How to be Ready for the End of the World

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Luke 12:35-48

Here’s a much bigger issue than Y2K. Are you adequately prepared for the end of the world? Would you like to know what to do to be ready?

Recently I read a news story about a religious group who were busy getting ready for the end of the world. These families were all followers of the same human leader, who had somehow determined that Jesus will come back to earth in the year 2000 to bring the world and its history to a close. Obviously, that doesn’t leave much time. So these men and women are busy selling their houses and possessions in the city and moving out. Most of them are settling in or around the same small village in the mountains, where they are preparing for the end. Their leader is prophesying that the first months of the year 2000 will see massive chaos worldwide as a result of the Y2K computer problem, and that the collapse of human civilization will culminate in the return of the prophet Jesus to usher in the age to come. Just another case of millennial hysteria? Perhaps, but with a difference. You see, this particular group is made up of Muslims. The city they are fleeing from is Beirut, Lebanon. Their leader is an Arab sheikh. It seems like the millennium bug is biting everywhere.

Here’s something for you to think about. What would you do if you knew the world was suddenly about to end? “What if this present were the world’s last night?” as the poet John Donne asked almost four centuries ago. How would you get ready for the end of the world?

Fortunately, that’s not as tough a question as it might seem, because if you are a Christian you have some excellent help. The Bible contains enough information to enable anyone to get ready for the world’s last night. Jesus himself left us very clear instructions on how to prepare for his return at the end of time. His directions work equally well as a checklist for living in expectation of the end of our own personal lives, which of course could also happen at any moment. Would you like to know what he said?

IT WILL BE LIKE THIS

One of Jesus’ favorite teaching methods was story telling. His stories are called parables, and quite a lot of them have to do with the theme of his promised return to earth at the end of time. He liked to compare it to the owner of an estate going away on a journey and leaving his servants in charge of the place. Here is one of the forms of that story, from the gospel according to Mark:

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back . . .

Mark 13:32-35, NIV

Of all the things Jesus said about his return to earth at the end of time – his Second Coming, as Christians call it – the one feature which stands out most clearly is its unexpectedness. The single most important characteristic of Jesus’ return is its incalculability. You can’t calculate when it will happen. It is impossible to work out the month, day or year of the end – or, for that matter, even the century! No one knows when it will happen. No one can know; nobody can figure out when this event will occur. “No one knows about that day and hour,” declared Jesus. “Not even the angels in heaven know when it will take place. I don’t even know myself. Only the Father knows it.”

Now stop and reflect on that for just a moment. If the knowledge of the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming was withheld even from the Son of God himself during his days on earth, do you really think God is going to give that information to anyone else? Is it likely that he would make known to us what he hid from his own beloved Son? But this hasn’t stopped some people from thinking they know the answer, or from spilling gallons of ink in an attempt to calculate accurately the time of the end. “You do not know when that time will come,” said Jesus. Now, to most people that would seem plain enough. Just which part of that sentence is hard to understand?

We do not know and cannot know when the world will end, but we do know that the end, when it comes, will be unexpected. That’s also what Jesus said. His coming again is an end-time event. It could happen today. It could happen a thousand years from now. But whenever it does happen – as it surely will – people everywhere will be surprised by it. Even those who have most been looking forward to Christ’s return will be at least somewhat taken off-guard when he actually appears. So what should we be doing to get ready for the end of the world?

WHAT TO DO TO GET READY

For an answer to that question, listen to another passage where Jesus talks about his coming. This is from the twelfth chapter of Luke:

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet . . . It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. . . . It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. . . . You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. . . .

“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. . . . From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Luke 12:35-48, NIV

In this passage Jesus offers three specific pieces of counsel to those who want to be prepared for his coming and the end of the world. Using the illustration of the servants left in charge of the absentee landlord’s household, Jesus points out what kind of servants will be approved by the master when he returns. Three times he uses the expression, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them doing . . . this.” So here are three basic things to do if you want to be ready for the end of the world.

