THEE END – FACING THE FINAL FRONTIER SERIES
NOVEMBER 8, 1998
Almost all of children’s literature from THE THREE LITTLE PIGS to the BERENSTEIN BEARS has a similar ending. And they lived happily ever after. They lived happily ever after. We have that yearning, that desire to do the same thing, don’t we? God’s literature, the Bible, sort of ends the same way. In essence, it says, and they, being Christ followers, will live happily ever after. But folks, it is impossible to live happily ever after unless we are Ever Ready. Ready for Thee End.
Every moment that melts off the clock brings us closer and closer to the climax of human history, that time when the curtain will fall on life as we know it. Scripture boldly states that Christ will come again. It says time after time that Jesus will take from the earth those of us who know Him personally. And this process is called the rapture.
The word rapture means snatch away. Now when I just said that, I know what you are thinking. Every time someone talks about the Second Coming of Christ, questions arise and doubts surface. “What will happen to me? What will occur in my life? How about my loved ones? How will this whole deal play out?” Some skeptics, and I know we have some here and we welcome them, take a different line of approach. “Well, Ed, Second Coming, being snatched up, being raptured, give me a massive break. I have a hard time accepting this data in this rationalistic and relativistic culture.”
Hey, skeptic and seeker, listen to my words. Truth is truth. And truth is true whether we believe it or not. For example, the law of gravity is true. When I drop my Bible, the law of gravity brings it to the carpet. Now the law of gravity will take place whether I believe it or disbelieve it. So if you find yourself in this category, please, I challenge you, make every session in this series.
Others of us are not skeptics, not seekers, but Christ followers. We are believers. And some of us are saying, “Ed, I am on Christ’s team. I am a part of the family. I have got my home in heaven locked in, secured, man, why do I need to study thee end? I mean, I have got it together. I am so busy. I have got deadlines to take care of, carpools to drive. I know things will turn out OK, but studying the end of times. You mean, I need to do that?” Yes. The Bible promises us that when we study prophecy, when we dissect the end of times, that God will pour out upon our lives, and collectively to this church, a huge amount of blessing. Also, you need to be informed because this stuff can radically revolutionize and change your life.
But I have got to say this, too, right up front before we dive into this series, studying prophecy and the end times is useless unless it brings forth life change. So if you just want to get the information thing down, that is not enough. You are just half way home. I pray, and our leadership team has been praying over the last several weeks, that this changes and impacts and revolutionizes your life and mine.
I really think that Christ could return in my lifetime. I really believe that and maybe you do to. I kind of equate it to reading a Grisham novel. Do we have any John Grisham readers in the house? I love John Grisham. You know when you are reading one of his novels, you kind of tell when you are getting near the end, can’t you, by the story line, the character development and the number of pages read. Well a lot of Biblical scholars, a lot of men and women who have walked with Christ for a long, long time sort of feel it. They can see the end drawing near by the story line, by the character development, by the number of pages turned in human history. They really feel it is right here upon us. Thee end.
The Gallop group conducted a survey a couple of years ago. They discovered that 62% of Americans believe in a literal Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Well, a while after that survey was taken, they did another one. They discovered that 40% of Americans would say that they are Christ followers, that they are born again. Do you see the discrepancy here? Don’t you see the paradox here in these two surveys? At least 22% of the people we rub shoulders with every day believe in the second coming of Christ, but they are not prepared for it. They are not ever ready.
One day Jesus was teaching a large group of people. This group had a very diversified flavor and Jesus, as the master teacher, captured this teachable moment. He used an illustration with which everyone could identify. In this illustration He challenged people to do some things as they waited, as they got ever ready for his Second Coming. The words that I want us to grasp now are the same words He told His listeners about 2,000 years ago. I want to read to you His words from Luke 12.
“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. 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.”
Well, right up front Christ told His listeners, and He tells us, to do several things. First of all, He tells us to dress up. He said, be dressed in readiness. He tells us to dress up. This is the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex, the land of malls and of fashion. We are very conscious about our clothes. We want to make the right statement and we spend a lot of time and a lot of energy and a lot of money on our wardrobe. Well Jesus challenges us to make a fashion statement. No, you cannot pick this outfit up at the Galleria or North Park Mall or Irving Mall. No, it is an attitude. It is a lifestyle. He tells us to be ready. He tells us to put on a wardrobe of readiness. We are to be ready for his Second Coming.
Have you ever thought about how much time we spend getting ready? We get ready for a trip by packing. We get ready for a test by studying. We had better get ready for the Second Coming by dressing. Here is what Jesus did. He talked about a wedding. A wealthy homeowner had a bunch of servants working for him. Jesus described the man going off to a wedding feast. And while he was away at this feast, which might last 7 days in the Jewish culture, the head servant got all the other servants together. He said, “Listen, guys. We have got to get dressed in readiness. We have got to be ready for our master’s return.” So the Bible says that they girded their loins. Back in Biblical times they wore long, flowing robes. When people girded their loins they would take the back part of the robe and tuck it in their belt. It kind of compares to us rolling up our sleeves. They would get ready to work because they had no clue when the master would return. But the chief guy said that they had to get ready for his return.
