We students were excited to begin our bible college class on the Book of Revelation. Thoughts of the antichrist, the two witnesses, the Bride of Christ, the harlot church, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the millennium, and many more end-time topics were swirling around in our heads. Then our teacher spoke words that I’ve never forgotten: “More important than knowing all these things is to be ready when they happen!”
Jesus is coming again a second time (Hebrews 9:28). That much is certain. But the order of events at the end of the age is less certain and is the subject of varied opinions by theologians and bible teachers. Yes, it is certainly good to study these things. But as our teacher said in that first class on the Book of Revelation, it is more important that we live our lives so as to be ready for these things. Whether or not they occur in our lifetimes, in all cases we will profit greatly by living in a state of readiness.
Jesus the Son of God came to earth the first time about 2,000 years ago. Hebrews 9:28 tells us that He will come again, a second time.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (and to us) that Christ’s second coming will have radically different consequences for two groups: (1) He will “be glorified in His saints” — those who have been saved through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ — and (2) those who “know not God and…obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The latter will face the Lord’s “vengeance … in flaming fire.”
So the ultimate, all-important readiness is being saved, being born again, by having deliberately come to the Savior Jesus Christ in faith and repentance. The bible speaks of a number of additional, interesting scenarios of readiness. We would do well to take them all seriously, in order to be “ready” for whatever is coming while we are alive on this earth. Let’s look now at some of them.
This is bridal terminology and reminds us of the apostle Paul’s words to believers: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
Commentators may disagree on the exact meaning of Matthew 25 above. But a key point is that Jesus wants a closeness with us that is well expressed in bridal symbolism. And the virgins’ readiness for the Bridegroom’s coming for the wedding banquet was predicated on the virgins in the parable having an abundant supply of oil. In the Scriptures, oil is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit — for example, in 1 Samuel 10:1,6 and 1 Samuel 16:13.
That strongly suggests to me that every Christian would be wise to seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit — both the new birth by the Spirit and the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Here is that bridal terminology again. The Bride of Christ has “made herself ready.” Ultimately, all that we receive from God is by His grace. But that does not remove from us our obligation to apply that grace in our lives and to expend every effort to “make ourselves ready” for presentation to our perfect, radiant Bridegroom Jesus. A passive believer is not likely to be a “ready” believer.
Jesus issued some stark warnings here about readiness, in anticipation of the end-time events that will culminate in His second coming. His counsel is to “be always on the watch, and pray.” In other words, we must live in prayerful, watchful readiness for “all that is about to happen.”
“Be careful!” said the Lord. Careful about what? About our hearts being weighed down with worldly things such as “carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life.” I grieve as I see more and more Christians embracing alcohol and even posting their drinking escapades on Facebook. Jesus said, “Be careful!” But the flesh says, “I want to be free!” Well, the big danger is that, as Jesus said, their hearts will be weighed down. They may be “free” alright — free from the watchful, prayerful readiness that He exhorted us to.
What was Jesus’ solution? Watch always … pray … be careful. Don’t engage in any conduct that will damage your careful watchfulness and prayerfulness.
We are waiting for our Master Jesus to return. In the meantime, as He commanded, “be dressed ready for service.” Again, the key is readiness. In Matthew 25 we saw the wise virgins ready and waiting for the Bridegroom with their lamps burning and an abundant supply of (Holy Spirit) oil. Here we see servants waiting for their Master. And here too we see some of the themes we have discussed above. Be ready … with lamps burning … waiting for their Master (not consumed by other things) … watching for His coming … feeding those the Master has put in our care … actively serving when He comes. That, Jesus says, is readiness.
This parable of Jesus makes it clear that in a “ready” Christian there is no place for either natural or spiritual laziness. Rather, he or she is ready for service.
This is a very important state of readiness: (1) Jesus Christ holds a very special, central place in your heart; and as a result (2) you are “ready always to give an answer” (KJV) to those who see something in you that causes them to ask about your hopefulness, your optimism. And that answer, of course, is the hope that you have in Jesus Christ.
I recall an incident a little over 40 years ago. I was an FAA air traffic controller. On a slow night shift with sparse air traffic, a fellow controller came over to talk and asked me what was a good bible translation to read. I had always tried to live my life openly for Jesus before my coworkers. I picked up immediately in the Spirit that his bible translation question was proceeding from a deeper question: how to come into relationship with the Lord. So I shared the Gospel with him and told him how to get saved (as government employees on duty, we couldn’t pray openly there). The next work shift we had, he came over and told me happily how he had gone home, done what I said, and was joyfully saved! In fact, he said that, although I hadn’t even mentioned physical healing, when he got saved the Lord also healed a chronic pain that he had suffered from. I share this story to help you see that, if Jesus is always central in your heart and life, you won’t always have to be the one opening the conversation. Sometimes, as in this story, it will be someone who has seen the hope in you that asks how to receive that same hope. In sum, love and serve Jesus and be ready to step up and answer others who see your hope and want that too.
Those to whom Jesus spoke this in person did not live on earth long enough to see His second coming. That may be our experience too. Or perhaps we will be the blessed generation that lives to see His return to earth. Whether that occurs or not, remember Jesus’ warning for all the centuries of the Church Age (to Peter, John, and the other first-century disciples, and also to us who live at this end of the age) — “You also must be ready.”
How can I be ready? In brief, as we have seen, come to Jesus as Lord and Savior, being born again by His Spirit … seek the fullness of the Spirit in the baptism with the Holy Spirit … cultivate your love for Jesus as a bride loves her husband … be watchful … be prayerful … be careful not to get weighed down by worldliness … keep your lamps burning for Him … be always ready for service, for ministry on the Lord’s behalf … take good care of those He puts under your care … keep Jesus central in your hearts and be always ready to share the hope you have with those who may ask about it.
Allow me in closing to repeat what that bible teacher said in the very first of his classes on the Book of Revelation: “More important than knowing all these things is to be ready when they happen!” That is my hope and prayer for each of you reading this today.
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©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.