Based on: Matthew 24:37-44
Well, are you looking forward to spring? Maybe this recent snowfall isn’t all that bad. As we go through January and February and when we get to March, do you think you’ll be anticipating spring? Do you think that you will be looking forward to that first warm day? You probably will not know exactly what day that will be or when that last snowfall of the winter will happen, but you’ll be watching for it and by the time that day comes, you will probably be ready for it to come.
Today we celebrate the beginning of the church year and the beginning of Advent. In the season of Advent we celebrate the coming of Christ. We eagerly look forward to the celebration of his first coming into this world on Christmas Day, but that celebration and anticipation is in many ways overshadowed by the anticipation and the eagerness we have for his second coming. The Jews of course were watching for their Messiah to come at the time of Jesus’ birth. But they were watching in the wrong places and they weren’t ready. When the Messiah came he wasn’t what they expected. Today we are watching for him to come again, and Jesus tells us that it could be at any moment. We don’t know when he will return, so watch and be ready.
Jesus promised to us many times that he will come back and when he comes back it will be a glorious return as the judge of all the earth and as our Savior coming to take us to be with him in heaven. It could happen at any moment. It could happen before the end of this year, there’s still plenty of time. It could happen before the end of this day. It could happen before the end of this worship service, perhaps before the end of this sermon, or even before the end of my next sentence. At any moment he could come out of the clouds and appear to the entire world. We will all see him. Perhaps the roof will be taken off so that we can see him or maybe we will just be able to see through the roof or perhaps immediately we will be taken up through this building to meet him in the sky.
Jesus could come anytime, but how will we know when he is coming? Jesus tells us that we will not know. Of course there are plenty of signs that tell us Jesus could come at any moment. Earlier in Matthew Chapter 24 Jesus tells us some of those signs that will warn us that his coming is approaching: wars and rumors of wars, famine, earthquakes. But what will this world be like when Christ returns? The Bible tells us it will be pretty much like it is today. People will be going about their business. They will be getting married and raising families. They’ll be eating and drinking. In general this world will be acting as if everything is going to go on forever, just like it has always been.
Jesus reminds us of one other event that was like this. He reminds us that when the flood came the whole world, except for eight people, were behaving as if the world would continue for them just like it always has. Then the flood came and washed them all away. But it isn’t as if they had no warning. For 420 years Noah was building that ark. They had this huge boat to remind them that God’s judgment was coming. Certainly Noah would have been vocal about what God told him. The same is true today. It says very clearly in God’s word that Christ will return to judge the earth, and yet people ignore it and live their lives as if nothing is going to happen to them.
What will happen when he does come? Some will be taken with him into heaven and others will be left to be punished in hell. Those who trust in Jesus as their Savior will live with him eternally. Those who do not believe will be punished in hell. Jesus says, "Two men will be in the field, one will be taken in the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” I know there are some who point to this passage and claim that those left behind will continue to live their life on earth and await yet another coming of Jesus. But Jesus makes it clear throughout this chapter of Matthew that he will come back only one more time and that it will be obvious to everyone that he has come back. At that time when he returns, he will take believers to heaven and punish unbelievers in hell. In fact if we look at the word "left”, that word that Jesus uses when he says that the other person will be left, that word is the same Greek word that the Bible uses to describe forgiveness. It can also be translated, "to send away". It is a wonderful thing when God forgives us and sends our sins away from him. He sends them away and has nothing to do with them. But it is a horrible thing if our Savior, when he returns, sends us a way. That is a description of hell itself.
As important as this day of Jesus return is, we all want know when the day will occur. But Jesus makes it clear that we will not know when. It will be unexpected. Jesus compares it with a thief coming to rob your house. The thief isn’t going to announce his coming. He is it going to come to your door and tell you, "I’m going to rob your house tonight. Would you do me a favor and just not be at home?" No. He is going to come when you least expect him to come. So, to try to guess when Jesus will come is utterly futile. If anyone tries to guess or tells you that they think he is coming on a certain day, then you can be sure that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and I would be pretty suspect about anything else they might have to say it has well.
What does all this mean for us as Christians? Our Savior could come at any moment. We don’t know when it will be, so we should always be ready. We should always watch for our Savior’s coming. Certainly it could be today, even this morning.
Jesus tells us to, "keep watch." He wants us to keep on watching, to always be watching. How do we do that? We watch for our Savior by looking at that place where he reveals himself to us. We look to Scripture, and there we see our Savior and there he prepares us for his second coming. As we get to know our Savior better and better through the words of Scripture, we can avoid the mistake that the Jews made watching for their Messiah to come the first time. The Jews at the time of Jesus had their own idea of what Messiah should be like, and so when Jesus finally came they either didn’t recognize him or they rejected him. As we see our Savior in the words of Scripture we will get to know him better and better, and when he does return we will be able to recognize him as our Savior from sin.
Also as Christians who study God’s Word and get to know their Savior through his Word, we will also naturally do the things that Christians do to be ready for their Savior’s return. We will see in Scripture that we have sinned, that we have disobeyed God in countless ways, but there we will also receive forgiveness for those sins. Having been forgiven, we will live our lives in a way that shows we expect our Savior to return at any moment. We will follow his life as a guide for our lives, and we will want to tell others about their Savior so that they too will watch and be ready for his return.
As Christians we know Jesus will return one more time and so we are constantly glancing toward the skies. Perhaps we don’t do that physically, but our attitude is one of watchfulness. Every day when we wake up we should have the thought that today could be the day of Christ’s return. In fact, that wouldn’t be a bad reminder to have on your refrigerator or next to your bed, "Today could be the day."
This season of Advent really describes the life of a Christian. It celebrates the anticipation the Christian has, looking forward to a much better life with our Savior, whether that time comes today or tomorrow or sometime in the future.