Now I have got to stop and ask you a question. Are you dressed in readiness? Are you really dressed in readiness? Because I believe if Christ were to come again right now, some of us would be raptured. Some of us would be snatched away but others, quite frankly, would be left behind.
Last week I was out of town. Wednesday evening, late into the night, I found myself preparing and studying for this series. I had my Bible open, my legal pad out since I am kind of computer unfriendly, and a big old mug of coffee. I was in a quaint dining area just trying to write this stuff down. A gentleman walked in who was employed at this place and he looked at me and the Bible and asked what I was doing. I replied that I was studying for a talk that I was going to give about what God and the Bible says about the end times. He replied that he did not believe in the God of the Bible but that what I was doing was fascinating. I asked him to tell me about his worldview and about his life. I asked whether he considered himself a skeptic or a seeker. He said that he was kind of open. I said that if he was I had a book to recommend for him. MERE CHRISTIANITY by C.S. Lewis. I told him that it is a little book that would rock him. He asked if I minded sending him a copy and I promised to do that.
He walked over and sat down at a table about 10 feet away from me. I continued to study. I felt the Holy Spirit of God saying to me, “Isn’t it wild? Here you are talking about the second coming of Christ and here you are ready but seated at a table 10 feet from you is a skeptic who is not ready.” How many of you would consider living the rest of your life naked? Any takers? “I am just going to do life nude, at the office, at the golf course, the health club. I don’t like clothes.” That would be ridiculous. That line of thinking would be crazy, yet we rub shoulders with so many people who are living life spiritually naked, without clothes on, without readiness. And they are missing what the Lord has for them.
Jesus must have loved talking about weddings. In Matthew 25 he used another illustration to talk about the end of times. He used this wedding picture. He said that there were ten bridesmaids waiting for a wedding parade. Remember I said that sometimes wedding parties would last for about one week? Well here is what would take place in the Jewish household. The groom would make his way to the bride’s house and they would get married. Sometimes the ceremony would last a pretty long time. After the ceremony, perhaps after midnight, there would be a big parade from the bride’s house to the groom’s house. Fathers, can you imagine paying for this one?
The ten bridesmaids were waiting for the parade. They were getting tired. They had been at the salon all day, getting hair and nails done. Jesus said that five of these bridesmaids were smart because they brought with them lamps and oil for their lamps. But five of the bridesmaids were unwise, let’s call them airheads. They brought lamps but no oil. All of them were waiting for the parade. They must have had a long-winded pastor; they waited a long time. Finally, finally, finally the parade starts. The five bridesmaids who had oil said, “Oh, girl, it is going to be great.” They were into it, following along; they were ready for it. When they got to the groom’s house, they went in and had a great time at the party.
Well, the five airheads, said, “We have no oil!” And they tried to make it to 7Eleven to buy some oil. But all the stores were closed. When they got to the groom’s house they said, “Sir, sir open the door for us.” But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.” Then Jesus said, “Be on alert then for you do not know the day nor the hour.” One more time I ask you, are you dressed in readiness? Are you ready? Are you prepared for the rapture?
There is something that I have learned about getting dressed. You have got to have adequate light to get dressed, don’t you? Have you ever made the mistake of getting dressed in the dark? I have. You know I like to wear the color black. And I have things that are blue and black. Now when I get dressed in the dark, many times I will put on a black coat, blue pants, one black sock, one blue sock. Well, Jesus knew that we need light to get dressed up. He said we should dress up in readiness. The second thing He said was to light up. Dress up and then light up.
We go back to our text in Luke 12. He said be dressed in readiness and keep your lamps alight. Keep your lamps alight. We just got into the lamp thing so let me explain it a little further. Back then, you had a little boat of oil with a cotton wick. You would light the wick, but you would need to keep the boat filled with oil. Also you had to constantly trim and cut back the wick. If you didn’t, the light would go out and the house would be dark. Well the chief servant said to light up, light up, light up. He was not talking about smoking cigarettes. He was saying, keep your lamps going because you don’t know when the head of the household, the homeowner, will come back. Light up.
Jesus often told us to be lights. We are the light to the world. Light dispels darkness. So as I am dressed in readiness, I am also to light up. I am to reflect Christ in everything that I do.
The word oil in scripture is used to describe the Holy Spirit of God. Once Christ infiltrates our lives, he places the person of the Holy Spirit there. And that is the oil. And Jesus lives His life from the inside out. And I should light up every conversation, every interchange, every activity, everything that I am about. So when Christ comes back and looks at my life and your life, He should see that we are lighting up, that we have the light going on, dispelling darkness. People who are living in the darkness are always drawn to light.
