T THINK MUCH ABOUT CHRIST RETURNING TO EARTH; AND SOME, EVEN ABOUT OUR GOING TO BE WITH HIM.

 

MANY PEOPLE OF FAITH NO LONGER SPEND MUCH TIME (OR FAITH) THINKING ABOUT THE RETURN OF CHRIST, OR OUR RETURNING TO CHRIST, NO MATTER HOW SWEET THE HOMECOMING MAY BE;

 

INSTEAD, WE SPEND OUR TIME (AND OUR FAITH) DOING EXACTLY WHAT CHRIST INSTRUCTED US TO DO:

TO BE A BELIEVER; TO LIVE OUR FAITH; TO BE A SERVANT TO OTHERS; TO BE THE CHURCH, AND ALL THAT MEANS, TO US, TO ONE ANOTHER, TO THE WORLD, AND TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

 

WE’VE QUIT WORRYING TOO MUCH ABOUT THE RETURN OF CHRIST, OR OUR RETURNING TO HIM, AND PUT OUR TIME AND EFFORT INTO LIVING OUT OUR FAITH AND LIVES JUST AS HE INSTRUCTED US TO.

 

IF THAT’S WHERE YOU ARE, OR IF YOU PREFER TO THINK OF YOUR HOMECOMING WITH CHRIST IN TERMS OF HOW WE’VE DESCRIBED IT HERE THIS MORNING, YOU’LL BE FINE.

 

ACTUALLY, WE’LL BE MORE THAN FINE; WE’LL BE DOING EXACTLY WHAT CHRIST CALLED US TO DO.

 

BUT IF YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE WHO’S STILL WORRIED ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF THE END OF THE WORLD… OF WHEN AND HOW AND WHAT…

 

IF YOU ARE GIVEN TO FEARS OF WHAT SOME CALL THE JUDGMENT DAY… OR THE DAY OF RECKONING… OR FINAL JUDGMENT… THAT SAY, YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OTHERS TALK ABOUT…

 

OR MAYBE YOU’VE HEARD IT ALL YOUR LIFE… OR SOMEONE’S BEEN FILLING YOUR HEAD WITH ALL THAT STUFF LATELY… OR FOR A LONG TIME…

 

LET ME SEE IF I CAN HELP ALLEVIATE SOME OF YOUR CONCERNS; LESSEN YOUR FEARS; AND GIVE YOU SOME ASSURANCES FOR THE FUTURE.

 

BUT RATHER THAN SIMPLY TELLING YOU SOMETHING, LET ME FIRST ASK YOU SOMETHING:

 

HOW DO YOU UNDERSTAND CHRISTMAS?  WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR JESUS TO HAVE BEEN BORN INTO THIS WORLD?  TO WHAT END DID GOD SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD?

 

JOHN 3:16 AND 17 SAY THIS – “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON, THAT WHOSOEVER SHOULD BELIEVE IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.  INDEED, GOD DID NOT SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, BUT THAT THE WORLD MIGHT HAVE LIFE.”

 

OR LET’S SAY IT IN THE WORDS OF THE CHRISTMAS HYMN, GOD CHRISTIAN MEN (FRIENDS) REJOICE:

 

GOOD CHRISTIAN FRIENDS REJOICE, WITH HEART, AND SOUL, AND VOICE,

NOW YE NEED NOT FEAR THE GRAVE; CHRIST WAS BORN TO SAVE!

CALLS YOU ONE AND CALLS YOU ALL TO GAIN THE EVERLASTING HALL.

CHRIST WAS BORN TO SAVE!  CHRIST WAS BORN TO SAVE!

 

I CAN GIVE YOU DOZENS OF OTHER EXAMPLES, FROM SCRIPTURE AND FROM OUR ADVENT/CHRISTMAS HYMNS – OF THIS SAME MESSAGE – THAT CHRIST WAS BORN TO SAVE…

 

IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME, CHECK OUT THE WORDS TO: JOY TO THE WORLD!  O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM AND ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID’S CITY JUST TO NAME A FEW.

