Doug Mendenhall wrote a parable that gives us all something to think about:
Jesus called the other day to say he was passing through and [wondered if] he could spend a day or two with us.
I said, “Sure. Love to see you. When will you hit town?”
That's when Jesus told me he was actually at a convenience store out by the interstate.
I must have gotten that Bambi-in-headlights look, because my wife hissed, “What is it? What's wrong? Who is that?”
So I covered the receiver and told her Jesus was going to arrive in eight minutes, and she ran out of the room and started giving guidance to the kids—in that effective way that Marine drill instructors give guidance to recruits…
My mind was already racing with what needed to be done in the next eight—no seven—minutes so Jesus wouldn't think we were reprobate loser slobs.
I turned off the TV in the den, which was blaring some weird scary movie I'd been half watching. But I could still hear screams from our bedroom, so I turned off the reality show it was tuned to. Plus, I turned off the kids' set out on the sun porch, because I didn't want to have to explain Jon & Kate Plus Eight to Jesus, either, six minutes from now.
My wife had already thinned out the magazines that had been accumulating on the coffee table. She put Christianity Today on top for a good first impression. Five minutes to go.
I looked out the front window, but the yard actually looked great thanks to my long, hard work, so I let it go. What could I improve in four minutes anyway?
I did notice the mail had come, so I ran out to grab it. Mostly it was Netflix envelopes and a bunch of catalogs tied into recent purchases, so I stuffed it back in the box. Jesus doesn't need to get the wrong idea—three minutes from now—about how much on-line shopping we do.
I ran back in and picked up a bunch of shoes left by the door. Tried to stuff them in the front closet, but it was overflowing with heavy coats and work coats and snow coats and pretty coats and raincoats and extra coats. We live in the South; why'd we buy so many coats? I squeezed the shoes in with two minutes to go.
I plumped up sofa pillows, my wife tossed dishes into the sink, I scolded the kids, and she shooed the dog. With one minute left I realized something important: Getting ready for a visit from Jesus is not an eight-minute job.
Then the doorbell rang. (Doug Mendenhall, “Getting Prepared for the Arrival of Jesus,” www.reporternews.com, 9-24-09; www. PreachingToday.com)
Jesus told us, “I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:7). And with world events signaling the end of the age as described in the Bible, that coming could be in eight minutes or less.
So what do you do to prepare for His coming? What do you do to get ready for His arrival? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5, 1 Thessalonians 5, where the Bible tells us how.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 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. (ESV)
The Day of the Lord, according to Joel 2, is “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,” with a devastating locus invasion, earthquakes, and a darkened sun and moon (Joel 2:1-11). Now, the “day” is not 24-hours here. It’s a period of time, a time of judgment to come on this earth. The book of Revelation goes into great detail, describing those judgments taking place over a period of 7 years (Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6; 13:5). Those judgments include a supernatural locus invasion (Revelation 9:1-11), huge earthquakes (Revelation 6:12; 16:16), and deep darkness (Revelation 6:12-14; 16:10). It will be a terrible time of tribulation for unbelievers, which will come upon them unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, or like labor pains on a pregnant woman.
1 Thessalonians 5:3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (ESV)
God’s judgment will be sudden and certain. The Day of the Lord will surprise the unbeliever, who cannot escape it.
Soren Kierkegaard once told the story of a variety show in a crowded theater with various acts. Each act was more fantastic than the one prior, so it created louder and louder applause from the audience. Suddenly, a clown rushed on to the stage and said, “I apologize for this interruption, but I regret to inform you that our theater is on fire! You need to leave right away, and in an orderly fashion.”
But the audience thought he was part of the act, so they laughed and applauded. They thought he was very committed to the role. But the clown again implored them that they needed to leave right away or they would get seriously injured, maybe even die. And again, they greeted him with loud and thunderous applause. At last, he could do no more, and so he left the building, and the people were destroyed.
Kierkegaard concluded his story by saying, “Our age will go down in fiery destruction not to the sound of mourning but to applause and cheering.” (Rev. Ethan Magness, Sermon: “The Theater is on Fire,” Grace Anglican Church, 12-1-19; www. PreachingToday.com)
God has sounded the warning time and time again. And this year (2020) that warning is louder than ever before: judgment is coming, but there is a way out through Jesus Christ.
Please, don’t ignore God’s warning. Leave the ways of this world before it all comes crashing down around you, and trust Christ with your life. Believe in Him. Call upon Him and ask Him to save you from your sin. Escape the judgment to come through faith in Christ, because the Day of the Lord will surprise the unbeliever, who cannot escape it.
However, the Day of the Lord will NOT surprise the believer, who is aware.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. (ESV)
We, who know Christ, are not in the dark about what’s going on. We are not ignorant. The signs of the time are very clear to the believer. The stage is set for the end-time events like the Bible describes: Israel is in the land and controls the city of Jerusalem. Preparations are being made for the third temple. The nations are aligned as the Bible predicts. There is a time of “peace and safety” coming to the Middle East since the president negotiated a couple of peace treaties between Israel and her Arab neighbors. All this sets the stage for the Day of Lord, and believers are well aware of what’s going on, or at least they should be if they have read the Bible.
