Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Be Ready" Sermon: Matthew 24:36-44



“Be Ready”
[Matthew 24:36-44]
November 27, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            We begin the season of Advent this morning.
            When we say “advent,” we think about a period before Christmas.  But the word “advent” generally just means the period before something or someone comes.
            When we think about the Advent of Jesus – of God coming to earth in the person of Jesus, we understand that the forty days that we observe are symbolic of the period of waiting.  Adam and Eve were first promised the coming of the Savior back in Genesis – as God curses the serpent and says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head,             and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15, ESV).  And four thousand years later, the Son of God incarnates in the person of Jesus to save a people for Himself.
            On the first Sunday of Advent, we look forward to Jesus’ return.  The period from Jesus’ incarnation to Jesus’ return is often called, “the Second Advent” – we are in a period of waiting for Jesus to return and restore the Creation and banish evil – and we have been waiting for 2,000 years.
            Some have been trying to figure out the exact date of Jesus’ return:  there have been more than fifty dates posed for Christ’s return – all of which have passed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictions_and_claims_for_the_Second_Coming_of_Christ).
            After Jesus condemns the Pharisees and prophesies the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples ask Him what the signs will be of the end of the age and what the signs will be of Jesus’ coming again.
            Jesus tells them what the signs will be, and then He speaks the words we heard this morning.
            And He tells them, first, it will be like the days of Noah when Jesus returns.
            “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 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, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
            Jesus tells them and us – and all those people who “figured out” the year and even the date of Jesus’ return – no human, no angel, not even the Son, knows the date of His return – only the Father.
            And so, we learn that setting dates for Jesus’ return is futile and lack of trust in His words.  Yet, if God the Father knows when Jesus will return, why doesn’t the Son know?  If they are the same One God, why doesn’t Jesus know?
            We need to remember that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human in one person.  He has the Mind of God and the mind of the human, Jesus of Nazareth.  And God the Son kept His human mind from knowing the time of His return.
            However, He tells the disciples that His return will be like the coming of the flood in the days of Noah:  people will be eating and drinking and getting married – it will look like an ordinary day – there will be nothing special to alert to Jesus’ return until it is too late.  The people of the world will continue on in blind indifference to the Gospel until it is too late to believe and repent.
            This is what God tells us the days of Noah were like:
            “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:5-8, ESV).
            The world was carrying on, doing whatever it thought was right in its own eyes.  All the world was wicked.  All the world sought evil continually.  Except for Noah.
            Jesus will return when the world is again like the days of Noah.  Jesus will return when the world is happy in their wickedness – when all seems at peace and normal and calm.  Jesus will return when no one expects or believes He will come.  And then it will be too late to change your mind.
            Jesus will return on an utterly normal day when people are going about their normal life.
            Second, there will be an instant separation.
            “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
            On the day that Jesus returns, people will be about their normal business:  men will be working, women will be working, and suddenly – as Jesus returns – there will be a separation of all the peoples of the world:  on one hand will be those who never believed, on the other will be those who do believe.
            John describes this sudden separation like this:
            “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”
(Revelation 20:11-15, ESV).
            Suddenly, unexpectedly, Jesus will return and take His people to Himself and judge all the people of the world, taking His people into the Kingdom, and sending those who reject Him to their wage in Hell.
            And so, Jesus says to stay awake.  He tells us to be alert.  To be ready whenever He does return.  To always be about those things which are pleasing to Him – holding fast to your faith in Him alone.
            Third, Jesus says we are to be ready.
“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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Jesus puts His return to His disciples and us like this:  If you know that someone is going to break into your house at 2:30 A.M. tomorrow morning, would you just let it happen, or would you stay awake and call the police so they could capture him in the act?
If you knew your guests were arriving for Thanksgiving dinner at 3 P.M. in the afternoon. Would you not bother to get ready for them – setting up the table and preparing food – or would you get ready for their arrival, so you could entertain them and share food with them?
Paul puts it to us this way:
            “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, ESV).
            Are you ready?  Are you awake?  Are you ready at any moment to be taken away by Jesus into His Kingdom? 
            Or are you wasting your time and your gifts, not sharing them – especially with the church?
            Or are you doing things that you would not want Jesus to see you doing when He returns?
            Or will you tell Jesus on that day “just a minute, Lord, I need to finish this or that”?
            We have seen in our look at the Gospel of John that Jesus has gone to prepare a place in the Father’s house for all we who believe – the Kingdom is being readied for us.  Jesus promised to return for us and take us there.
            Are you ready?
            Do you love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength and your neighbor as yourself?
            Are you getting ready by loving God with your emotions and all that is spiritual about you?  Are you getting ready by loving God with your mind by learning everything you can about Who God is and what He has said?  Are you getting ready by loving God with your body – using it in respectful ways and to God’s glory as you have joy in it?  Are you getting ready by loving your neighbor first and foremost by telling them the Gospel?
            Are you getting ready by encouraging and building up your fellow Christians in the faith and the hope that we have together?
            Get ready.
            Be ready.
            Jesus is coming on a regular day – on such a normal day we would never think it would be today.
            But what if it is?
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, we look forward to the return of Your Son in glory and the restoration of the Creation.  Keep us from being self-centered and thinking His return is all about us.  Lead us by God the Holy Spirit to be ready for His return, preparing for His return in our lives – with all of our being – and in making sure we have told everyone the Gospel.  And may we be an encouragement of the truth of the Gospel to our brothers and sisters.  And then, come, Lord Jesus, come.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Thanksgiving Letter 2016



Second Reformed Church
132 Elmwood Ave.
Irvington, NJ 07111
 “Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Israel his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!” (1 Chronicles 16:8-13, ESV).
                                                                                                            November 26, 2016
Dear Members and Friends of Second Reformed Church,
            I am thankful I am alive.
            I am thankful for my family and friends.
            I am thankful for Second Reformed Church – both the building and her congregation (church).
            I am thankful for my home.
            I am thankful for my cat.
            I am thankful for music.
            I am thankful for books.
            I am thankful for my doctors.
            I am thankful I can think.
            I am thankful for the Triune God, His salvation through His Son, Jesus, His Word, and the grace, blessing, and mercy He shows me.
            I am thankful for my sense of humor.
            I am thankful for chocolate truffles, pizza, coke, eggplant, and chickpeas.
            I am thankful for Providence and 20/20 hindsight.
            I am thankful for all the good of the interweb.
            I am thankful I live now in history and in the United States.
            I am thankful for my life.

Happy Thanksgiving!
In His Service,

Rev. Dr. Peter A. Butler, Jr., pastor