Ready or Not, Here I Come: Watch and Pray

Luke 21:25-36

This is a time of year when people say to one another,
“Are you ready? It’s coming.”
“Ready or not, here it comes.”
“Christmas is just around the corner.”

We talk about Christmas countdowns. We go to the stores, and we listen to Christmas carols. The Christian Church, however, traditionally calls this time of year the season of Advent, which means so much more than simply a warmup for Christmas Day. It is a time to remember that Christ has come, He is coming again, and we must be prepared for Him. The One who came quietly and humbly in the little backward town of Bethlehem will arrive again in glory and power and majesty one day. The One who humbly rode a donkey into Jerusalem and was hailed as a King on Palm Sunday will appear to us on a cloud.

The first advent was the birth of Christ. It will be followed by another advent – the reappearing of Christ. Where do we get this notion? Jesus told us so. As you examine the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you find Jesus freely spoke in the parables about His second coming. In the Apostles’ Creed, we say we believe He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Some people feel a little uneasy when it comes to the subject of the second coming of Jesus. I am here to assure you, this need not be the case. For the Christian, it is very good news and should not frighten us. Instead, it is our confidence as followers of Christ. We have the big picture before us. History is not a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Followers of Jesus Christ know better than that. We know history is, in a very real sense, HIS STORY. All of history is headed toward a grand finale. Christ says, The world is mine. I have final word over it all.
• I am the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13).
• All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matt. 28:18).
• Heaven and earth may pass away but my word endures forever (Matt. 24:35).

This is really good news!

The world, oftentimes, appears to be hopeless, dark, scary, and totally out-of-control. However, the second coming of Jesus reminds us, He has got this. We don’t need to worry. In fact, Jesus is reassuring His disciples of this when He describes the second coming.

While some are uneasy about the second coming, others go completely in another direction and obsess on trying to figure out when it will happen. They spend a lifetime conjecturing and speculating on it, to end up disappointed and looking rather foolish, as we’ve seen in past history. I am acquainted with people who are great end-times enthusiasts. A friend of mine said recently, “I am fascinated by the end times. I love to try to figure out when it’s going to happen.” It is a hobby in his Christian faith. We must remember, though, that Jesus said it will happen unexpectedly, suddenly like a thief in the night. He seems to be telling us that we are not to be simply sitting around, speculating about His return while we wait.

In our passage for today from Luke, Jesus is teaching His disciples about His second advent. He doesn’t tell us when He’s coming, He just assures us that it will happen and what it will be like. The stars will fall from the sky, the sun will refuse to shine, and the moon will turn to blood. He uses Old Testament prophetic language like in the book of Joel. There will be havoc, chaos on the earth, distress among nations, a roaring of the sea and the waves. There will be great fear and trembling – people fainting with fear and foreboding. Then the powers of the heavens will be shaken. The sky will be in havoc.

“Then they will see ‘the Son of Man’ coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” The Son of Man is used in the book of Daniel to describe a messianic figure from God who will come in power someday for His people. It was one of Jesus’ favorite titles to describe Himself. Jesus is a power figure, a deliverer. “Then they will see ‘the deliverer coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory.

“When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads.” This is a posture of hope and confidence.

“For your redemption is drawing near.” Redemption! It will be a great day! Christ’s return appearance is the Christian follower’s hope and confidence. Help has arrived! Redemption of the body will take place. Paul describes it:
Our spirits groan for the completion of His saving work: perfect, resurrected bodies (Rom. 8:23).

Jesus also talked about the redemption of the body,
“. . . I will come again and take you to myself that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3b).

Christ’s return will bring about a final deliverance, a final redemption. The book of Revelation says there’ll be a new heaven and a new earth. It will be perfect in every way, just as God intended in the beginning, in the garden of Eden – people loving God and loving one another. “The second coming of Christ will be so revolutionary that it will change every aspect of life on this planet. Christ will reign in righteousness. Disease will be arrested. Death will be modified. War will be abolished. Nature will be changed. Man will live as it was originally intended he should live.” – Billy Graham.

This is our grand vision as we live each day as followers of Jesus, serving Him and telling others about Him. When it appears the world is falling apart and out-of-control, we have this good news that Christ will make a second appearance, and all will be well. As Billy Graham once remarked, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

It’s like a story about a man who saw some young boys playing baseball out on the field. He yelled over to the right fielder, “What’s the score?” The young boy said, “Seventeen to nothing!” The man replied, “It doesn’t look very good for you, does it?” The boy just smiled and said, “We ain’t been up to bat yet.”

My friends, joy awaits us. Unimaginable joy. Heavenly joy like we have never experienced on this planet! We will be with Him, and every knee will bow and every tongue confess in heaven and on earth and under the earth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus tells us in his teaching today, Now in the meantime, be ready. Always be ready for that great day. He offers directions for His disciples to follow while we wait for the day of His reappearing. They don’t involve just sitting around and waiting. We are to be engaged in active, positive, healthy kingdom activity. Obedience, holiness, witness, and service in His name.