 

IN FACT, YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED BY HOW MANY CHRISTMAS HYMNS INCLUDE SOMETHING ABOUT CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION; CHRIST’S TAKING AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD; CHRIST’S BRINING US INTO HIS ETERNAL KINGDOM…

 

AND WE THOUGHT CHRISTMAS WAS JUST ABOUT HIS BIRTH IN A STABLE IN BETHLEHEM…

 

SO, LET ME ASK YOU ANOTHER QUESTION – ABOUT THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT… THE DAY OF RECKONING… THE FINAL JUDGEMENT…

 

WHO IS THE JUDGE?  WHO DOES THE BIBLE SAY WILL BE DOING THE JUDGING?

 

HERE’S A HINT FROM ONE OF THE CHURCH’S ANCIENT CREEDS WE OFTEN RECITE TOGETHER:

 

“HE WAS CRUCIFIED, DEAD, AND BURIED.  HE DESCENDED INTO HELL.  THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD, HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, AND SITTETH ON THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY.  FROM THENCE HE SHALL COME TO JUDGE THE QUICK (THE LIVING) AND THE DEAD.”

 

WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

 

JESUS CHRIST.  JESUS CHRIST WILL BE OUR JUDGE.  THE ONE WHO WAS JUDGED FOR US, WILL BE THE ONE DOING THE JUDGING.  THE ONE WHO TOOK AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD, WILL BE THE ONE LOOKING AT OUR SINS.

 

THE ONE WHO DIED, THAT WE MIGHT LIVE, HE’LL BE THE ONE DOING THE JUDGING.

 

DON’T YOU SEE – THERE’S NOTHING TO FEAR!

 

THE ONE WHO WILL JUDGE US, IS THE ONE WHO HAS ALREADY BEEN JUDGED FOR US.

 

THE ONE TO WHOM WE WILL RETURN WHEN WE DIE, IS THE ONE WHO HAS ALREADY DIED FOR US, AND BEEN RAISED UP, THAT WE MIGHT BE RAISED UP WITH HIM.

 

“NOW WE NEED NOT FEAR THE GRAVE.  CHRIST WAS BORN TO SAVE!”

 

THAT’S WHO’LL BE DOING THE JUDGING… SO LET ME ASK YOU: WHAT ARE WE AFRAID OF?  NOTHING!

 

WHAT WILL OUR HOMECOMING LOOK LIKE?  LIKE THE ONES WE WATCHED EARLIER; LIKE ALL THE HOMECOMINGS WE EVER SEEN, OR BEEN A PART OF, ONLY BETTER!

 

WITHOUT FEAR OF THE END…

 

WITHOUT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT THE WHEN AND THE HOW AND THE WHAT OF THE END OF THE WORLD…

 

WITH THE GREAT LIKELIHOOD BEING THAT WE WILL GO TO BE WITH CHRIST LONG BEFORE HE COMES BACK TO THE WORLD TO GET US…

 

GOD HAS GIVEN US A GREAT GIFT… (LOTS OF THEM IN FACT…)

 

WITHOUT THE WORRIES OF THE FUTURE, WE CAN LIVE FOR THE PRESENT, AND INTO OUR FUTURES, WHATEVER THEY MAY BE!

 

GOD HAS GIVEN US THE GIFT OF A LIFE TO BE LIVED TO ITS FULLEST…!

 

GOD HAS GIVEN US THE GIFT OF A FAITH NOT LIVED OUT IN FEAR, BUT IN JOY, AND TO BE PRACTICED TO ITS GREATEST…!

 

GOD HAS GIVEN US THE GIFT OF LOVE TO BE FULFILLED TO ITS MOST-EST…!

 

AND GOD HAS GIVEN US THE GIFT OF HOPE, TO DO OUR VERY BEST-EST IN THIS WORLD…

 

AND ALL OF IT, IN ANTICIPATION OUR GREATEST HOMECOMING EVER, IN THE WORLD TO COME…!

 

LET’S THANK GOD FOR THESE EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENTS;

 

AND LET THEM BE THAT ON WHICH WE FOCUS; LET THIS BE THAT WHICH INSPIRES US THIS ADVENT SEASON;

 

AS WE EAGERLY AWAIT AND CELEBRATE THE COMING OF CHRIST – THE FIRST TIME, AND THE NEXT TIME.

 

 

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