Text: Mark 13:32-37
32 But no one except the Father knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son. 33 Beware! Be alert! For you do not know when is the time. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who when he left his house and gave authority to his servants, to each one his work, gave this command to the doorkeeper: “Be alert!” 35 Therefore, be alert! For you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning, 36 that he should not come unexpectedly and find you sleeping. 37 Now what I say to you, I say to all: "Be alert!"
We were sleeping! This is the assessment of the survivors and the historians of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They state that in the days leading up to the December 7th, 1941 bombing, the United States was asleep. The military did not believe such a surprise attack could happen. They believed the United States Navy was invulnerable to attack. The military forces in Hawaii were living in a garden paradise, oblivious to the impending danger in spite of the indications that were beginning to confront them. Then the Japanese struck suddenly and the disaster was complete.
A destruction far worse than the bombing of Pearl Harbor is coming -- the destruction of the heavens and the earth. This destruction will also be swift and complete. We cannot afford to be asleep when it occurs. Thus this text urges us: Stay Alert! For Christs Return. So You Are Not Caught Napping.
The time was Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus had been in the temple. The disciples were most impressed with its massive, beautiful structure. On the Mount of Olives Jesus told them that it would be destroyed. Not one stone would be left standing on top of another. Curious, the disciples asked when that would happen, and what would be the sign of his coming and of the end of the age. Jesus then told them the signs: such as wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, the increase of lovelessness and wickedness, the persecution of the church, and the preaching of the gospel throughout the world.
Jesus ended answering the disciples’ question with this encouragement: “Beware! Be alert! ... Now what I say to you, I say to all: Be alert!” Three times he told the disciples to beware and be alert. What he told them he says to all, even to us: “Be alert!”
He tells us now, as he told the disciples then, to stay alert because, “You do not know when is the time.” He further declared: “No one except the Father knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son.” The angels do not know the exact time. Jesus, himself, according to his human nature, did not know the exact time. Only God himself possesses that information.
The unknown time and date of his return to destroy this world Jesus compared to the unknown time a man, who took a journey, would return to his household. Jesus said, “It is like a man away on a journey, who, when he left his house and gave authority to his servants, to each one his work, gave this command to the doorkeeper: 'Be alert!' Therefore, be alert! For you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning.”
The man in Jesus parable took a trip. He left his servants in charge, each with his assigned tasks to perform until he returned. He told the watchman to stay alert and look for his return. While he was away each servant was to keep busy with his assigned tasks, alert and watching because he did not know when his master would return, who could return any time of day or night.
So Jesus servants are to do until he returns. The man in the parable is Jesus. He was looking ahead to assuming the guilt of our sins, going to the cross to suffer and die as the ransom to pay for our sins, and to his coming resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven. He would ascend into heaven where he would remain until the appointed time for his return on the last day. Until that time, each of his servants, his believers, had respective tasks to perform in his service. Since they do not know when he will return, each one should keep busy performing the duties Jesus had given him to do, while remaining alert and watchful for his coming.
Jesus said no one knows when he will return. This being true, the surest sign of a false prophet is his saying he knows when Christ Jesus will return and his publishing his prediction. Such a false prophet who assumes to know the unknowable does not have the Spirit of Christ, who says no one knows that day or hour. Such a false prophet has the false spirit of the devil, who is a natural liar in whom there is no truth, and who always contradicts the Lord to say exactly the opposite.
False prophets, who claim to know when Christ and the end of the world will come, have been around for a long time. In our country for example, William Miller, founder of the Millerite Movement that grew into the Seventh Day Adventist Church, proclaimed Christ would return between March 21, 1842 and March 21, 1843. When that year passed uneventfully, the date of Christs return was changed to October 22, 1844. Russell, the founder of the Jehovahs Witnesses, calculated Christ would return in 1874. He later changed the date to 1914. More recently there have been other doomsday prophets. I remember that in 1978 or 1979 a Jewish rabbi predicted the end of the world in October of that year. Over the years I have received pamphlets in which the writers predicted the end of the world and the coming of Christ. All were wrong, obviously. All were false prophets, just as obviously.