First, watch. “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes,” said Jesus. What does it mean to watch for Christ’s coming? I don’t think it means to engage in endless speculation about dates and times, or to invest huge amounts of time and energy in trying to work out all the exact details of end-time events. Our generation, living through the turn of the millennium, has seen a lot of analysis on the “signs of the times” which some think are announcing the impending end. Many books have been written identifying current world events with features of biblical prophecy, right down to the order of battle for the ultimate confrontation at Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). But every few years, as world politics shift, as countries and systems like communism have fallen, the end-time details have to be rethought and the books rewritten.

Now, it is good to be interested in the Lord’s return. One of the positive results of the growing interest in Bible prophecy and the approach of the new millennium is that it has stirred many people to think seriously about Jesus’ Second Coming. But the signs which Jesus himself said would precede his return are not all that mysterious. He talked about wars and natural disasters, about the spread of the gospel, about people falling away from him and the persecution of the church. Those signs are regular features of life. They have marked every age from the first century to this one. The signs of the times of which Jesus spoke were not secret clues intended to alert the Christians of the final generation that it was time to get ready for the end. They are reminders intended to keep each generation of believers watchful, on our toes, looking actively for the Lord’s appearing.

What does it mean then to watch? It means to stay alert, to be aware. It means not to grow cold in faith or cynical in attitude. It means to keep on trusting fervently in the reality of Christ’s coming, to go on looking for his appearing even when the years grow long. It means to continue expectantly waiting for the “Blessed Hope” of Christ’s appearing (Titus 2:13), even though the world has long since stopped believing in any end to its power and pomp, or any judgment upon its oppressions and injustices.

The second action Jesus counsels is to be ready. “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.” Again, what does it mean to be ready for the Lord’s coming? Well, it doesn’t mean to sell all your worldly goods, don white robes, and go off to sit on a hillside somewhere gazing up into the sky. If it meant that, why do you suppose God sent angels to shoo Jesus’ apostles off the Mount of Olives after he had ascended into heaven. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:11). That’s not how to wait for his return. The disciples were sent back home to begin the work Jesus had assigned to them.

So the way to be ready for Christ’s return is not to load up a truck with dehydrated food and bottled water and head for the hills, or to drop everything and join a cult or a commune somewhere. To be ready is to be in a fit state to meet him. It is to not be caught unprepared when he does return. The motto of the United States Coast Guard is semper paratus, “always prepared.” These brave men and women are ready at any and every moment to respond to a call to go out to sea and rescue someone in distress. That’s a great motto for Christians too – semper paratus. We ought to be ready at any and every moment to welcome the Lord Jesus, to give an account of ourselves, our lives and service. You can only do that by staying close to the Lord in constant, active, obedient faith. Make sure that you know him now, that you have a living relationship with Christ. And keep your relationship current and up to the minute by regular prayer, Bible study, and worship. Live each day, pursue each activity, in such a way that you would not be ashamed for Christ to find you doing it. Don’t presume that there will be plenty of time later on – some day – for you to come to the Lord, or to come back to him. One day the call will come, if not to the whole world, then to you at the end of your life. And you must be prepared to answer it. There will be no more time to get ready then to meet the Lord.

Jesus told his followers to prepare for the end by watching for his coming, by being ready to meet him at any moment, and finally by actively obeying all his commands. The best thing for the Lord to find us doing at the end of the world is simply going about our daily business, doing exactly what he told us to. “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food . . . at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.” The one who knows his master’s will and doesn’t do it, Jesus added, will be punished the most severely.

So the important question is this: do we know what the Lord’s will is? He has left us in charge of things here. He has entrusted us with his resources to care for the needs of our fellow servants, our brothers and sisters in the household of humanity. What does he expect us to be doing? It isn’t hard to know. Jesus talked about it often enough: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” “Feed the hungry, tend the sick, bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted, preach good news to the poor.” “Go into all the world and take the gospel of God’s love to every creature.”

So what will the Lord find you doing when he comes?