This was made very clear to me in a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to a young man in his 20s and he had no idea that I was a pastor. I love talking to people under those circumstances. He began to tell me about his life and some of the problems that he had been having. Then he began to get into all of the exploits that he had been having with the opposite sex. He was using some off-color language. I stopped him and said, “Ozzie, what do you think about church and God? Where are you there.” He said, “Well, I go to church now and then but I don’t like church because they talk in terms that I don’t understand.” He asked me if I went to church. I said yeah. He asked, every Sunday? I said yeah I go every Sunday. He asked if my wife made me do that. I said no. Then he asked why I went every Sunday. “Ozzie, I hate to rain on your parade but I am a minister.” And you could see him press the rewind button. All the damns and hells and the women he talked about! It is kind of pastoral humor. You know every line of work has its humor. Doctor humor, attorney humor, construction worker humor. That is pastoral humor, not telling people that you are a pastor and letting them make complete fools of themselves before you step in and say you are a pastor.
The really neat thing was that a friend I was with and I began to share with him. Ozzie really heard the words that we were saying. And immediately I thought about being a light. Whatever we do, whatever we say, wherever we go, we are to light up things. We never know when we will be raptured.
Historically, the instantaneous return of Christ has done two things to Christians in the church. The first thing is that it has given Christians a real desire to live pure lives. I am talking about purity, holiness. I am not talking about some legalistic trip. I am talking about purity that comes from Christ himself. I want to live a pure life because I am reflecting Christ and His love and His grace in everything I do. The Bible says in I John 3:3, “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.”
Take a look at your life, for example. Is there anything, any activity, any attitude, any conversation, anything that you are involved in right now that would embarrass you if Christ were to return while you were involved in this particular activity? Anything. A movie. A place you frequent. A joke. A story. A conversation. Vocabulary words. If you begin to think about the things that might embarrass Christ, I want to challenge you to do something. I want to challenge you to dispel the darkness, to cut back the wick, to fill your boat with oil, to turn your back on the sin and begin to light up every area of your existence with purity. An instantaneous return of Christ always motivates us, I am talking to sincere Christ followers now, to purity.
It also does something else. It motivates us for urgency. Purity and urgency. Why did I do a series a couple of weeks ago called “On Purpose”? I will tell you why. It is because I have an urgency. At the Fellowship Church we have a sense of urgency for people to come to Christ. We don’t want anybody to be left behind. We want all of us to instantaneously be zapped from this planet to being with the Lord. That is our desire. That is our urgency. And we believe that corporately, and also individually, as we rub shoulders with irreligious, hell-bound and hell-raising people. We should get into strategic conversations with them and share slivers of Christ with them so they will know Him personally, so they will dress up and light up their world.
So Jesus said, dress up and light up. But He also added something else. He said, wait up. Let’s go back to the story. All the servants were waiting up for the master to return. Yeah, they were ready. Yeah, they were cutting back the wick and keeping the oil regulated but they were also waiting up. They were standing right by the door because the owner could come back whenever he wanted to. After all, it was his house. They knew that the wedding might go on for a week or so but they didn’t know when he was returning. They were ready, they were serving and they were on point. And when the master walked in, Jesus said that the house was clean and spotless. These servants had put aside their desires and their agendas to serve the master. And when the master walked in the door, he did something counter-cultural. Jesus said that this wealthy man tucked his robe into his belt, he rolled up his sleeves, he told the servants to sit down at his table and he served them. What was Christ doing here? Jesus was looking past His death, past His burial, past His resurrection, past His ascension to His Second Coming. One day when we meet our Savior face to face we will sit down at His table to dine with Him and live forever and ever and ever in a place that is beyond description. But this place is reserved for those of us who have appropriated Christ’s sacrificial and atoning work on the cross into our lives. That’s it.
Then Jesus throws out some paradoxical points. He was always doing this. He said that a thief would not walk up to someone who owns a cool house and say, “Hey, I am going to break into your house tomorrow at 2pm. You be there waiting for me because I am going to come and take everything you have, Jack.” He is not going to do that. A thief comes when you least expect him or her. You never know when a thief is going to strike. And Jesus said that that was the way He is going to return. It is kind of funny. Every generation has a group of people who say they know when Christ will return. The date locked in. They don’t know. If anyone says they know, they don’t. Jesus said that no one knows but the Father. And it is interesting to hear people say that He is going to come in the year 2,000, or whenever we fight again in the middle east, etc. No one knows. Christ said over and over and over again in the New Testament that no one knows. So it is kind of funny people say they know. We just don’t know the exact time.
Are you ever ready? Are you ready for what is going to happen? If you do know the Lord personally, you have an urgency about you. You have a purity about you. You have a readiness about you. You have a light in you. And that is good. You are ready for the rapture. Next weekend we are going to talk about the rapture. The Bible says that something is going to take place that is going to be horrible, really beyond horrible, beyond chaos. It is referred to as the Tribulation, a seven-year period of hell on earth. The Bible predicts this and it talks about it regularly and in a very direct fashion.
As I talk about this topic next weekend, I want you to be ready to hear it. I sincerely believe that these words can alter and transform your life in a positive and powerful way. Now let me make you this promise though. I am only going to be here if Christ continues to wait, because He can come back in the next minute, the next hour, the next day or the next week. He really, really could. Are you ever ready?