Summary: Jesus says in effect, “You can be certain I’ll return but you can’t predict when I’ll return.

This is the first sermon in a series of messages on Jesus’ vision of the last days. And it’s just in time for school to kick off both here and in Northwest ISD. What comes to mind when you think of the End of Time? Judgment, the Four Horsemen, the Antichrist, or perhaps even 666? People have an emotional reaction to the Bible’s teaching on the end times. Some say it’s scary while others believe it’s confusing. Whatever you might think, many of us would have to agree that there’s little understanding of Jesus’ vision of the end days.

There are 260 chapters in the New Testament, and Christ’s return is mentioned no less than 318 times. Statistically, one verse in twenty-five mentions Christ’s return. There’s only three books in all of the New Testament that do no refer to His return. So even a cursory reading of the New Testament highlights the importance of Jesus’ return.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I want you to feel the wonder and awe of the Bible’s teaching of Christ’s return. I want this truth to impact your Monday commute to work. I want the impact of Christ’s return to stir you with new affections for Christ. As a Christian believer, is the end of time really that important to my life? Does it really make a difference to how I live? I want to show you why Jesus’ return is important and His vision of the end times isn’t as confusing as many people make it.

Today, I want to give you at least two reasons why Jesus’ Return is Significant.

Today, we read a passage with one most telling and frankly surprising of metaphors Jesus uses to describe His return – a thief breaking into your home in the middle of the night. It’s page 1108 in the black pew Bible in front of you.

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:38-48)

The Bible is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some think the Bible is a collection of random stories with little sense of cohesion. Instead, the Bible tells a story that makes sense of the smaller stories of each of our individual lives. The Bible is a single story. Here’s the Bible’s big story in just a few sentences… God made the world. The world itself was devastated because we turned away from Him. God reentered the world to rescue us from sin and death. And one day, God will remake the world – he’ll completely restore the world at the end.

The Bible tells one story. It begins with an innocent garden and it ends in a glorious garden city. And what you’ll discover is that we are living between the first and second coming of Jesus. We are living between God’s reentry where He rescued us from sin and death and His complete restoration of the world in the coming days.

Personal Timeline vs. World’s Timeline: There are two timelines given inside the pages of Scripture. The Bible gives details about your personal future – what happens both when you die as well as where you are after your death while the world awaits its end. But the Bible also gives details about the world’s future. Specifically it tells us about the return of Christ, about the millennium, the final judgment, eternal punishment and eternal reward, and life with God Himself in the new heaven and new earth. So you can trace both the timeline of your personal future as well as the timeline of the world future. Jesus is tracing the world’s timeline in the passage in front of us but He vividly connects the world’s timeline to our timeline.

1. The Lord Will Come

Jesus layers His stories here. That is, He tells one story and no sooner than He’s finished, He’s tells another story. And each story is devoted to the same theme – the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus says at the end of His first story: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40) Jesus frequently referred to Himself as the Son of Man.

A few moments ago, I said the Bible is one single story. During His first visit to earth, Jesus is teaching that He will return. Jesus is putting together the pieces for us – He’s explaining how God will fix and restore everything.

Jesus’ Return will be Real. Jesus was real life, historical figure. He was born around 4-6 BC and He began what is known as His public ministry around 28 AD. His death was the result of both God’s plan and the dastardly deeds of evil men. He was crucified either on April 7, AD 30 or April 3, AD 33. He arose from the dead and then ascended into heaven some forty days after His resurrection. It was right there that the angels said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). You could touch Him and talk to Him and cry with Him while He was here the first time. And you’ll be able to talk with Him and touch Him and cry with Him upon His return. He will really come back – really come back. I’m not speaking mythically or poetically nor do I speak as if it’s a fairy tale. Jesus’ return will be a real thing, a literal return.

There are at least three components to Jesus’ literal return you should keep in mind…

1.1 Jesus Promised to Return

On the authority of Jesus’ very words, He promises to return. Jesus’ very last words recorded in the Bible are these: “Surely I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). Listen to His words: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). Paul, the one-time killer of Christians was convinced of Jesus’ return: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16a). Christ will surely be here in glory just as He once was here in shame. He came once to wear the crown of thorns and He comes again to wear THE crown for eternity (Revelation 19:12). He came once so His heel was bruised and He comes again to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). If you trust Jesus, then you need to trust His promise when He Says, “I will return.”

We know Jesus will come because Jesus promised to return…

1.2 Jesus’ Return Will be Visible to All

When Jesus returns, everyone will know. Jesus Himself said these word: “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day” (Luke 17:24). Jesus says, “Just as lightening is seen across the sky so everyone will see My return.” Again Jesus said: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

We know Jesus will come because Jesus promised to return…

We know Jesus will come because His return will be visible to everyone…

…and the third aspect you need to know is this…

1.3 No One Knows When He’ll Return

There is at least two things we can about Christ’s return with conviction:

1) He’s Coming – it’s going to happen. 2) We don’t know when it’s going to happen. You would never guess this second thing if you dipped your toes into the water of the burgeoning prophecy-prediction industry. Jesus says: “If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:38)! The second watch was a term used in Jesus’ day to refer to late into the night (10:00 p.m. – 2 a.m.). While the third watch was even later (2 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Jesus Himself famously said: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

We know Jesus will come because Jesus promised to return…

We know Jesus will come because His return will be visible to everyone…

And We don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ return. But we do know we are 715,000 days closer to His return that He first promised He’d come.