As Jesus sits down with His disciples and tells them all these things, I can’t help but be reminded of a parent giving a bit of caution and warning to his young teens for their first night alone at home. Knowing how much trouble they can get themselves into, they need some instruction. I remember my parents giving me those kinds of instructions when they would go away. He is basically telling them, This is what you are to do with yourselves.

It is important to note that Jesus is speaking to the disciple of Jesus Christ who has placed their trust in Him. I would be remiss to not ask you at this time, Have you done that? Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you know for certain if Jesus came tonight, or you died tonight, you would be with Him forever?

Earlier I stated that the second coming of Christ is good news for the follower of Christ. It is our hope and confidence. However, this is not the case for those who stand outside of a relationship with Christ. It will not be good news for them, for Jesus is coming to judge the living and the dead. In the Christian faith, we do not believe in universalism (everyone is saved, no matter what).

Today is a day to ask Jesus Christ into your life, if you haven’t already done it. Surrender yourself to His care. Place your trust in Him and what He has done for you. He loves you! He died for you on the cross to pay for your sins. He rose from the dead, the first fruits of the resurrection so you can have a resurrected, eternal life with Him, and a restored relationship with your heavenly Father. Ask Him into your heart today. Now is the time!

For those of you listening today who already follow Jesus, you have placed your trust in Him, and receive forgiveness and grace in His promises, Jesus instructs you to watch yourselves. It is important to remain faithful, run a good race of faith, so you will be able to say, like Paul at the end of his life, “I fought the good fight. I have run the good race.” Do not be distracted, off on rabbit trails gradually getting yourself further and further away from Him. Jesus tells us to, “Watch yourselves.”

“Be on guard so your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation . . .” Dissipation is a word for wasted living or drunkenness, carousing, totally taken up with the cares of this world, of this life, as if this is the only life there is. It so easy, isn’t it, to make idols out of good things like family or finances or prestige, to lose sight of the big picture and walk away from Christ, to be unfaithful to Christ and His kingdom. Jesus says, “Watch yourselves!” Keep your eye on the ball. Focus on me. I am coming again!

Gordon MacDonald shares the following old story: “In ancient days when the King of Siam had an enemy he wanted to torment and destroy, he would send the enemy a unique gift – a white elephant, a live, albino elephant. These animals were considered to be sacred in the culture of the day. So the recipient of the elephant had no choice but to intentionally care for the gift. This elephant would take an inordinate amount of the enemy’s time, resources, energy, emotions, and finances. Over time the enemy would destroy himself because of the extremely burdensome process of caring for the gift.”

Our spiritual enemy uses the same strategy on us.
• Let’s say you buy season tickets to watch your favorite sports team. Because you still have a lot of games to go to, you no longer have time to serve in some area of ministry or to worship.
• Or perhaps you buy a summer cottage. Now you miss weekend worship services between the beginning of May and the end of September.
• Let’s say you buy a health club membership to get in shape. You used to get up early in the morning to read your Bible and pray, but now you don’t have time because you’re working out before work.
• Perhaps you buy a spot for one of your kids in a traveling sports team. Now you are too busy to join the community impact ministry of serving the poor.

What are the white elephants in your life? Do you spend money on things, which take your time away from God? Money isn’t the problem. The activities aren’t necessarily the problem. The problem is a white elephant gift has pulled you away from Christ-honoring pursuits. Watch yourselves!

Jesus then gives further instructions: Stay awake at all times! Be spiritually alert so you might overcome these temptations that destroy one’s faith.

By the way, remember this: Satan is prowling around seeking to destroy our faith and our lives. He is seeking to devour us, and he loves to use temptations like this. We need to keep our eyes wide open. Jesus tells us the best way to stay awake is by praying.

He once told a parable to encourage His disciples to keep praying. It was a story about a widow who kept after an unfeeling, unjust judge for justice until he gave in to her nagging. Jesus pointed out that when you approach God in prayer, He’s just the opposite of the judge who had to be nagged. He wants you to talk to him.

Then Jesus remarks, “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” It was His way of saying, Keep praying. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, beginning with me.

Jesus counted on prayer for vigilance, strength, and focus. He wants His disciples to do the same and lean heavily on daily prayer.

This is our good news of Advent. Christ has come. He is coming again. He is coming to take over once and for all. He loves you. He who died and rose for you has the final word over you, and nothing can snatch you from His hand or separate you from His love. Trusting in Christ, you belong to Him forever and ever. This is your hope, your confidence. Your future is bright.

Today, though, I appeal to you to recommit yourself this Advent season to trusting Jesus in all this. Use your days to further His kingdom’s cause by witnessing and serving in His name. Pray constantly for His kingdom to come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Live out the rest of your days to hear Him say to you when you see Him face-to-face at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer