READY OR NOT
By Rayola Kelley
Jesus in Matthew 16:2-4 rebuked the Pharisees for being able to discern the sky but not the times in which they lived. Galatians 4:4 tells us that when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son. It was clear that the times and the signs pointed to the Messiah’s first advent, but the Pharisees refused to discern the times and recognize the signs. They supposedly had been waiting for the Messiah, but when He stood before them, clearly identified by the miraculous signs that followed Him, they became scoffers and not believers. John 1:11 reveals the results of their unbelief, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”
We are waiting for Jesus’ second coming and there is a similar attitude today permeating the religious sector. It is hard to know how many are discerning the times they live in and recognizing the signs that are laid out in Scripture concerning Jesus’ coming. First of all I want to state that Jesus is coming back and the reason I know He is, is because the Word of God says so, and I believe His Word. I realize that even though Jesus came the first time and fulfilled many prophecies, there are those today who do not believe He is literally coming back as clearly pointed out by the angels in Acts 1:9-12, or they are scoffing at the prospect that His coming could be soon.
I became a Christian in 1976 when eschatology was popular. I learned about the pre-trib rapture and was greatly exposed to other beliefs surrounding Jesus coming for His church. I was excited about the events that were happening in America and Israel at the time. People were looking up as they read Hal Lindsey’s book, “The Late Great Planet, Earth” followed by many becoming disconcerted after watching the series of movies beginning with, “A Thief in the Night.”
Imaginations flew high as many speculated what would happen to those left behind when the church was taken out in the rapture. The tribulation and the rapture were the buzz word among Christians. Pastors were preaching sermons on Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. It was always the same question, “Are you ready?”
My friend, that excitement was over 40 years ago and we are still here. Sadly, there has been a metamorphosis that has taken place among Christians about this subject. The biggest evidence of change is many no longer live in expectation of Jesus coming. The truth is His saints have been waiting for over 2000 years. Every age and generation has had reasons to believe that Jesus was coming back in their day and time. Every New Year was a year closer to this great blessed hope. However, instead of expectation mounting on the wings of blessed hope, it has waned like the moon during its monthly cycle. What we see in the attitudes of many is an actual fulfillment of Scripture, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and earth, which are now by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:3-8).
We must take note of what Peter was saying that there shall be scoffers in the last days, walking after their own lusts. I have to admit I didn’t hear many scoffers back in the late 1970s. Admittedly, I wondered where they were, but 40 years later I have been meeting them in churches and some are quite bold about their assertion, “Where is He?”
I can understand the attitude of the scoffers. Back in the late 1970s, I never would have dreamed I’d be seeing 2018. Through the years, there have been many who set dates and sold many books as to why they knew Jesus was coming at that time. I have forgotten all of the different times and days Jesus was to return. For example, in 1988, we were given 88 reasons why Jesus would return. One of them had to do with the planets lining up which was called the “Jupiter Effect”. Then in 1996, it was the year of the beast. Surely Jesus would be coming that year and then we had the pending crisis of Y2K and the looming predictions of bank failures. One prediction after another have followed since the great eschatology fad took the Church by storm in the 1970’s, with different individuals running around with their calculators and logical explanations about when Jesus was coming back. When it didn’t happen, it caused a certain casual attitude that has put some to sleep in the pews and created scoffing in others. Both attitudes are dangerous and are prophetic signs that reveal the season we are spiritually in.
The Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul warned those who have lost their expectation in regard to the blessed hope, and conveniently gone to sleep. Jesus made this statement, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman (occupier) of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” Matthew 24:42-44. (Parenthesis added.)
The Apostle Paul said this in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9 about the day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As believers of God’s Word we should be living in expectation of seeing the Lord, whether it is by way of the door of physical death or the rapture. We walk by faith towards God in light of His promises and not by what we see happening in this world. Like the saints of old who left a cloud of witness, we may not see the fulfillment of His coming, but we are always looking forward beyond this world to the next, to a city whose maker is God, knowing that in due time we will receive the fullness of all of His promises (Hebrews 11:10, 13; 12:1; 13:14).
Saints who walk by faith are not caught up with whether they see a matter come to fruition in their lifetime nor are they considering God according to events, but according to His Word. His Word is clear that we cannot know the hour in which He will come, but the Bible is also clear we must not be ignorant of the times we live in; rather, we must discern them (Matthew 24:36, 42). John 16:13 tells us that the Holy Spirit will tell us of things to come and by prophetic events we can get a sense of whether we are living in the season that signals His coming due to fulfillment of prophetic signs, especially where Israel is concerned. It is important to note that what we as believers need to be caught up with is the Person of Jesus Christ. God is never going to bring a matter about according to man’s calculations. He appoints the time, sets up the environment according to man’s attitudes, and allows events to fall into place knowing that it will usher in the proper season followed by distinct prophetic signs being fulfilled.
We also need to note why these scoffers are running around making such a declaration, because they want to have the time to walk after their own lusts without paying dire consequences for their wickedness. Obviously, these individuals want to experience the world as much as possible before they get serious with God. Jesus gave this warning, “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming: And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken: the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:48-51).
The Apostle Paul clearly described the attitude that would be prevalent in the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1-7. People would be lovers of their own selves (selfish); covetous (greedy); boasters (self-importance); proud (haughty); blasphemers (towards God); disobedient to parents; unthankful; unholy (profane); without natural affection (abominable practices); trucebreakers (never keep their word); false accusers (slanders and murderers); incontinent (undisciplined); fierce (violent/aggressive); despisers of those that are good (hate righteousness); traitors (treacherous towards anyone who gets in their way); heady (pungent in their ways); high-minded (arrogant); and lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Does this sound familiar as far as the time we are living in? It does’t stop with these signs. It goes on to say that some of these people will have a form of godliness (religious garb) but they are void of the power of the Spirit to be overcomers in this present world. Many will be led away by their lusts and even though they are seeking to learn they are incapable of coming to any real knowledge of truth about Jesus because their sin blinds and separates them from Him.
