ARE YOU PREPARED FOR JESUS' SECOND COMING?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
According to a recent ad in a national newspaper taken out by a group called
Mission for the Coming Days, Jesus is coming again in autumn
1992 to rapture his church, and then seven years later in 1999 human history
will end. At the same time there is a Jewish group in New York City that
is making preparations to welcome their Messiah to this earth for the first
time on September 9 of this year. There are thousands of religious as well
as nonreligious groups that believe that Jesus came to this earth the first
time but do not believe he will come a second time. But the Christian community,
which is not only committed to the truth of the word of God, but seeks to
understand God's heart, believes that Jesus is coming to this earth again
"in the twinkling of an eye," as the final Judge for the nations.
Within that context some of us think he is coming soon, and some think he
will come some time but are more concerned with their present ministries.
Others among us call themselves followers of Jesus Christ, but they are
living out their lifestyles before us as if there will be no accounting
to Jesus Christ for the stewardship of their lives, talents, spiritual gifts,
and opportunities to serve him during their short stay on this earth.
Well, according to Jesus Christ, as recorded in Luke 12:35-48, he is coming
again, not as the Savior of the world, but as the final Judge, and then
he will bless the faithful servants, and the unfaithful servants will come
into judgment. It is at this point in the teaching that our Lord gave the
disciples the third of five warnings. He had warned them to avoid hypocrisy
(Luke 12:1-12) and to guard against greed and worry (Luke 12:13-34). Now
he warns them to seek the kingdom of God, and in so doing they will be prepared
for the second return of their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In light of that reality, are you prepared for Jesus' second coming?
I. Keep alert: Jesus is coming again
"Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight. And
be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding
feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and
knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert
when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and
have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether
he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed
are those slaves. And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had
known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house
to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an
hour that you do not expect."
In the Middle East at that time a rich man would have a large household,
and he needed many servants to help him maintain the property, fields, etc.
He was known as the lord or master, and he was vested with unquestioned
authority. Then there was the office of stewardship, which was held by those
who were responsible to their lord for the administration of the household.
These stewards were either freemen or bondslaves, and they were responsible
to care for not only the property but all the other servants within that
household. The steward was responsible to the master for everything that
was going on. The key to a well-run household was to have a faithful steward
who was willing to fulfill the will of the master. Within that household,
all the servants knew that with faithfulness came blessings, but unfaithfulness
In the immediate context our Lord Jesus would have been thinking of the
household as the nation of Israel, but in the future he would think of the
household of God as the church. Within the nation of Israel the household
stewards would have been the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the servants the
common people who sought to worship God. In the future the household stewards
and slaves would be represented by the elders, pastors, deacons and members
of a local Christian church. Our Lord was standing in the midst of a large
crowd and took advantage of this "teachable moment" to alert them
to the tremendous consequences of their response to his words, of either
blessing to the faithful, or judgment to the unfaithful.
First, they were to be dressed in readiness. Our Lord gave the disciples
a very familiar picture from that culture. It appears that the master had
gone away to a wedding feast for several days, but then the time came for
him to return. So the chief servant called all the others in the house and
informed them that they were to gird their loins (literally, to tuck the
back part of the long, flowing robes they wore up into their belts so they
would be ready to function) and stand by the door so that when the master
knocked, the door would be immediately flung open, and he could enter in
and find his house in order and servants ready to serve him.
Now, when the Messiah himself came the first time, only a few were looking
for him. Mary and Joseph, once told by the angel, responded quickly and
opened their hearts to him. You may remember that in Luke 2:25-35 Mary and
Joseph took our Lord up to Jerusalem right after his circumcision so they
could offer a sacrifice. And there they met a righteous and devout man named
Simeon who was looking for the consolation of Israel, and it had been revealed
to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen
the Lord's Christ. There was also an aged widow and prophetess named Anna
who had been looking for the Messiah and was privileged to see him at the
same time. But there were not many others, so it wasn't a great welcome
when he first came. So our Lord warned his disciples to be prepared for
his second coming.
