Matthew 24:36 – “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

One of the questions asked by the disciples was WHEN the end of the age would come. 

Jesus does not reveal the precise date and time.  Rather, he gives them general signs of its coming.  For example, when you see the fig tree in bud, that is a clear indication that summer is coming.  Likewise, when the disciples saw the signs that Jesus mentioned, the end of the age (destruction of Jerusalem, end of the Law) would be at hand.   

Furthermore, when the end of time/end of the world comes, these same signs will be present.   

God does not tell us when He will return.

Why do you think God keeps the exact end of time hidden from us?

I can think of a few reasons, but in my mind one stands out.  Contrary to what we sometimes think, God is mainly interested in a close relationship with us.  Everything else, like good works and personal holiness, stems from that relationship. 

If we knew the exact date and time of the end of the age or of his return, we would have a tendency to indulge in sin and let our relationship with him grow cold.  By keeping the date secret, God creates within us a sense of excitement and great anticipation for a fabulous present that will someday be ours.  As his children, we should view the end of time with the eagerness of Christmas morning.  We know that we are going to receive extraordinary gifts, which we can’t even imagine!  

Matthew 24:37 – “For as were the days of Noah, so will the coming of the Son of Man.”

The narrative of Noah and the ark is found in Genesis chapters 6-9.  What are the main points of the narrative of Noah?

One – That generation was wicked and violent: 

Genesis 6:5, 11 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  Now, the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and the earth was filled with violence.

In Noah’s generation, mankind as a whole was completely bent on evil.  Every decision they made was rooted in darkness.  It would be easy to imagine how they abused and oppressed widows and children.  It is easy to imagine that they served false gods and idols. It is easy to imagine how they faithfully pursued pleasure, ease and drunkenness.   It is easy to image that they were violent people, who wanted nothing to do with God. 

Let’s compare that with our generation.  Generally speaking, is mankind evil?  Do the people around us make decisions that are clearly rooted in darkness, like removing God from our schools and court system?  Do Americans serve idols like money, fame, ease and false religions?  Are we a violent society?  I think so…  just look at the news on any given day.  There are murders, robberies, instances of child abuse, clashes between gangs, and burning businesses in many cities.  What do you think – are we violent? 

Two – The message of repentance was preached to that generation, but they rejected it:

2 Peter 2:5 – … [God] saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness…

Not only did Noah preach righteousness, he lived it in front of his generation.  He began to build an enormous boat in his backyard.  You can bet that the people of his town often stopped by to mock the ‘crazy’ guy who was obsessed with God.  You can bet that Noah was the subject of many taunts and jokes.   But each day that he lived righteously was a testimony to those around him.  His uncompromising life stood in sharp contrast to the evil around him. 

What about our generation?  The message of repentance is being preached like never before.  It is available in churches, online, in print, over the radio and in everyday conversations with believers.  I think that at this point, most people in America would have to be actively avoiding the gospel, in order not to hear it. 

That being said, can we say that our lives are a testimony of righteousness?  Do we have an uncompromising commitment to our King that stands in sharp contrast to the evil around us?

Three – Judgment came suddenly and caught them unaware:

Matthew 24:38-39 – “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

Even though they heard the message spoken to them by Noah, they did not take it seriously.  They did not believe it, or prepare themselves for it.  If they had, they too would have been saved from death.  Instead, they were indifferent to the message.

As a result, they were not looking for judgment to come.  It wasn’t even on their radar.  Each day they enjoyed reveling in sensuality and debauchery.  Each night they went to bed expecting that another day would arrive, right on schedule.  And for a time, that is exactly what occurred.  God was giving them time to repent and turn from their wickedness.

But they turned a blind eye to their window of opportunity. They filled up the measure of sin for their society, in their generation.  And as a result, judgment came. 

Jesus tells us that the same symptoms will accompany the generation who lives at the end of time/the world.  They will hear the message of judgment.  God will most certainly provide opportunities to repent and turn to him, but many people will not listen.  They will turn a blind eye to the warnings of destruction and as a result, they will be swept away in judgment. 