The Apostle Paul also pointed out that such people, who operate within these wicked attitudes and practices, have resisted the truth (2 Timothy 3:8). The problem is, when people stand behind their own reasoning for not believing the Bible by using those who have unscripturally set dates or cemented the events into a particular time-frame, they do so at their own spiritual risk. Even though a person perceives that he or she is resisting man’s narrative on Jesus coming back, what such individuals are really resisting is the Word of God. Man may be wrong about his calculations on such matters, but God’s Word is never wrong about what is going to happen. JESUS IS COMING BACK the same way as He left. The Word is clear about what to avoid as far as date setting, what to look forward to in light of prominent prophetic events, what to beware of as to the false narratives that will exist, and what our attitude should be in regard to the Blessed Hope of Jesus coming again. The Apostle Paul is clear about what the right attitude should be in 2 Timothy 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” It is not up to Christians to convince others Jesus is coming at a certain time; rather, their responsibility is to warn people that He is coming and that they need to be ready when He does. They need to make it clear that today is the day of salvation, whether it is meeting Jesus in the air in the rapture as prophesied in 1 Corinthians 15:47-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or when the door of death opens to usher each of them into eternity. Clearly, this is true for all of us. We must be ready to meet the Judge of our soul. As our pastor reminds us, “Every man has an appointment with God, who is the great judge of our soul because it is appointed for man to die once, but after this is the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
When you consider the other parts of Peter’s exhortation about the end days in 2 Peter 3, it is easy to see that he is describing the environment just before the great flood in Noah’s day, but Jesus also gave a similar warning, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).
There were scoffers in Noah’s day, just as there were in Jesus’ day. They could not fathom the world being destroyed by the flood. They thought it foolish for Noah to build an ark. I am sure they said, “Where is the rain, where is this great flood you speak about?” These foolish people who were building their lives on the shifting sand of skepticism were so blindsided by their unbelief and mockery that they failed to realize that Noah’s faith and preaching was a prelude to the great judgment to give each of them time to properly respond to what was about to follow, “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).
The final remark I have to make to the scoffers is that one of the reasons Jesus has not come back yet is because He is giving you time to REPENT. Peter brought this out in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” I know before I was saved, the Lord showed me a great deal of patience in order to give me time to repent and receive His salvation, but He was also longsuffering with me as I grew up in Him. Right now the Lord is showing His longsuffering to a stiff-necked, rebellious, self-centered, self-serving, godless, immoral world that is trying to work itself up to another Tower of Babel, where, like the days of Noah, every imagination will prove evil continually as to practices, but in the days of the Tower of Babel, the people took it one step further to attempt to declare their supremacy outside of God, “now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do” Genesis 11:6c. (Genesis 6:5; 11:4).
Genuine repentance will turn a person around from his or her destructive thinking and ways to face God in humility and brokenness so that the person can truly receive God’s only solution for his or her sinful condition and practices. Once people face God in repentance then they can look up with expectation that if Jesus comes they will be ready to meet Him. In fact, every day is an opportunity to get ready to enter into the glory of eternity, to prepare to be with Jesus forever.
This is why the Apostle Paul instructs believers in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 to be sober in regard to the times they live in, and Peter gave this instruction in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Sobriety is the opposite of being casual, flippant, jesting, silly, and foolish. It is not the same as being serious, meaning being humorless, or being pious as in rigidness. Being sober points to having your feet on the ground spiritually, being realistic about what is happening around you, and being practical and wise about what needs to be done to accomplish a feat or overcome a challenge.
Many people are looking for a sure deal in relationship to the timing of Christ’s coming rather than living in assurance that He is coming back. People want to get as much as they can from the world before Jesus’ coming instead of preparing themselves daily for His coming. People want to walk in skepticism towards His coming to justify their unbelief and immoral activities rather than walk by faith in obedience to His Word that confirms He is coming, and live every day as if He is coming today.
I realize the emphasis of eschatology was a fad in the 1970s, but Jesus coming back for a church without wrinkle and blemish is a truth. From the signs and prophetic events surrounding the state of Israel, I believe we are living in the last generation, but whether we see Jesus come in this generation is not going to cause me to let go of Christ in order to adopt a scoffing attitude towards the promise of His coming, while playing religion and tacking Jesus on just in case He means what He says and says what He means. I want to faithfully live my life in light of the promise of the “Blessed Hope.”
I also want to note that I am not looking for Jesus’ coming because I see it as the great escape from this terrible world; rather, I am looking for His coming because I love Him and I want to see Him. The Apostle Peter made reference to this attitude when exhorting the leaders to take care of the flock in light of “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:4).
Next month I plan to share with each of you what it means to be ready for Jesus’ coming; that is, if I am still here and you are still here. Meanwhile, I want to ask you: If Jesus came for you today would you be ready, or are you dead in your sins, walking in skepticism because you refuse to believe what the Bible says, or are you striving to hold onto the world a bit longer and then you will think about getting real with the Lord? Remember, He will come when you least expect Him because you are not looking for Him in the first place, and He will be forced to judge you in whatever state you are in. Jesus clearly declared, “Repent or perish,” in Luke 13:3 and 5; and as the Apostle Paul clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee; behold, now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.)”
Let me pose the question to you again, “Are you ready?”