Then they were to keep their lamps alight. The first-century household had
little oil lamps consisting of a cotton wick floating in a sauce-boat of
oil. This wick had to be kept trimmed and the lamp replenished with oil
or the light would soon go out, leaving the household in darkness. According
to this passage it appears that the Lord would return to a darkened world,
and he wanted to find his disciples shining as "the light of the world"
(Matthew 5:14). For he had called them and set them aside so that by the
power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (symbolized by the oil), the light of
his character and the hope of his message of salvation would shine through
their lives and into the darkened minds of the unbelievers all around them,
resulting in their redemption, until he returned again.
I was reminded of this just a week and a half ago. I was at the Garden Court
restaurant for breakfast with B.J. Fregly, and a young woman came up to
take our order. I said, "Hi, what's your name?" She told us her
name was Kathy, and then as I was ordering, I told her I used to meet there
in a Bible study for businessmen, called Agora. I said, "I don't remember
you, but I do remember a busboy I made friends with named Hector."
She said, "Oh, yes, he's here. His wife just lost her second baby,
and he's really depressed. Maybe you could help him." So I said, "Sure."
Then she asked me what I did, and I said, "Well, I tell people about
Jesus when they're interested. Are you interested?" She replied, "I'm
into Zen." She went on, "Do you guys really teach the Bible?"
I said yes. She said, "Well, I'm into the Psalms, and I don't understand
them." I gave her my name and phone number and told her to call me.
Then Kathy saw Hector and brought him over. And right in the middle of this
very busy breakfast hour, I said, "Hector, I heard you've had a rough
morning. Don't say anything, I'm just going to pray for you." I started
praying for him right in the restaurant, and the guy couldn't believe it.
After breakfast we started off, and he came over and said, "And pray
for me Friday, will you?" And as we walked out the door, Kathy was
saying, "I'll call you!"
You see, we're called to be light. You think you're going to breakfast,
but you're not-that's just a cover! Do you understand what God is doing?
He wants us to be light, faithful servants where the light is always burning,
dispelling darkness for other people.
Next, Jesus told his disciples they were to stand by the front door. Why?
Because he is coming again! He was telling them about the master's going
away to a wedding. A Jewish wedding at that time would last some seven days,
and then all the guests would have a final toast and return home. Our Lord
was looking past the cross to the wonderful resurrection, ascension, and
then his second coming as the risen Lord and Savior, first invisible for
his church, and then visible, in which "...at the name of Jesus every
knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the
earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11.)
Finally, the master would bless the faithful servants. This is a fabulous
verse! The publishers of the German Bible say this is the most fulfilling
verse that they can think of in their Bible. It says when the master returned
to his home and and knocked on the door, and the alert servants immediately
opened the door and ushered him into his own home, he looked around and
found not only his servants in readiness for his return but also the house
in order and all the lamps lit. In order to fulfill their master's wishes
the servants had set aside their own personal goals, hopes and dreams. And
this faithfulness so filled the master's heart with joy that he called in
all his faithful servants and ordered them to sit down at the dinner table.
Then he girded himself and began to serve them at the table and meet their
needs. This was quite contrary to local custom, but a few months later we
would find our Lord literally doing this in the upper room during the Last
Supper with his disciples: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given
all things into His hands, and that he had come forth from God, and was
going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking
a towel, He girded himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and
began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with
which He was girded." (John 13:3-5.) It's a beautiful picture, isn't
it? The Creator of the universe is going to wash the feet of all the faithful
servants throughout the ages. It's going to be awesome!
Then Jesus told them to be careful, for we don't know when the Lord is coming.
It may be the second watch (between 9:00 pm and midnight) or the third watch
(midnight to 3:00 am). It really doesn't matter, for we are men and women
who are serving Jesus Christ in such a way that no matter whether he comes
today or tomorrow, we always have an awareness that he is present. We know
his word is true, and since he said, "I'm coming again," we know
he is. Be ready! Don't keep looking at your watches, and don't arrange your
life as if he won't come one day but he may come some other day. The servants
(bondslaves) within the household that our Lord was speaking of were so
faithful and so alert that it didn't bother them that they didn't know at
exactly what hour he would return.
