The Second Coming of Christ
Part 6: Be Ready for the Rapture
Matthew 24:40-25:13 (Initial reading: Matthew 24:40-44)
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - July 22, 2015
*Some of the shortest questions have the longest impact: "Do you love me?" "Will you marry me?" Tonight I want to ask you a question like that. It's a short question, but it will determine your destiny for all eternity: "Are you ready for the rapture?" With all His heart, God wants us to be ready, so in this Scripture, the Lord stresses 3 essentials related to our readiness.
1. First: Jesus stresses the priority for us to be ready.
*Remember how this conversation all started. It was just two days before the cross. Jesus had just finished condemning Jewish religious leaders in a scalding way. He condemned them for their spiritual pride and their hypocrisy. Jesus also condemned them for their stubborn rejection of Him as the true Messiah.
*Then on the way out of town, the disciples stopped to admire the Temple. Matthew 24:1 says: "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came to Him to show Him the buildings of the temple." I can imagine them saying, "Lord take a look! Isn't it wonderful? Aren't you impressed?"
*Jesus was not impressed. And in vs. 2, the Lord told them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.''
*The disciples were shocked. The destruction of the Temple was one of the last things they expected, so they began to question the Lord. Matthew 24:3 says, "Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'''
*The disciples asked three questions that day:
-"When will these things be?"
-What will be the sign of Your coming?"
-And "What will be the sign of the end of the age?"
*We've studied the Lord's answer for several weeks, looking at the mysteries, the Old Testament background, and the final fulfillment of His words. But the first thing to notice tonight is this: Jesus spent most of His time in these Scriptures stressing the priority for us to be ready.
*Jesus began His answer in Matthew 24:4, and in Matthew's Gospel the Lord's answer goes on for 94 verses. Counting the judgment story at the end of Matthew 25, Jesus spent 62 of these 94 verses focusing on being ready for the rapture. When the disciples asked their questions, the Lord spent two thirds of His answer on the priority for us to be ready.
*The Lord described the rapture starting in vs. 40:
40. "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.
41. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
42. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming."
*Being ready for Jesus' return is so important that next the Lord told four parables to help His followers understand. We see the first of the Lord's parables starting in vs. 43. There Jesus said:
43. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
44. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him."
*Someone breaking into our house is a terrible, frightful thing, especially if we are home in the middle of the night. We want to be ready for that, especially if we know when the thief is coming. If you had solid information that a thief was coming to break into your house, can you imagine not getting ready? -- No way! We would do everything we possibly could to be ready.
*Ella Edwards was ready. Ella was a tiny, sweet-as-sugar, senior adult lady we knew at church in West Monroe. Miss Ella was as good as gold. She was like a grandmother to our children when their own grandmothers lived hundreds of miles away.
*Before she moved to town, Miss Ella lived way out in the country by herself for many years. One day I asked her if she was ever afraid living way out like that by herself. She laughed a little and said, "No! -- I had a shotgun by the front door and a shotgun by the back door, and I knew how to use them!"
*Ella Edwards was ready for a break-in, and Jesus wants us to be ready for His return. It is urgently important, so Jesus stresses the priority for us to be ready.
2. He also stresses the proof that we are ready.
*What is the proof that we are ready for the rapture? -- Well, there are several good answers to this question. But in the Lord's second parable, the proof of our readiness is our faithful service to the Lord. Please listen to the Lord starting in vs. 45:
45. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
46. Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
47. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
48. But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'
49. and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,
50. the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
51. and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
*What is the proof that we are ready for the rapture? -- Here it is our faithful service to the Lord. But please don't misunderstand me. We cannot be saved by serving the Lord. We could never do enough to earn our way into Heaven. Salvation has always been by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!
*In the Old Testament salvation was by grace through faith in the promise of the coming Messiah. In the New Testament salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That's because Jesus IS the promised Messiah who came to die on the cross for our sins.
*Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, because Jesus is the Risen Savior who gives eternal life to anyone who will trust in Him. That's why in Ephesians 2, Paul says to all Christians:
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9. not of works, lest anyone should boast.
*We are not saved by serving but we are saved to serve, so in the very next verse, Paul said, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." If I am really a Christian, I don't just have a Savior, I serve a Risen Lord.
*Remember that the first disciples had a hard time with this concept of being a servant. Mark 9:33-35 tells us that the disciples had been in an argument as they traveled down the road with Jesus.
33. Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?''
34. But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.
35. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.''
*This incident in took place maybe 8 or 9 months before the cross. But this wasn't the only time they argued about who was the greatest. In Matthew 23:11-12 just days before the cross, Jesus had to tell them again:
11. "He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12. And whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
*Then in Luke 22:23-27 just a few hours before the cross, even after the first Lord's Supper:
23. They began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing (i.e. who would betray Jesus).
24. But there was also rivalry among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.
25. And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.'
26. But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
27. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves."
