Sermon on Matthew 24:36-44
Text: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Many of us have become quite dependent on the GPS systems in our vehicles. One of the great features about them is the fact that they will tell you that there is a turn coming soon or that you need to merge or that you will continue on this road for so many miles. They help you to be on the lookout for upcoming events. This morning, Jesus helps us to get ready for an upcoming event, that is, the end of the world. We are to KEEP WATCH FOR THE LORD’S COMING. How do we do this? We are to 1. Watch Against Indifference. 2. Watch Against Unbelief and 3. Watch Against Carelessness.
Jesus spoke the words of our text as a part of a conversation he had with his disciples about the end of the world. Jesus had told them that the magnificent temple structure that they saw from the outskirts of Jerusalem would be destroyed. The disciples wanted to know all of the details about when and how this would all happen. Just prior to our text, Jesus told them about the signs that would precede the end of time. As far as the actual time and date, Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Rather than being so concerned about the when, Jesus tells them how they were to live as they waited for that time. It is also worth noting that Jesus is talking to believers at this time. He is not speaking to unbelievers. He uses this opportunity to stress the unexpected and sudden nature of the Last Day. He is telling his disciples, both then and now, not to speculate on the day or hour of his return, but rather, what we are to do as we await that time.
Jesus points to a historical event to talk about keeping watch. He says, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” We are familiar with the story of Noah and the flood. There was so much corruption and violence in the world that God decided to destroy the world by means of a flood. Only Noah and his family were to be spared. God told Noah to build an ark that would rescue himself, his family, and the animals. It took one hundred and twenty years to build the ark. We know from the Scriptures that, during this time, Noah warned the people about what was going to happen. Yet, they did not listen. It is interesting that Jesus does not point out the violence and corruption of the people of Noah’s day, which was the reason for the flood. Rather, Jesus points out their complete indifference to Noah’s message. They acted as if the flood was never going to come. They acted as if the message applied to other people, but not to themselves. They continued their participation in their workaday world. It was not so much that the people of Noah’s day did not know. It was more the fact that they did not care. However, when the first drops of the rain began to fall, it was too late. Now, it made a very big difference, but there were no more chances.
As I said earlier, Jesus was speaking to believers. He was warning about indifference to the message, about getting so focused in the here and now that eternity is forgotten. We need to heed this warning, as well. It is so easy for us to see what lies right in front of us. There are the jobs and chores to do. There is homework that has to be finished. There are family relationships that we are involved in. There are those million and one things that we have to do and never seem to get at all of them. Now, in and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with them. As a matter of fact, we are to make sure that we are good stewards of all of the things that God gives to us. Where we run into trouble is when these things take our focus off of what is truly important, and that is our relationship with our God. We do not want to become indifferent to what God means to us and teaches us, because we are so busy with the everyday things. We keep watch for our Lord’s appearing when we watch against indifference to him and his word in our lives. This is one way that we keep watch.
Jesus continues his description of the Last Day in verses 40&41, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” There will be but two classes of people on the Last Day and that will be evidenced by what happens to them. We have two people doing the exact same things, yet one is taken and the other is left behind. Before we go any further, we need to dispel a popular false teaching about Jesus’ return. This false teaching is called “the rapture.” According to this teaching, on this particular day, Jesus will come back and all believers will go up to heaven with him, while the unbelievers will stay behind on the earth. They will be on the earth for a thousand years. During this time, some of them will come to faith. There will be a great battle at the end of this time period, when Jesus will come a third time and, once and for all, destroy those who opposed him. However, this is not what Jesus is teaching here. Rather, the ones who will be taken are the believers. They will be forever with the Lord in heaven, enjoying all that he has accomplished for us. Those who are left will not spend their time on this earth. They will be abandoned to God’s punishment in hell.
This underscores all the more the importance of our faith. It is only those who put their entire trust in Jesus as their Savior who will go to heaven. Those who do not believe will go to hell. There is no kind of a believer. There is no middle ground. There are only two groups of people at the end, the believers and the unbelievers. The believers will go to heaven because their sins have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ. Our faith and our relationship with God are the only things that go on. Everything else that we have on this earth will be gone. For this reason, we want to strengthen our faith. This only happens through constant contact with God through his Word and through the reception of Holy Communion. We do not want to take our faith for granted. This is another way that we keep watch for our Lord’s appearing. We are on our guard against unbelief.
When we hear about this constant watching, we may catch ourselves thinking that you really cannot keep watch all the time. That is too much to ask of anyone. To encourage us against careless watching, Jesus said, “Understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” You can be sure that the owner of the house did not want his house to be broken into and his valuables carried away. Yet, because of one moment’s carelessness, that is exactly what happened. He let down his guard and lost what was valuable to him.
So, also, Jesus encourages us in our watchfulness, as well. We do not want to let down our guard, even for a moment. The devil is looking for any and every opportunity for us to be careless with our faith. If we let our guard down, we are easy pickings for him. We need to be alert to all of the devil’s tricks to try to rob us of our faith. Without that faith, we are unprepared for our Lord’s return. While we do not know exactly when the Lord’s return will be, we do know that we have to be ready. The only way that we can be ready is to trust in Jesus as our Savior. We know that we cannot stand on our own. We need Jesus to be by our side, so that we are able to fend off the devil’s attacks. We keep watch for our Lord’s return as we guard against being careless with our faith.
Unfortunately, we must all confess to having let our guard down, from time to time. We have let the everyday things of this life become more important to us, so that we lose focus on what is truly important. We do not always take our faith as seriously as we should. For these and so many other sins, we do not deserve to look forward to our Lord’s return to take us to glory. Instead, we deserve to have him abandon us to his punishment for all eternity. For that reason, we thank Jesus that, the first time he came to this earth, he did not come as Judge of all. He came as our Savior. He came to be our Substitute. He lived perfectly for us. He was constantly aware of the devil’s attacks and he defeated the devil at every turn. Then, he went to the cross, where he paid for all of our sins. There is no sin that we have done or will do that he did not pay for. When he rose from the grave, he showed us that he had won the victory. We have been saved. It is for this reason that we do not fear the Last Day. We know that we will be with Jesus for all eternity in the place that he has prepared for us. In the meanwhile, we pray that he would help us to always keep watch for his appearing at the end of time.
When you go to the Christian book store, you will often find large sections dealing with the end of the world. Unfortunately, most of what you find there is heresy. This is because the authors speculate on what they think the end will be like. They will pick out passages and come up with all sorts of teachings about the end that sound so fantastic. However, they are going beyond what God’s Word clearly says. We cannot say with any certainty exactly when the end of the world will come. We simply know that, at God’s good time, it will come. Rather than concerning ourselves with the when, may God help us to be concerned with the how: how we live our lives in eager anticipation of our Lord’s return. May the Lord help us to keep watch for that time. May he continued to strengthen us and guard us in our faith as we wait. Then, we will be ready for his return. Amen.
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