Tilly Smith and her family were relaxing on the beach during a family vacation in Thailand. That morning, ten-year-old Tilly, her parents, and sister Holly, went for a walk along Mai Khao beach. They enjoyed the warm breeze in their faces and felt the sand squish in between their toes.
Two weeks prior to their holiday, Tilly had learned about tsunamis in her geography class. She did not find geography interesting, but the video her teacher showed had caught her attention. So, as Tilly and her family walked the beach, she noticed the waves going out but not coming in.
Tilly alerted her parents that they were surrounded by signs that something unusual and cataclysmic would occur. At first, they were dismissive, but Tilly's passion and persistence paid off. She began shouting, “There is going to be a tsunami!” Tilly shouted louder and louder, and her panic frightened her younger sister, who began to sob hysterically.
Tilly's dad took Holly back to the hotel to calm her down. But Tilly looked around and saw the people in the ocean, on the sand, and just knew in her heart that everyone was in danger. Tilly ran back to the hotel to find her dad talking with a security guard. He said, “I know this sounds completely mad, but my daughter says there's going to be a tsunami.”
The security guard listened not to a weather expert, but to a passionate plea coming from a ten-year-old British schoolgirl. He shouted for people to get off the beach, and people scattered all over the place as pandemonium set in. The hotel lobby, on a higher floor, became a gathering place.
A tsunami, triggered by an earthquake at the floor of the Indian Ocean, struck. This tsunami in December 2004 killed an estimated 230,000 people. But not one person from Tilly's beach died. Tilly's dad, in shock after learning of the horrific devastation and suffering, said to Tilly, “What if we hadn't listened to you?” (Heath Adamson, The Sacred Chase, Baker Books, 2020, pp. 20-22; www.PreachingToday.com)
Oh, my dear friends, the signs are all there, so...
BE AWARE OF THE TIMES.
Don’t ignore God’s warning of judgment to come. Make plans now to escape the coming Day of the Lord.
If you haven’t yet trusted Christ with your life, do so today. Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved, the Bible says (Romans 10:13). And if you have already done that, look up for your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28). Jesus is coming to take you out of this world. So be aware of the times, and...
PREPARE FOR THE TRIP.
Get your affairs in order. Arrange your life for Christ’s very soon return.
That means wake up (to begin with). Be alert and watch for His coming.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (ESV)
Stay awake. Now is not the time to get complacent.
Does money grow on trees? If it did, most people would miss it. That's the conclusion from researchers who were studying something they called “inattentional blindness.” According to the study, inattentional blindness occurs when “people fail to become aware of objects unrelated to their current task,” even when those objects are “interesting or surprising.”
Inspired by an old YouTube video, two researchers from Western Washington University clipped money on a tree and then observed the reaction of those who passed by. The branch of the tree with the money was at head height, so the participants in the study practically bonked their heads on it.
Out of 396 people walking down the path, only 12 people failed to see and avoid the tree, but most people failed to see the money in the tree. On top of that, a whopping 94 percent of people on a cell phone were so distracted that they didn't spot the money. (Ira E Hyman, “Failure to see money on a tree,” Frontiers in Psychology, 4-23-14; Melissa Dahl, “People on Their Phones Don't Notice Free Cash,” Science of Us, 6-18-14; www.Preaching Today.com)
It’s like my mother used to say to me: “You can’t see for looking.” Please, especially in these days right before Jesus comes, don’t fall asleep; don’t develop “inattentional blindness” to what’s going on right in front of your face.
Instead of praying, “If I die before I wake,” you should pray, “Lord, wake me up before I die!” (Tony Campolo). If you want to get ready for Christ’s return, wake up.
Then sober up. Get serious about your commitment to Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:6b-8a ...let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober... (ESV)
Let us be serious about our walk with Christ. Now is not the time to play around with your faith. Now is the time to follow Christ with even greater determination.
In 1927, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), a Polish philosopher and writer, penned a novel he called Instability. In the novel, a foreign army is threatening to invade and conquer Poland, and the Polish people, nervous and exhausted, have no idea where to turn for help. Should they fight? Should they surrender? Not to worry, the leader of the foreign army offers everyone in Poland a wonderful gift—the Murti-Bing pill.
Whoever took the Murti-Bing pill became instantly “serene and happy.” The worries of life, including the worry about being conquered and enslaved, no longer bothered them. Takers of the Murti-Bing pill ceased to care about troublesome questions like the meaning of life or what happens after death. Everyone took the pill, but eventually they all became schizophrenic, because they couldn’t completely erase their past or escape their problems.