*This "I'm the greatest" mindset is a very common problem, common among the disciples, and common among all people. But the only way to real greatness in God's eyes is to be a servant. And our faithful service for the Lord is proof that we are ready for the rapture.
*Listen to a testimony about David Livingstone. When it came to faithful service he was a giant. Joseph Stowell wrote: "I think of David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa, who walked over 29,000 miles. His wife died early in their ministry, and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethren. He ministered half blind. His kind of perseverance spurs me on.
*As I run, I remember the words in his diary: 'Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart.'" (1)
*Church: God may never call us to Africa, -- But He certainly calls us to be His passionate, faithful servants. And our faithful service is powerful proof that we are ready for the rapture. Tonight Jesus stresses the proof that we are ready.
3. He also stresses the way to prepare.
*And the Lord's third parable helps us prepare for the rapture. This parable begins in Matthew 25:1, where Jesus said:
1. Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,
4. but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.
6. And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'
7. Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.
8. And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
9. But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.'
10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.
11. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!'
12. But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'
13. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."
*One of the best ways to understand this parable is to remember that oil is one of God's symbols for His Holy Spirit. In Acts 10:38, the Apostle Peter talked about "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."
*God the Father did not anoint Jesus with the physical oil used to anoint Old Testament kings. No. -- God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. And the same Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. So the oil here points us to the most necessary work the Holy Spirit does in our lives when we receive Jesus. And this means that trusting in the Lord is the only way we can prepare for the rapture.
*God wants us to be ready for the rapture, and this parable of the oil gives us at least two key warnings. William Barclay explained that "first, this parable warns us that there are certain things which cannot be put off till the last minute. It is too late for a student to prepare when the day of the big test has come. And many people neglect their spiritual life until it's too late to prepare to meet God.
*This parable also warns us that there are certain things which cannot be borrowed. When the foolish virgins discovered they needed oil. They found it was impossible to borrow. A man cannot borrow a relationship with God; he must possess it for himself." (2)
*So the primary lesson of this parable is that we need to be ready for the Lord's return, and we had better get ready while we can. In Matthew 25:4, the virgins who were ready were the wise one who took oil in their vessels with their lamps. John Gill explained that the oil vessels represented their hearts into which the oil was put. And Gill said that the wise virgins "were concerned for the true grace of God. Being enlightened by the Spirit of God, they saw their need of the grace of God, and being directed by God where the oil could be found, they went to Christ for it; and received it from him, through the power of the Holy Spirit." (3)
*In this parable from the Lord, the wise virgins had oil in their vessels. And the best way for me to understand this is by something Paul wrote in his second letter to the Christians in Corinth. Starting in 2 Corinthians 4:3, Paul said:
3. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,
4. whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
5. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
6. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
*Here Christians, we are the vessels; our hearts are the vessels. And the burning oil is "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." The burning oil is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." So again: Trusting in the Lord is the only way we can prepare for the rapture.
*As Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." There is no other way to Heaven but Jesus. Peter confirmed this truth in Acts 4:12, where he said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
*James Merritt explained: "Jesus said the path to heaven is a person. Not a principle, not a practice, not a precept, not a philosophy. You can take the Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments, the church, Bible study, prayer, charity, and clean living. . . All of these are good and godly things, but all of them put together could not pave an inch on the road to Heaven. Jesus is the way. If you're going any other way, you're going the wrong way." And you will never be ready for the rapture. (4)
*A lot of misguided people are like the man who said that getting to Heaven was like getting to Boston. There are a lot of roads that will get you there. But a wise Christian told him, "No, getting to Heaven is much more like flying into the Boston airport. The pilot has to land that plane on just the right runway, at just the right speed, at just the right time, and at just the right angle." (5)
*There is only one way to land that plane. And there is only one way to Heaven: Jesus Christ! Are you ready for the rapture? -- Being ready means you are ready for eternity. Nothing is more important.
*Are you ready? -- Jesus is the only way. Open your heart to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. Then prove you are ready through your humble, faithful service to the Lord.
(1) "Through the Fire" by Joseph Stowell - Victor Books, 1988, p. 150 - Source: Sermonillustrations.com
(2) Adapted from "Barclay's Daily Bible Study Series - NT" by William Barclay - Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew - Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - "The Fate of the Unprepared" - Matthew 25:1-13
(3) Adapted from "John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" - Matthew 25:4
(4) Adapted from Sermons.com sermon "What Are Your Chances of Going to Heaven" by James Merritt - John 14:6
(5) Original source unknown