“I will return”

Every time I stand up to speak I like to keep in mind one sober thought. This might be the last sermon I ever preach! You may never hear me preach again. You and I may never see each other again.

Don’t think I am getting morbid here. I am not anticipating gloom and disaster. Quite the reverse. My sobering thoughts are actually exciting and thrilling. This could be my last ever sermon, because before we meet again, or even before I finish speaking this afternoon, the Lord Jesus Christ could return. The Second Coming could be closer than any of us expect!

But are any of us actually ready for the end of the world?

H.G. Wells “War of the worlds” invasion of the earth by Martians. Radio programme by Orson Wells 1938 was so realistic that there was mass panic!
One boy phoned his mother – “Turn your radio on – the end of the world is coming, and I’m not ready to meet God!”

Many people are understandably scared of the prospect of the end of world. I grew up in 1960s and 1970s in the long shadow of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Cuban missile crisis and the cold war, when many people were terrified that the world was about to end at any time in a nuclear Armageddon.
But when I became a Christian all the fears I had about the end of the world were taken away completely. As Christians we do not need to be afraid of the end of the world. In fact, we have every reason to LOOK FORWARD to the end of the world!

We KNOW what will happen at the end of the world! Jesus Christ will return!

1 Corinthians 15:22-28
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has
put all his enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet”. Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so
that God may be all in all.

This is a thrilling passage. It reminds us that the end of the world is in the hands of an almighty and all-loving God. God has HIS plans for the end of the world and nothing that humans can do will change anything! God’s plan is that EVERY knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. ALL God’s enemies will be put under Christ’s feet, so that God will be all in all. And God has proved this to everybody by raising Christ from the dead.

So it doesn’t matter HOW the world ends – a bang or a whimper. We can be certain that when Christ returns we also will be raised from the dead by God’s almighty power.

It seems to me that even in my short life, the vast majority of Christians and churches in this country at least have completely lost their expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ might return at any time, even tonight! In my youth I remember churches that would introduce their notices for the week’s events with words like, “If the Lord should tarry”, we will do this, just as long as the Lord doesn’t return before then! Christians just don’t seem to think that way any more. Which seems to me to be a great pity. Because the day of Christ’s return is closer now than it has ever been!

And as Christians we have every reason to be really excited at Christ’s return. We should be eagerly awaiting it – as Paul writes:-

Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Citizenship is in heaven! Wherever you go around the world, an English man stands out a mile. You can tell an Englishman by his accent, his haircut, the clothes he wears, the things he says and does and the things he wont say and do, by the food he eats and the way he drives.

Christians are citizens of heaven. More important even than being English, or Welsh, or Irish or American or African, we belong to heaven! And every single thing about us should reflect this.

Our citizenship is in heaven. “We are a colony of heaven”.
This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.
My home awaits for me a way beyond the blue.
The Saviour beckons me from heavens open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.

And so as Christians we should be looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ – because then, if not before, every one of us will be going home!

We HAVE BEEN saved – our sins have been forgiven, we have been born again to eternal life. We ARE being saved – we enjoy that life in all its fullness which comes from our relationship with God as our heavenly Father. But the best is yet to come. We WILL BE saved!! Christ WILL transform our lowly bodies so they will become like His heavenly body. Now we see as in a glass darkly, then we will see face to face. Now we know in part, then we shall know even as we ourselves are known. This is our hope!

1 Corinthians 15:49-54 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. ¶ Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

THIS is our Christian Hope – this is our Christian destiny!

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones wrote:
“We have a new citizenship, we are in Christ, and because we are in Christ, we are seated in the heavenly places with him. Certain things will happen to us before we finally arrive in heaven, but our citizenship is as definite now as it will be then. There will be a physical translation when we die, but spiritually we are there already, we belong there.”

Jim Packer: We know very little about heaven, but a theologian once described it as “an unknown region with a well-know inhabitant,”.

Puritan pastor Richard Baxter expresses the thought in these lines:
My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim,
But it’s enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with him.

To those who have learned to love and trust Jesus, the prospect of meeting him face to face and being with him forever is the hope that keeps us going, no matter what life may throw at us.

Jesus is coming SOON! We need to be ready!

Remember Jesus’s parable of the wise and foolish virgins:
Matthew 25:1-13 ¶ “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who
took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and
five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.
The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: `Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, `Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “`No,’ they replied, `there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. “Later the others also came. `Sir! Sir!’ they said. `Open the door for us!’
“But he replied, `I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because
you do not know the day or the hour.

These were ALL people who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive – ALL people who knew enough to be expecting the bridegroom – all people who knew they had been invited to the wedding!

The virgins who were locked outside because they weren’t ready were not people who hadn’t heard about the wedding – they were the people who HAD heard but STILL weren’t ready!!!

What does the oil represent? Faith? Holy Spirit? Christian Character?

Be ready:-
1. Ready to receive the Word & search the Scriptures? (Acts 17:11)
2. Ready to give the gospel? Rom 1:15
3. Ready for every good work? Titus 3:1
4. Ready to give an answer? 1 Pet 3:15
5. Ready to go where God leads? Luke 22:33
6. Ready to feed the flock? 1 Pet 5:2
7. Ready to die for Christ? Acts 21:13
8. Ready to be offered as a living sacrifice? 2 Tim 4:6
9. Ready for His coming? Matt 24:44; 25:10)

We Christians must be ready. We should live by the Boy Scouts motto – “Be prepared!”

Be ready – and STAY ready –

I love the story of a certain couple’s first date?
SHE was actually ready by the set time, dressed up and waiting patiently for HIM to turn up. However, by the time HE was an hour late, she reckoned that she had been stood up. So, she took off her makeup, and her posh clothes, cooked herself a dinner and sat down to watch the television with the dog. As her favorite show was just coming on, the doorbell rang. It was her date. He stared at her in amazement: “Here I am, two hours late, and you’re STILL not ready?”

Be ready! STAY ready! Game of “Hide and seek” – “Ready or not, here I come!”

Jesus said “The son of man will come as a thief in the night at the hour you least expect Him. Don’t let my return sneak up on you!!!”

COME TOGETHER – Is he coming for you???

He is coming for the ones who are watching and waiting! We should live every day today as we would if we knew for certain that Jesus was going to return tomorrow.

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