Today’s Reading: Matthew 24
“When the Author steps on the stage the play is over.” This is how C. S. Lewis spoke about the ending of planet Earth. We would call that the second coming of Jesus. This is where we are in today’s reading. This chapter is very sobering; it’s all about the last days just before the Author steps on the stage.
In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second coming of Christ. To break that down even more: one out of every thirty verses in the New Testament speaks about the second coming; twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to the second coming of Jesus. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first coming, there are eight that look forward to His second! Matthew 24 and 25 devote a lot of space to it.
The second coming of Jesus is going to be the most dramatic happening in human history. It will terminate human history and will usher in eternity. In a moment God will say to human history, “Curtains!” And down the curtains will go.
What’s interesting is that Matthew 24 and 25 are Jesus’ final words before His crucifixion. What stands out to me is something He stated five times in chapter 24—that no one knows when the second coming will happen:
• “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36)
• “They did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:39)
• “Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42)
• “You also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” (Matthew 24:44)
• “The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know.” (Matthew 24:50)
Five times in this chapter Jesus tells us that the time cannot be known.
Augustine said, “The last days is hidden so that every day would be regarded.”
Somebody asked John Wesley, “Supposing that you knew you were to die at twelve o’clock to-morrow night, how would you spend the intervening time?”
“How, madam?” Wesley told her. “Why, just as I intend to spend it now. I should preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning; after that, I should ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I should then repair to friend Martin’s house, who expects to entertain me, converse and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at ten o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in glory.” It did not matter whether his home going would be by death or rapture. He would not change anything. It did not make any difference to him.
How about you?
Jesus said, “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:30-33).
In The Rapture, Dr. Tim LaHaye vividly imagined what the unexpected suddenness of the rapture will be like: When Christ calls His living saints to be with Him, millions of people will suddenly vanish from the earth. An unsaved person who happens to be in the company of a believer will know immediately that his friend has vanished. There will certainly be worldwide recognition of the fact, for when more than one-half of a billion people suddenly depart this earth, leaving their earthly belongings behind, pandemonium and confusion will certainly reign for a time.
A million conversations will end midsentence. A million phones will suddenly go dead. A woman will reach for a man’s hand in the dark and no one will be there. A man will turn with a laugh to slap a colleague on the back and his hand will move through empty air. A basketball player will make a length-of-the-floor pass to a teammate streaking down the court and find there is no one there to receive it. A mother will pull back the covers in a bassinet, smelling the sweet baby smell one moment but suddenly kissing empty space and looking into empty blankets.
So what is our job before this happens? Oswald J. Smith tells us: “We talk of the second coming, while half the world has never heard of the first.” Let’s tell the world why Jesus came the first time.