I cite these examples so you may know you must watch out for such false prophets. Stay alert for them. They are around, sending out their heretical doomsday predictions, but do not be taken in by them. Simply stay alert, because you do not know the time of Christ’s coming, nor do you want to be caught napping when he does return. Jesus stated the matter in his parable this way: “Therefore, be alert! For you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning, that he should not come unexpectedly and find you sleeping.”
We cant afford to be caught sleeping, like our country was caught sleeping on December 7th, 1941, and like many will be caught napping on the last day when Jesus returns.
Matthew reported in Matthew 24:37-39 that Jesus told his disciples that people would be behaving at the time of his coming like the people behaved up to the time of the flood. Jesus told them, “For just as the days of Noah were, so in this manner will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until that day Noah entered the ark, and they did not know what was coming until the flood came and took them all away, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. ” Luke reported in Luke 17:28, 29 that Jesus also told his disciples that people at the time of his coming would be doing what the people of Sodom and Gomorra were doing up to the time the Lord destroyed those cities. Jesus told them, “It was the same as in the days of Lot; they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but that day when Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”
According to Jesus the people living prior to the flood and the destruction of Sodom were oblivious to the destruction that was about to overtake them. They were living in ignorance of what was about to happen to them. Their lives were preoccupied with their materialistic and hedonistic pursuits in this life--getting married, building and maintaining their homes and property, their jobs and shopping, raising their families, marrying off their children, their parties and good times. This, Jesus said, will be the condition at the time he returns.
This is what people are doing even now. They are caught up in the here and the now. They are oblivious to the destruction that is coming. They are living in ignorance of what will happen to them and their world. They are asleep and napping.
Jesus tells us, however, to stay alert. We should be watchful so we are not caught napping like the people around us. We have heard Jesus is coming to bring about the destruction of this world and the worldly who are in it. We have no reason to be oblivious to, and ignorant of, this coming destruction. We, therefore, knowing what is coming, ought to remain alert and busy performing the tasks Jesus has given us to do until he returns.
To know what tasks Jesus has given us to keep busy with, we need only look at our station in life. If we are a pastor or teacher, we ought to keep busy preaching or teaching his Word and encouraging others in the faith. If we are a parent, we ought to keep busy providing for our family and raising our children in the instruction and training of the Lord. If we are a layman or laywoman, we ought to be using our time, abilities and treasure in the Lord’s service, keeping busy with the Lord’s work. Being Christians we ought to continue in worship, gathering together to more and more encourage one another in the faith as we draw closer and closer to the time of Christ’s return. As it is written in Hebrews 10:25: “. . . not forsaking the meeting of ourselves together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and by so much the more as you see the day approaching.”
We must stay alert. When Jesus comes the second time, he will not come as the Redeemer like he did the first time he came. He will come as the Judge to punish the wicked and to bring salvation to his righteous people.
Like the rest in the world, we also are sinners. We too, because of our sinful natures and the many sins we have committed during our lives, could be lumped together with the wicked. We deserve the same punishment for our sins that they deserve for theirs.
Unlike them, however, we are righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus carried the sins of us all to the cross, where he sacrificed himself to pay the debt of sin that we owed. His innocent life was the ransom he paid to free us from our sins and the eternal punishment in hell we deserve for them. In his blood we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. This forgiveness has become our possession through faith in his atoning sacrifice. What is more, God credits to our faith the perfect life and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Having this forgiveness and this righteousness of Jesus, we are righteous in Gods sight. We are not, then, subject to the punishment that is coming on the world. We have been saved from it. We, therefore, can look forward to Jesus second coming, because then he will receive us into eternal life. This is our hope and confidence.
So let us stay alert for Jesus’ return in glory with this hope and confidence, that when he returns we can stand and lift up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near. Amen.