The twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew’s gospel is a sobering section that involves Jesus teaching the disciples about eschatology--that part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of mankind. Israel, of course, is central to Jesus’ teaching regarding His future second coming, which makes the surprise attack by Hamas on Israel and the subsequent ongoing war in the Middle East of particular interest to Bible-believing Christians as world events continue to play out in real-time. There is much to consider regarding the entire chapter of Matthew 24—too much for one blog—but I do want to look at Matthew 24:36-44, which talks about readiness:
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (ESV, Bold emphasis mine)
Surprises get us thinking, don’t they? Especially when the surprise is threatening in some way. This passage speaks of the people in Noah’s day who were living life normally “until the day Noah entered the ark,” and then, suddenly, and surely surprisingly, the all-consuming flood was upon the world!
I remember the big Anchorage earthquake of a few years ago. It was November 30th, 2018, at 8:30 AM. I was fellowshipping with a dear Christian brother at a local coffee shop when suddenly, and most surprisingly, everything started to shake. The shaking intensity grew, and we quickly discerned this was a new and different event. Our day took on an unexpected, unplanned trajectory from there forward.
I wrote my last blog the week of the 33rd anniversary of 9/11, which was another day when we were all rocked with a surprise that changed the world as we knew it.
Then, two weeks ago, we were all shocked to learn of the sudden, vicious-beyond-all-measure terror attack on Israel by Hamas, and now the world is changed again.
When we are shocked, we fall back to what we know--what we have prepared for in our heads and hearts—so I want to focus this morning on the two “therefores” in the passage. These are exhortations from our Lord Jesus to be ready for His coming at any time and without specific warning.
The first exhortation says, “stay awake.” This is not talking about never sleeping. It is talking about being vigilant. It is urging believers to live always in a Biblical context. We’re to be attentive and always consider the news of the day in the context of Biblical truth. If we are not exercising spiritual disciplines, like being in church, being in the Word, and praying both individually and corporately—which is no more than living like the Christians we claim to be—we are at risk of failing to “stay awake” as our Lord commands. Basic personal holiness and intentional Christian living equates to staying awake to readiness for Jesus to come.
The second “therefore” says to “be ready.” This exhortation hits me in a manner in keeping with my military training and experience. Readiness is a very often used word in military operations, plans, and culture because our modern view of going to war is “we fight tomorrow.” The idea is that 24 to 48 hours from sitting on one’s couch watching football, the uniformed American warrior could be in a theater of war, squeezing the trigger in mortal combat.
Thus, the art and science of being fully prepared to answer the nation’s call well and faithfully has developed into a professional and robust model. There are a variety of readiness categories to measure, from personal readiness to how trained a soldier or unit is in combat skills. Suffice to say, the military leadership and culture well understands that the difference between victory and defeat, between success and failure, between life and death, rests on being ready to “fight tomorrow.”
So, as we think about how Jesus wants us to be spiritually ready for His pre-ordained future for the elect, He is saying that there won't be time to catch up on accounts---with Him, or with others—if we have been “sleeping” when He suddenly and surprisingly returns. We must be ready to stand before Him tomorrow, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” I am guessing you find such language both exciting and a bit terrifying, and it rightly should be both. We should be excited for the completion of God’s perfect pan for His glorious redemption of fallen creation. We should be moved to examine our salvation and in light of it, consider our true readiness as His elect who know the surety of Christ our Lord’s triumphant return.
Today, think about your readiness to see Jesus face-to-face and consider your readiness to do so.