2. Don’t Assume He’s Dragging His Feet

Throughout this passage, Jesus’ one big point is place His hands on our shoulders, call on us to look Him straight in the eye, and hear Him clearly when He says, “Be ready for my return.” Again, there are two parables here, two stories here – and they are layered for an effect. The first one is followed by a second parable and the two are separated by a question from Peter (Luke 12:41). And both are intended to cause you to remain vigilant. People who think Jesus is dragging His feet get into trouble. You’d better stand on your tiptoes of expectation and anticipation rather than think He’s delayed.Jesus calls on us to stay awake: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Luke 12:37a).

2.1 Keep Your Lamps Burning

“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning…” (Luke 12:35). Jesus refers the end-time scene as a banquet where His followers are slaves and He is the Master. Remember there are no streetlamps in Jesus’ day. When you expected a guest late into the night, you’d keep your oil light burning in anticipation of their coming. Even today, we’ll turn the front porch light on when we’re expecting someone. Keep your lamps burning so you’ll be ready and prepared to the Master’s unannounced return.

What Color Are My Socks? I’ve noticed the younger stylish guys are wearing wild color socks these days. Not me… I have but three colors in my sock drawer – navy, black, and brown. The problem is that I cannot always tell whether I have navy or black on until I’m out of my bedroom. It can be embarrassing when you have navy pants and black socks. The light in my bedroom isn’t all that good. And it’s not until I am in the light of day that I can truly see the color of my socks. We have to learn how to dress our souls and our lives, not for the artificial, electric lights of this present world, but for the daylight of the next one.

2.2 Be Dressed & Ready

The second picture Jesus offers is really the first one in our text. It’s the idea of being dressed and ready for his return. Again, the idea is simple… We’re between the times of Jesus’ first coming and His second coming and we must keep the lamps burning. It’s because we don’t know when the Master is coming that we have to be ready. Jesus says in effect, “You can be certain I’ll return but you can’t predict when I’ll return.”

3. He’ll Serve Us

Remarkably, Jesus reverses the image in a surprising way when He says these words: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37). No one expected the master to serve the slaves for everyone knows the slaves exist to serve the master. A few moments ago, I called your attention to the Bible’s teaching on two timelines: your personal timeline and the world’s timeline. When Blaise Pascal, one of the greatest minds in history, died, they found in the lining of his coat he had sewn in a description of two hours of an experience of the love of God he had in 1654 one night. In that description he said he experienced so much love and so much honor and so much joy he never got over it. It changed his life forever. This is just the appetizer, and if it’s just the appetizer, what will the feast be like? What will it be like when He serves us? You can be assured of this, if you have placed your personal trust in Jesus Christ and turned away from your sins, you’ll know a joy after your death like you’ve never experienced.

In our day, we talk of “bucket lists” – places we must go and pleasure we must experience before we die. The Bible’s teaching on the Second Coming of Christ makes all of this “bucket list” talk nonsense. You’ll never experience the pleasure here that you’ll experience there. You’ll never dance and sing with your loved ones here like you’ll dance and sing there.

I promised at the beginning of this message to connect the dots between Jesus’ vision of the end times and our lives in practical, meaningful ways. And I’ve been talking about the first way: Jesus promises His followers a joy that is incomprehensible. Those who are confined to wheelchairs will one day dance in the presence of God.

4. He’ll Destroy All Injustice

Several months ago, I watched 12 Years a Slave alone as I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it much less my children. And throughout the gripping true-story narrative of a free black man who is deceived and sold into slavery into the deep south. Right before a brutal scene where a slave is beaten because he’s picked too little cotton that day, the slave-owner quotes Jesus’ words here in defense of slavery: And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. (Luke 12:47) Jesus’ words weren’t intended to serve as a defense of a slavery that was based solely on a person’s color of skin. Know this: People pick and choose verses they twist and abuse. And even though many of the slaves couldn’t read, they knew more Scripture than the slave-owners who could. It was the slaves who would sing hymns of faith while suffering great injustice. Those who by and large had the ability to read were spiritual blind to the evil in their hearts.

When you and I look at verse 46, “[He] will cut him in pieces …” we say, “Oh, how awful. A vengeful God, a just God.” Miroslav Volf is a Croatian, and he is a Christian theologian who says if you think an idea of a judging God leads to violence, you’re wrong. He says something like, “It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence can result from belief in an all-loving God that refuses to judge. If God were not angry at injustice and did not make a final end of violence, we could not refrain from retaliation, and that God would not be worthy of worship.” He says when your brothers or sisters or wives or husbands are destroyed or raped, what will keep you from being sucked into the cycle of violence? Only if you know there’s a God who himself knows what people deserve.

Go back with me to the movie, 12 Years a Slave, for a moment. How could they sing songs of faith when those who abused them used the very words of Scripture to perpetrate their crimes? How could the slaves possibly forgive? “Mary Don’t You Weep” is a Negro spiritual that originates before the Civil War. If you traveled the fields of cotton in the South some two centuries ago, you could hear the slaves sing these words:

O Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you moan

O Mary, don’t you weep, don’t you moan

Pharaoh’s army got drownded

O Mary, don’t you weep.

The reference to Pharaoh is a reference to the children of Israel being free from slavery in Egypt. Pharaoh got his. They learned to forgive because they believed in God’s justice. God will judge. I can seek justice, but I don’t need revenge. I don’t need retaliation. If you have a sense that things aren’t as they should be… …that bad things happen to good people… … and injustice is perpetrated against innocent people…

Know this – He will one day set the record straight. Jesus says in effect, “You can be certain I’ll return but you can’t predict when I’ll return.” Jesus predicts He will return when very few are ready. When Jesus returns people will be saying, “I can’t believe it’s today. I wish I had one more day.” The TV networks will not be ready. The false religions of the world will not be ready. Will you be ready?