In the first-century, some Christians waited seventy years for Christ’s return, staying awake spiritually as though it were tomorrow every day. Hundreds of millions of Christians have done that every decade of the last 2,000 years. At the time of writing this book, some Christians are new and have been waiting for just a short time. Many millions have been waiting for many years for the second coming of Christ. We must keep focused on the fact that when we contemplate eternity, this small waiting period will be just that, very short indeed. If we keep the mindset that lies below, we will not fall away because we failed to stay awake spiritually.
Matthew 24:36 Update American Standard Version (UASV)
36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
While none of us can know the precise time of Jesus’ return, we do know that we are to be busy in the work that he has given us. Regardless of the time left, how will we use it? Here is how we should use our time before Christ’s return. We should live as though it is tomorrow, but plan as though it is 50-years away. What do we mean by this? We live as though Christ is returning tomorrow, by walking with God, having a righteous standing before him. We plan as though it is 50-years away by living a life that makes strategies for a long-term evangelism that fulfills our end of the Great Commission.–Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8.
Our sinful nature would not do well if we knew the exact day and hour. We do badly enough when we simply think Christ’s return is close. We have had religions that have set dates for Christ’s return, or are constantly saying, ‘the end is near!’ The ones who set actual dates for Christ’s return: quit their jobs, sell their homes, take all their money out of the bank, and take their kids out of school. They do this either (1) to have a good time before the end or (2) to spend the last couple of years yelling from the rooftops that “the end is coming!”
Jesus disciples asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus’ said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Ac 1:7) The apostle Paul wrote the Thessalonians, who had been inclined to worry excessively about the second coming of Christ. He said, “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.”–1 Thessalonians 5:1-2.
Those who are constantly saying, ‘the end is near,’ are similar, in that they do not take job promotions because it would cut into their evangelism, they do not allow their children to have university educations or plan careers because they believe that the end is near. Nevertheless, these groups are at least concerned about their evangelism but fail to realize, we do not know when the end is coming.
We need to find a way in the time that remains, be it five years, fifty years, or five hundred years, to encourage and foster “sincere brotherly love,” and to display “obedience to the truth.” What do we need to be obedient to? (1) We need to clean up the household of Christianity. (2) We need to then, carry out the great commission that Jesus assigned, to proclaim the Gospel, to teach biblical truths, and to make disciples! (Matt 24:14; 28:19-20; Ac 1:8) It is our assignment, in the time remaining, to assist God in helping those with a receptive heart, to accept the good news of the kingdom. Yes, we are offering those of the world, the hope of getting on the path to salvation, an opportunity at eternal life. Just because we do not know the day or the hour, does not mean that we should be less urgent about this assignment. Remember Jesus’ illustration,
Matthew 24:43-44 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
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.
Stuart K. Weber offers us some very sobering words in these verses, a wake-up call we might say,
Verse 43 is a brief parable illustrating the importance of readiness at all times. Jesus emphasized its importance with the introductory But understand this. Each of us is like an owner of the house who is about to be robbed. Not only is he unaware of the time of the robber’s coming, but he does not even know he is a target. If the ignorance persists, it represents the ignorance of a person who fails to heed Jesus’ warning about the future.
Now the head of the house, if he is informed, will be aware of the likelihood of being robbed, just as we know that Jesus is returning and that judgment will accompany his coming. But he does not know the time a robber might come, just as we do not know the time of Christ’s return. So you also must be ready (24:44). Not only is the Son of Man coming at an unknown hour, but even at a time that would seem least likely to us (when you do not expect him). If we are taken by surprise, it is not because God is out to trick us but because of our own apathetic self-deception or negligence. (Weber 2000, 408)
We need to accept that the end is coming and that it is imminent if we are to stay awake spiritually. If we even for a moment accept the idea that the second coming of Christ is not really near, we will lose our motivation to be on the watch.–Zephaniah 1:14.