I hope that this prompts us all to continue to earnestly pray for the United States of America.  We need the Holy Spirit to overshadow our nation and bring a spirit of repentance to every man, woman and child.  We need to put on sackcloth and ashes, and cry out to God for mercy, so that our nation is not swept away in judgment.

Four – In the  time of Noah, God saved those who were his:

Genesis 7:13, 16 – On the very same day Noah and his sons…and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered into the ark…and those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded them.  And the Lord shut him in.

Here is the message of hope for every child of Almighty God!  God knew exactly which people were in a true relationship with him.  He knew those who were close to him, and when the time of destruction and judgment (the flood) came, God spared those who served him. 

For those living in the last generation of time (us?), this will also hold true.  God has created each and every human being and placed them in a precise location at a precise time in history.  So, if you are alive in the last generation, it is because God specifically planned it that way.  He will equip you to be victorious in that situation.  The judgment that will come upon the wicked at the end of time, will not touch you.  Your name will be written in the Lamb’s book of life; you will enjoy an eternity with God!

Matthew 24:40-41 – “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.”

Right now, people are busy living life.  This includes working, forming relationships, enjoying hobbies, making discoveries, educating ourselves, raising children, etc.  In the midst of all this, the gospel continues to be broadcast far and wide.  People have a choice of whether or not to pay attention to the gospel.  Each person must make an individual choice – will they accept Jesus as savior and Lord, or will they not.

Currently, the godly and the ungodly are mixed together in every venue of life – within families, within schools and businesses, even within the church.  Sometimes we have a difficult time telling them apart.  But God does not.  At the appointed time, Jesus will return and there will be a clear and sudden separation of those who believe and those who do not. 

Those who have received Jesus as Lord and are alive at his coming, will be summoned from the earth to meet him in the air, as he descends from heaven with a shout and the sound of a trumpet.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 – For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  

Those who have rejected the offer of grace and salvation will be left behind, to the fate they have chosen – shame and everlasting contempt; an eternity separated from God.

Who can describe the happiness of those who are taken when the Lord returns?  Who can imagine the misery of those who are left behind?  Let us give careful consideration to these choices, because they represent life and death for our spirits.  

Matthew 24:42 – “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

Our translation says ‘therefore, stay awake’, but I think the King James is a better interpretation.  It says ‘watch therefore’. 

When are we to watch?

We should be diligently watching for the return of our savior each and every day.  We will meet God in one of two ways: either we will die or he will return to earth for us.  Since we do not know the exact timing of either one of those events, we should be watchful and cognizant of his possible coming at all times.

Why are we to watch?

Quite frankly, we need to watch because we are sinful beings.  We tend to take our eyes off eternity and place them on the ‘here and now’.  Unless we are careful, we can become enamored with the things of this world, while we neglect our relationship with God.  But if we are constantly watching for his return, we will be in constant communion with him, and we will be ready when the time comes.    

How are we to watch?

We should be joyfully watching for his return.  When Christ returns (or calls us home), it will be the end of our struggle against sin.  It will be the end of disease and death.  It will be the end of separation from our loved ones who have already gone to heaven. 

It will be the beginning of a new eternity filled with love and peace where we are always in his presence.  It will be the fulfillment of every promise that God has made to his children.  Clearly, this will be a time of rejoicing.  So we should be passionately excited by the prospect of his return!  Thoughts of his return should make us feel exhilarated and delighted.  

What are we to watch?

In light of his coming at an unspecified time, we should watch the way we conduct ourselves in this life.  It is time to put away the sins that stubbornly cling to our lives.  Do you have a foul mouth?  Time to clean it up.  Do you lust?  Time to get your thoughts under control and place them under the power of God.  Do you love anything more than God?  If so, that is an idol.  Time to smash that thing and remove it from your life.   Do you still cling to old habits of the world?  Time to clean house and prepare for the return of our Lord and Savior. 

It is time to make sure that our gospel light is shining brightly, pushing back the darkness and providing hope to the lost.  It’s time to pray.  It’s time to spend time in his presence.  It’s time to nourish our spirits on the word of God.  It’s time to build up our most holy faith by praying in heavenly languages (Jude 20).  