In the 1950’s, 30 years later, at the height of Marxism in Eastern Europe, Czeslaw Milosz (Ches-wav Me-wosh), a Polish poet, used the concept of the Murti-Bing pill to explain how so many intelligent people were seduced by the soulless philosophy of Communism. For Milosz (Me-wosh), it was like the Polish intellectuals and politicians stopped asking troublesome questions. Instead, to avoid any pain, they just took some sort of “pill” and escaped. (Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind, Vintage Books, 1981, pp. 3-7; www.PreachingToday.com)
With so many people embracing Socialism in our country today, I wonder the same thing. Have people taken a Murti-Bing pill, which has seduced them into blissfully believing a lie.
Oh my dear friends, please wake up and sober up about what’s going on in our world today. Don’t be lulled into blissful ignorance especially in these days before Jesus comes. If you want to be ready, wake up, sober up.
Then dress up. Clothe yourself with faith, hope, and love.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (ESV)
Faith and love, like an armored breastplate, protects the heart from fear and hate. Hope, like a helmet, protects the mind from despair and despondency. Sure, these are perilous times, but with faith in God we can move forward with confidence; with His love for others, we can drive out hate; and with hope in the promises of God, we can persevere through any problem or trouble we might face.
Sunrise was dawning when Los Angeles motorcycle police officer Bob Vernon saw a red pickup truck speed through a stop sign. “This guy must be late to work,” he thought to himself. He turned on his emergency lights and radioed that he was in pursuit. The pickup pulled over, and the officer approached.
Meanwhile in the truck, the driver thought, “The cops already know!” He was scared. He rested his hand on the same gun he had used a few moments before to rob a twenty-four-hour market. The sack of stolen money was beside him on the seat.
The officer said, “Good morning, sir, may I see your—"
He never finished the sentence. The driver shoved his gun toward the policeman's chest and fired from just inches away. The cop was knocked flat seven feet away.
A few seconds later, to the shock of the criminal, the officer stood up, pulled his service revolver, and fired twice. The first bullet went through the open window and smashed the windshield. The second tore through the door and ripped into the driver's left leg.
“Don't shoot!” the thief screamed, throwing the gun and sack of money out the pickup window.
What saved the policeman's life was dozens of layers of Kevlar, the super strong fabric used for bulletproof vests. Only three-eighths of an inch thick, Kevlar can stop bullets cold. (Charles Mylander, The Encourager; www.PreachingToday.com)
Faith, hope, and love are like that Kevlar vest. They deflect whatever the enemy of your soul may fire at you.
So in these days before Jesus returns, wake up, sober up, and dress up, because very soon, we who believe in Jesus will go up to meet Him in the air. Jesus is coming to take us out of this world before the great and terrible “Day of the Lord.” Christ will snatch away every believer before God pours out His wrath on unbelievers who remain behind during the 7-year tribulation to come.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. (ESV)
As a believer, whether you know what’s going on or not, Jesus is coming for you! So wake up, sober up, and dress up, because you are going up at any moment. Be aware of the times. Prepare for the trip. And as you wait with eager anticipation...
CARE FOR EACH OTHER.
Help and build each other up. Encourage and edify each other.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (ESV)
In 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary climbed to the top of Mount Everest, the first man ever to do that. However, he could not have done it without Tenzig Norgay, his companion who climbed the mountain with him.
Nobody ever hears his name. Yet on the way back down the mountain, Hillary fell and was almost lost. He would have been lost without Tenzig Norgay, who literally pulled him back up the cable and saved his life. Edmund Hillary lived to tell a great story because of the help of an unknown man. When someone asked Norgay why he didn't brag about it, he said, “We mountain climbers help each other.” (Calvin Miller, “From Entertainment to Servanthood,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 132; www.PreachingToday.com)
And that’s what followers of Christ do – We help each other. We help each other when one of us falls. We help each other to climb the spiritual heights. We help each other to reach the summit of Christlikeness, so that “when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Oh, my dear friends, that could happen today! So be aware of the times, prepare for the trip, and care for each other.
Once upon a time, Satan called the emissaries of hell to discuss which one of them should go to earth to help men and women ruin their own souls. One demon volunteered, “I will go.”
And Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” He said, "I will tell the children of men that there is NO HEAVEN.” To which Satan replied, “They will not believe you, for there is a bit of heaven in every human heart. In the end everyone knows that right and good must have the victory. You may not go.”
Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. Satan said, “If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?” To which the demon replied, “I will tell them there is NO HELL.” Satan looked at him and said, “Oh, no; they will not believe you, for in every human heart there's a thing called conscience, an inner voice which testifies to the truth that not only will good be triumphant, but that evil will be defeated. You may not go.”
Then one last demon came forward from the darkest place of all. Satan said to him, “And if I send you, what will you say to help men and women destroy their own souls?” That demon replied, “I will tell them there is NO HURRY.” And Satan said, “Go!” (Bruce Thielemann, “Tide Riding,” Preaching Today No. 30; www.PreachingToday.com)
Please, don’t believe Satan’s lie when he tells you there is no hurry! Jesus could come today! Don’t wait until tomorrow to get ready for His return.