Jesus gave an illustration to help with this idea. As contrary to nature
as it would have been for a thief to announce to the house master of a rich
household when he was going to break in (in the Greek, dig a hole through
the wall of the house) and steal all that was of value in that home, so
it is contrary to the behavior of the master to announce when he's going
to return. It's his house, and he is free to show up any time he wants.
He doesn't have to give anybody a warning. He's in charge, and he has a
plan that he wants his faithful servants to be part of. So he's saying,
"Just keep on doing what you've been called to do until the moment
And in the same way it's contrary to the plans of our Lord to announce to
the world when he is going to come back to this earth as the risen Lord
and Judge. In the Scriptures we discover that our risen and glorified Lord
Jesus will come again to this earth in two stages. The first stage is called
"the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10) and will be his invisible
coming. As a "thief in the night" or "at an hour you know
not," our Lord will return to this earth for his children sometime
before the great and terrible tribulation mentioned in Daniel and in Revelation.
We who love him and have given our lives to him will see him, but the world
of unbelievers will not see him.
The second stage is called "the day of the Lord," which will occur
at the end of the seven-year tribulation. The whole world will see our Lord's
visible return to this earth with his saints and his mighty angels in flaming
fire to judge the nations and establish his divine rule on earth for a thousand
years. Some twenty years after this account, the apostle Paul would write
to the true servants of our risen Lord in Thessalonica, "...you yourselves
know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the
night. While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will
come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they
shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should
overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day."
(1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.)
Then addressing the Pharisees, our Lord warned, "You too, be ready;
for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect." The
Son of Man title portrays Jesus as the representative man, the "last
Adam" in contrast to the first, sinful Adam, the Lord from heaven in
contrast to the man from earth. And it is within this name that salvation
is offered to the whole human race. The Son of Man was mentioned in Daniel
7:13-14: "I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the
clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the
Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion,
glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language
might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not
pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed." The
Son of Man in his first coming was very visible, but the nation of Israel
rejected him as well as his kingdom. So the next time he comes for his own
servants, he will come as a thief in the night and gather his faithful to
himself before his awesome visible coming to judge the world. Keep alert!
Now, many of us will experience his second coming event at our own last
breath on this earth, our physical death. It really doesn't matter, because
either way, you never lose consciousness. Psalm 23:4 says, "Even though
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou
art with me." I walk through death, but I don't experience death. So
for all of us who experience the Lord's second coming through our physical
death, it's the same thing as his visible coming for his children. A dear
friend and faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ was on his death bed
at El Camino Hospital, and I came into his room to sit and pray with him.
After a few moments John looked at me and said, "Ron, can you hear
the music? Do you see the Lord?" I said, "No John, I don't."
And with a big smile he said, "Ron, it's so beautiful." And in
that moment he was called to join our risen Lord in his second coming. I
didn't see any of it, but he saw it all.
Are you prepared for Jesus' second coming? Keep alert; he really is coming,
II. Remain faithful: Jesus is coming again
And Peter said, "Lord, are You addressing this parable
to us, or to everyone else as well?" And the Lord said, "Who then
is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge
of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed
is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say
to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that
slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming, and begins
to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;
the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him,
and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign
him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will
and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many
lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a
flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much
shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will
ask all the more."
Peter said, "Lord, are you addressing this parable to us, or to everyone
else as well?" Jesus replied, "Who then is the faithful and sensible
steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them
their rations at the proper time?" Our Lord didn't answer Peter's question
at first, but rather opened up the whole issue of what it means to be a
faithful servant and the rewards that follow, and what it means to be an
unfaithful servant and the punishment that follows. Let's look at each for
First, the faithful servant: The chief steward in any given household was
not only responsible to take care of the property and keep alert against
the possibility of thieves, but he was also to care for and feed the other
household slaves. It appears that our Lord was surely inviting the Pharisees
as well as anyone in the crowd to acknowledge him as their Messiah and Master
and be willing to serve him in the household of God. Those who accept that
invitation understand that in their relationship with Jesus, the new life
they have is no longer their own, but it is bought with a price, and they
are willing to leave all and serve him. He was also inviting the Pharisees
to be faithful shepherds to the nation of Israel as his Father had called
them to be, which they were not at the moment. There was still opportunity.