Matthew 24:43 – “But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.”

If you knew a thief was going to break into your house sometime during the night, there is no doubt that you would be awake and on guard, watching for him to show up.     

The scriptures tell us that when Jesus returns to gather his saints home, he will come like a thief in the night:

1 Thessalonians 5:2 – For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.   

In the same way that the owner of the house was watching and preparing for the thief to show up, Christians need to be diligently watching and preparing for the coming of Jesus, or his coming will catch us unprepared and off guard. 

Luke makes it practical for us:

Luke 21:34 – But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.

It can be easy to get caught up in the affairs of this life.  Recently, I have spoken to several Christians who are very caught up in the political issues of our day.  While it is good to be informed, these folks have taken it too far.  They are constantly feeding themselves from multiple news sources, when they should be feeding themselves on the word of God. 

All of the unrest and controversy covered on the news is keeping their eyes on man, and off of the Savior.  It is taking their minds off the word of God.  It is taking their time away from prayer.  This is just one example of how easy it can be to be weighed down with the cares of this life.

Dissipation is another thing that can put us in bondage and consume all of our time and attention.  Just for the record, to dissipate means to destroy by wasteful extravagance or lavish use, to squander or waste.  Many Christians have lived ‘above their means’ or made poor use of their resources.  They have borrowed money or run up credit card bills, making them slaves to their lenders.  They spend a lot of time and effort on their debt, instead of using that energy to serve the Lord.

We will mention drunkenness later on in this lesson, but let me just say this:  alcohol is a tool of the enemy which he uses to bind, enslave and destroy people.  It can cause you to do terrible things to yourself and those you love.  Be very, very careful about the footholds you allow the enemy to have in your life.  If you are not careful, you may find that alcohol can consume your loved ones, your finances, your health, your ministry, your dreams and your peace.       

Matthew 24:44 – “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

We must prepare ourselves for the return of our Savior by living holy lives and keeping our focus on the return of Jesus and our future heavenly home.  If we are constantly looking for it, we will not miss it.  

Luke 21:36 – Watch therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.

Luke cautions us that we need to be in constant prayer.  In so doing, we will escape the judgments that come upon the wicked. We will be able to stand in front of our Lord without being ashamed. 

Matthew 24:45 – “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” 

Verses 45-51 are actually a short parable which shows that the disciples of Jesus should act as if they were expecting his return at any moment.  There are two similar applications of this parable.

In the first, the wise and faithful servant represents a faithful Christian.

Can you determine who the master represents?  That’s right – it’s Jesus, the Lord or Master of every Christian.  In this application, the ‘household’ represents all the people, places, and goods that the Christian has authority over. 

As a wise and faithful servant, the Christian will use his authority and all the resources available to him to support and nourish spiritual life to those around him, especially to his family and his church.  He will make sure that at ‘the proper time’ he distributes wisdom, encouragement, prayer, financial resources or whatever else is needed to those in need.  He lives his life with integrity of heart and pure intentions.    

The second application of this parable is a message to pastors and ministers of our day, whom God has placed in authority over his ‘household’ or ‘flock’.  They are to be wise and faithful stewards, watching over the flock that God has given them.  They are to provide spiritual food, wise council and other assistance to the Christians under their authority.  They dispense the blessings that Christ has purchased by his blood.  Like any Christian, they are to work continually, maintain their integrity and operate with impartiality and pure intentions. 

Ministers of God have been elevated to their positions for the purpose of shepherding and leading others.  Their main concern is to further God’s kingdom.  They must be scrupulously exact in fulfilling the commands of the Master, not substituting their own agenda for his.

At the same time, all servants of God must be faithful; we must follow the principles and commands of Jesus, not our own.  We must be willing to share the whole council of God, even if the word is not a happy ‘feel good’ message.  Faithfulness requires us to dispense words of warning as well as words of wisdom and encouragement..

In both instances, the man or woman who discharges their stewardship wisely and faithfully is blessed by God.  He will graciously and abundantly reward them.  

Matthew 24:46-47 – “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.”

