July 1, 2012

Sudden and Unexpected

How many of us woke up today and thought, This could be the day the Lord comes back to earth? God’s Word lets us know that His return will be sudden. Are we watching for His coming? Are we guarding against becoming so caught up in our lives here that we neglect to think about that great day?

All of us encounter sudden and unexpected events in life. My family faced a time like that recently when my brother passed away. My wife and I had just returned home the night before from two weeks of visiting Apostolic Faith churches in the Dominican Republic and St. Vincent. We were driving to the hospital to see Gary, having heard he was recovering somewhat routinely from pneumonia, when our nephew called and told us that his father had just passed away.

Our family received many messages of condolence in the days that followed. I responded to some of those on behalf of my parents and my brother’s son and daughter, expressing our family’s appreciation for the thoughts and prayers. In some of my replies, I commented that my brother’s passing was “sudden and unexpected.”

That phrase has stuck with me—sudden and unexpected. That is how Jesus’ return will be. Jesus said: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:27). Lightning occurs suddenly; it flashes across the sky in a moment of time. And Christ’s return will take place in a moment of time also.

In one sense, we could say that while it will be sudden, Christ’s coming will not be unexpected anymore than our death is unexpected. If death were entirely unexpected, nobody would ever buy a funeral plan! We know we will pass from this earth at some point—we just do not know when. In the same way, we know that Christ’s return will occur in the future, but we do not know exactly when. So only in that sense it will be unexpected.

Further on in Matthew 24, the Lord gave a warning related to the sudden and unexpected nature of His return to this earth. We read, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” The word watch in this verse is a Greek imperative meaning “be continuously on guard.” The Apostle continues, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:42-44).

My wife and I can identify with the thought of watching for potential intruders. We have foot traffic in the area behind our house, and awhile back, one of our neighbors asked us, “Did somebody try to break into your place?” We said no, but a day or two later I was around the back of our house and saw the window screen lying on the ground. Upon looking around a little, I observed a shattered window from which the screen had been removed. Clearly, an intruder had tried to get into our house. While he did not gain access, if I had known an intruder was coming, I would certainly have been on guard!

In Luke 21:34, we find an admonition similar to Matthew’s warning: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” “Overcharged” means to be bogged down, or made heavy. “Drunkenness” is intoxication—having hearts and minds that are dulled. The “cares of life” refer to the details of our daily existence. The Apostle was saying, “Don’t allow yourself to be so caught up in life that you are not anticipating Jesus’ return.”

For the most part, the week prior to the Rapture of the Church will be no different in our own personal lives than the two weeks before that. We must live life. We need to make a living, to study if we are in school, to tend to our responsibilities. However, we should do so with awareness that every day could be the day of Christ’s return. We are charged to watch and to be ready, lest that day come upon us “unawares”—a word which means “sudden and unexpected” in the original Greek. We must be alert!

From time to time we hear via the news media about individuals who think they have calculated the day or the hour of Jesus’ return to this earth. However, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Those who focus on trying to establish the timing of the Lord’s return do not inspire me. What inspires me are individuals whose focus is on living holy until Jesus returns, and ordering their lives like they believe that could happen at any moment!

Jesus told us what would be taking place in the days before His return. We read in Matthew 24:37, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” The people in the days of Noah were eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage. Life was continuing on as usual, even though they saw Noah building the Ark. They heard Noah declare that they needed to repent, and yet they kept living in the same way throughout the month before, the week before, the day before the Flood—right up until the moment that Noah, his family, and the animals went into the ark. Then the door was shut, the rains came, and the fountains of the deep opened up.

As the water rose higher and higher, the people began to realize that what Noah had said was true. Those who are focused on discerning the precise time of Christ’s return will know the moment after that event has occurred. The Bible tells us that there will be two in a field; one shall be taken and the other left. There will be two grinding at the mill; one will be taken and the other left. The human race can be divided into two groups—those who are ready to go and those who are not.

While we do not know the day or the hour, the Rapture will take place, and those who are ready at that moment will go up to meet Christ in the air.

While we do not know the moment of Christ’s return, it is an event that cannot be avoided. In our daily lives, we can reschedule or skip entirely an appointment we do not want to keep. However, we cannot sidestep this appointment any more than the people of Noah’s day could sidestep the Flood. While we do not know the day or the hour, the Rapture will take place, and those who are ready at that moment will go up to meet Christ in the air.

Matthew says, “In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44). It is not that we doubt His coming will occur; we know it will happen. Matthew is saying that this event will occur in an hour in which we are not thinking about His return. It will be on a day just like today—a day when we wake up, go through our normal morning routine, and head for work or school or wherever we typically go. Since we will not know that the return of Christ will take place on that day, life will be business as usual. We are not going to be thinking about it any more than I was expecting to hear that my brother had passed away as we drove to the hospital to see him.

Do we think every minute, I wonder if the Lord is going to come right now? That is not the way life goes, nor is it the way God intended life to go. What God wants is for us always to be ready so that whenever Jesus returns, we are prepared.

Since we know Jesus is going to return, we must take necessary steps. If you have not made your peace with God, get saved! If you have consecrations that need to be made but you are hesitating for some reason, make those consecrations! We do not want to be holding back on something the Lord is requiring of us when the trumpet sounds. No, let us purpose to be ready, to be faithful, to watch and pray. We want to live like we expect Jesus to return today.

My brother Gary was ready, and now he is rejoicing, having met his Savior. One of these days we will meet Him too, and it could be today. Let’s be ready!

Read the testimony of Darrel Lee's brother, Gary Lee.

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