Jesus' teaching here was a reminder as well to the disciples who were called
to build the church of Jesus Christ after his resurrection. He had told
Peter on an earlier occasion that he was going away, but before he went
away he was giving him a task. He would build the church upon the fact which
Peter had already confessed, that he was the Christ, the Son of the Living
God. He said, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and
whatever you shall bind on earth shall [have been] bound in heaven, and
whatever you shall loose on earth shall [have been] loosed in heaven."
(Matthew 16:19.) This teaching was in fact a reminder of the Great Commission
our risen Lord gave his disciples: "All authority has been given to
Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you
always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20.) And the apostle
Paul would gather the elders of the church of Ephesus together and remind
them of their spiritual responsibilities until the Lord returned: "For
I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard
for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made
you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with his
own blood." (Acts 20:27-28.)
"Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions."
A good and faithful servant has a heart commitment to his master to live
and work as if the master were always present. (And he is always present!)
So once the master returns, the servant has only to continue in the task
that his master assigned him and live a life that brings honor to his master's
name. This may also mean that those bondservants of Christ who are faithful
on earth will be given joyful responsibilities in eternity. The aged Peter
would write to the second generation of believers in Turkey some thirty
years after this event and a few months before his own death, "...I
exhort the elders..., shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight
not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and
not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those
allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when
the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."
(I Peter 5:1-4.) The joy of serving our Lord Jesus on earth will continue
in heaven; this is part of the "eternal weight [responsibility] of
glory" mentioned in 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Now let's look at the unfaithful servant. "But if that slave says in
his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming,' and begins to beat
the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk...."
Your actions betray your heart in time, for a faithful servant never lives
as if his master were away, for in his heart and mind his master is always
present. So he lives as if his master were physically present. The answer,
therefore, to Peter's question, "Lord, are You addressing this parable
to us, or to everyone else as well?" was, "Peter, I'm addressing
this parable to anyone who says they are truly my followers, for in due
time one's actions will betray his heart. The actions of a faithful servant
will show in the way he is preparing for the master's return. The actions
of an unfaithful servant will become clear in time in the way he is not
prepared for the master's return. (Remember, standing in the crowd listening
to the words of Jesus were the Pharisees and Judas.) And if you think you
can cover up and make people think you're a faithful servant when your heart
is not committed to the Master, I want you to know that in time your actions
will give you away. You will produce who you are out of your heart."
When the master returns, should he find any unfaithful servants, he will
bring them to immediate judgment. Jesus gave three cases: (1) Should he
find an unfaithful servant whose actions betrayed his heart commitment to
his master in his mistreatment of the servants and wasting of his resources,
he will be severely punished and be will assigned a place with unbelievers.
And unless he repents of his wicked ways, he will eventually be placed in
hell. (2) Should the master return and find an unfaithful servant who was
not carrying out his master's will, he will receive many lashes. (3) Should
he return and find a servant exercising his unfaithfulness in ignorance,
he will receive a few lashes. But all three servants in each of the above
cases picture men and women whose actions betrayed their hearts, and they
were never true servants of their Master. The bottom line is that all will
be punished and placed outside the household with unbelievers, which is
a symbol of hell. This is serious! The consequences are life and death,
eternal blessing or eternal judgment. At the moment that Jesus comes back,
the offer of salvation ends and the servants are judged.
Finally, Jesus gave them two eternal spiritual principles. First, he said,
"And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required..."
On the positive side of the coin, the Christian church would be greatly
blessed by the Lord through the faithful lives of the apostles. Jesus had
invested his life and the truth of his second coming into them and he expected
them to remain faithful to him and to that truth in the days ahead (a time
which we now call the Age of the Spirit). We know that all of the apostles,
except Judas, remained faithful to Jesus and to his teaching about his second
coming. For example, some thirty years after this event, Peter wrote to
the Christian community in northwest Turkey about some who were mocking
the coming of the Lord, saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from
the beginning of creation." Peter replied, " The Lord is not slow
about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not
wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. But the day
of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pas away with
a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth
and its works will be burned up." (2 Peter 3:3-11.) John would write
to the same churches after the deaths of Peter and Paul, "And now,
little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence
and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming." (1 John 2:28.)