God notices good stewardship.  Pastors and Christians who constantly distinguish themselves in this life with humility, diligence, love and sincerity in their work on earth will be noticed and rewarded by God for all of eternity. 

There may be times when we are tempted to take short cuts. There may be times when we get weary from always doing the right thing.  But take heart!  Even though other men don’t notice when you weary yourself doing what is right, God does.    

God not only notices good stewardship, he rewards it!  Of course, all who are found in Christ at the end of time are blessed (Revelation 14:13).  But Jesus promises additional blessings for those who become faithful stewards. 

We have a biblical example of this in the Old Testament.  Joseph was a steward in the house of Potiphar.  He did an excellent job, and was rewarded with additional authority, additional honor and additional responsibility:

Genesis 39:4 – So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.  

We don’t know what God has in store for us in eternity, but you can be sure that he loves to reward faithful stewards.  You can be sure that additional authority and honor are in store for those whom he finds faithful in all his house.

Matthew 24:48-49 – “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed’, and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards,”

Matthew Henry says this:  “The vilest of creatures is a wicked man, the vilest of men is a wicked Christian and the vilest of them a wicked minister”.   What an insightful statement!

What would make Christians and ministers wicked?  They are wicked if they doubt or disbelieve the second coming of Christ (saying to themselves, ‘my master is delayed’).

In other words, instead of constantly giving encouragement to the saints that God has a plan and an appointed time to come and receive his bride, and helping others to stay faithful until God arrives, the wicked servant will begin to grumble and complain and doubt the faithfulness of God.  They will begin to despair or disbelieve in his coming. 

This sends them down a horrible, slippery slope.  If God was not truthful in his statement that he was coming again for his people, then how can we believe He has truly forgiven our sins and that He will take us to heaven to be with him?  How can we believe anything He told us?  If that is the case, why not ‘eat, drink and be merry’? 

Slippery slope

Any minister or Christian who begins to think this way (that God is not coming back), will in turn begin to slip in their stewardship.  They will begin to listen to their flesh, as opposed to their spirit.  They will begin to use their authority and power to satisfy their own carnal desires and lusts.  They will begin to abuse and oppress the other Christians in their church/household.   

They will begin to associate and fellowship with evil people, walking in their council and joining them in sin.  They will begin to scorn the righteous principles they once held dear.   When this happens, it can cause others to stumble in their faith.  The believers they are supposed to be watching over and assisting are left to the wolves.  This stains the holy name of our Lord. 

It is interesting that Jesus uses the term ‘drunkards’ in this passage to describe wicked servants.  Many Christians see nothing wrong with drinking alcohol.  However, let the reader beware; while alcohol may not be a sin in and of itself, it is certainly a dangerous gateway that leads to other sin.  Many people have committed horrible sins while under the influence of alcohol that they never would have even considered if they had been sober. 

Matthew 24:50-51 – “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 hypocrites.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Just as God sees faithful service to him, he also sees wickedness done in his name.  Just because wicked Christians doubt the coming of the Lord, it does not change the fact that God is coming.  In fact, his coming is a sure and certain promise, which cannot be broken by the unbelief of man.

His second coming will be a dreadful surprise to careless Christians and pastors who have cast aside the warnings of his word.  Don’t be that person!

So let me offer you some encouragement:

Jesus admonishes us to “watch” for his coming; we are to stay sharp and diligent in his service, because He is coming back again.  This is not a statement that should fill you with fear or make you weary. 

This is a promise that should cause you to rejoice – our King is coming!  So be encouraged – God sees your service to him and He will reward you for it in eternity.     

Let me offer you some relief and some strength:

Human beings make promises all the time.  They also break promises all the time.  As a result, we have a right to be skeptical when someone gives us a promise that seems too good to be true.

But God is different.  He is always, always, always faithful to his promises.  If He says it, you can count on it!   

Deuteronomy 7:9 – Know therefore that the LORD your God, he is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

So relax – you can trust God to do exactly what he promises to do.  So dig deep in his word.  Find the promises that speak to your situation.  Pray them over yourself and your loved ones and watch God move in your situation!    

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