Paul, the latecomer, writing to the Thessalonians some 20 years after these
words were spoken, said, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven
with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God:
and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in
the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians
On the negative side of this coin, the Lord was addressing (1) Pharisees
who were in the crowd. It was these spiritual leaders of Israel who had
been given the Law and the Prophets in which the Master of the household,
the God of Israel, had told them about the first coming of their Messiah,
and they had missed it. And now in their blindness they would miss the second
coming of Messiah Jesus as Lord of lords and King of kings, and thus their
judgment would be eternal separation from the presence of God and eternal
wailing and gnashing of teeth. Within a few months Judas would betray Jesus.
A few years later the apostle Paul would write from his Roman prison cell
to his spiritual son Timothy living in Ephesus, "Make every effort
to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted
me and gone to Thessalonica...Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm;
the Lord will repay him according to his deeds." (2 Timothy 4: 9-14.)
Some sixty years after the Lord spoke the words in this account, the aged
apostle John would write to his dear friend Gaius, warning him about a church
leader named Diotrephes: "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes,
who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this
reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly
accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, neither does
he himself receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire to do so,
and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but
what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has
not seen God." (3 John 9-11.)
The second eternal spiritual principle Jesus gave was, "...and to whom
they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." The Pharisees,
the Jews within the crowd, and the disciples had received much spiritual
light from the Law and the Prophets as well as from the life and ministry
of their Lord, Messiah Jesus. In light of all that truth, our Lord was warning
these three different groups that they were all going to be held accountable
to God for what they did with the truth they had been given. At the same
time our Lord was encouraging them that if one is entrusted with much truth
and he is faithful with that truth, he will gain even greater responsibilities.
Thirty years ago I used to stand on platforms like this and in classrooms
and teach hundreds of people the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was only
one thing missing-the people! I used to teach in open, empty rooms. And
I asked God if he would fill those rooms some day. The principle is that
he will if we're faithful in the small things. So my wife and I started
teaching nine-, ten-, and eleven-year-olds. It wasn't quite what I had in
mind! But that is what God had in mind. All these rooms were empty then.
I just had a Bible, a little bit of faith, a lot of arrogance, no experience,
and a heart that wanted to serve God. And that's all it takes-just a heart
that wants to serve God. Then God will reward faithfulness in small things
with greater responsibilities.
Paul would write to the Corinthians in years to come, "Let a man regard
us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries
of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found
trustworthy." (1 Corinthians 4:1-2.) Peter would write to the Asian
Christians: "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in
serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
(1 Peter 4:10.) Paul said just before he was to be beheaded on the Appian
Way under the cruel sword of Nero, "For I am already being poured out
as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought
the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the
future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,
the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but
also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8.)
Are you prepared for Jesus' second coming? Our heavenly Father sent his
Son to this earth the first time to offer all of us who were dead in our
trespasses and sins the hope of salvation, if we would invite Jesus into
our hearts as Lord. In this age of the Spirit which came into existence
after our Lord's death, burial, resurrection, and ascension on the day of
Pentecost, our risen Lord is still offering the hope of salvation to all
who believe in him as Lord. Once we accept him as our Lord, he places us
into his household and gives us spiritual gifts and areas of responsibility
to spread the good news of our redemption through our Lord Jesus. In the
midst of our ministries we are called to remain faithful to our Lord by
being dressed in readiness and keeping our lamps lit with the oil of the
Holy Spirit, so that men and women all around us will be drawn out a world
of darkness into the kingdom of light. We are also called to keep alert
in the midst of all this ministry, knowing that the invisible but always
present Lord will return, and then he will bring blessing to those servants
who are faithful and judgment to those servants who are unfaithful.
Jesus is coming again. The first time he came with the offer of salvation;
the second time the world will see him rule and reign on this earth as the
righteous Judge. If we reject his wonderful offer of salvation now, we will
have to meet him as our Judge at the time of our death or in his glorious
second coming. Since now is the day of salvation, I beg you, don't put off
his offer of salvation today. You may not have another day on this earth
to make your decision.
Catalog No. 4154
July 21, 1991
Copyright © 1991 Discovery
Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula
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