by Dr. Becky Luman
Scripture: Matthew 24:42–25:30
From the WBS Statement of Faith: “We believe in the Self-Revealing God, the Creator of all . . . Who will complete the Redemption of the world by the return of the Incarnate Lord and renew creation, establish the Reign of God in all its fullness, gather the Church to Himself, destroy all evil, judge the world, and rule perfectly over God’s New Heaven and Earth in holy love and complete righteousness by His intimate union with His people in the New Jerusalem” (Paragraph 10).
The End of the World?
In my teenage years, The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, a book on end-time Bible prophecy, climbed to the top of bestseller lists. Lindsey wrote that 1985 would be an important year in history—perhaps, the Second Coming of Jesus. He thought this because about 40 years (a biblical generation) had passed since Israel became a recognized nation and the planets were set to align in an unusual way, which could be, he thought, the “signs in the heavens” that Jesus spoke about.
But 1985 came and went.
This begs the question: What do we know for sure about the end times?
So…When is He Coming Back?
The last recorded words of Jesus before He ascended to heaven concerned the coming of the Holy Spirit and the mission of his disciples in the world. When the disciples enquired about whether “now” was the time that Israel would be delivered from Roman domination to regain independence and prominence, Jesus brushed aside the inquiry. He said plainly that the “times and dates” are in the Father’s control and that disciples should focus on receiving the power of the Holy Spirit (relationship) and completing the mission to be “witnesses” to their nation and the world (responsibility).
Three End Times Parables
During the last week before the Cross, Jesus delivered a cryptic “end of the age” sermon, concluding with three parables. After predicting his death, in this Olivet discourse, Jesus talked about his “return” in power and authority.
Let’s consider the three parables of this discourse: The Evil Manager, The Ten Bridesmaids, and The Servants with Talents. Our focus verse is this: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” How can believers today be “ready” for Jesus to come again?
The Evil Manager
In the story of the evil manager, a master appointed a head servant to manage the household in the master’s absence, giving him both responsibility and resources to run the home. The servant abused his responsibility toward his fellow servants and wasted household resources in selfish and destructive pursuits. Jesus made it clear that when the master returned, that evil manager would be severely punished. He was unfaithful in his responsibility to the master and unloving in his relationship with fellow servants. He was actively evil.
The Ten Bridesmaids
In the story of the ten bridesmaids, ten friends of the bride waited to take part in the bridal procession to the groom’s home for a week-long wedding feast. They held torches—long poles with a bunch of rags tied to the top. If the wedding parade occurred at night, the torch oil had to be replenished every 15 minutes to keep the torches ablaze. Only those in the wedding parade could be assured of a place at the banquet.
Five sensible teenagers brought extra oil and the other five were silly enough to forget this necessity. The silly girls missed the feast due to their failure to prepare. The new husband refused to open the door to the party saying, “I don’t know you.” The key to the parable seems to be that five girls prepared and five girls didn’t. Most interpreters feel Jesus meant the “preparation” element of this story to warn followers to be spiritually prepared for His return by nurturing a vibrant relationship with Jesus Himself. He is the Bridegroom for whom we prepare and wait.
The Servants with Talents
In the story of the talents, a generous and trusting master loaned money to three of his servants to invest. A “talent” was a weight of precious metal variously described as worth from $1,000-$5,000. Two of the three men worked hard, invested the money entrusted to them, and doubled the capital. However, one servant distrusted his master’s motives and was afraid to take any risk. He buried the talent to be sure he could produce it. Upon the master’s return, he praised the hard-working, faithful servants and gave them more responsibility. He pronounced the fearful servant “wicked and lazy” and punished him. While not actively evil, this man failed in his responsibility by being fearful and inactive.
Four major elements stand out as common between these three parables:
- A responsibility or a privilege was offered. One servant was given a job description—to run the household well. One servant was given an opportunity to set up a business, to be a creative entrepreneur. Ten girls were offered a social privilege, a rite of passage, a joyous occasion to be in their friend’s wedding party.
- A master or bridegroom was absent and the servant or bridesmaid was tested. What was their character—were they faithful, prepared? Or not?
- A time of accountability came when faithfulness or readiness was revealed. The master returned, the Bridegroom arrived. The crisis at hand revealed character, whether selfishness, silliness, or fear.
- A reward or punishment was awarded based on readiness or faithfulness. The consequences of character worked themselves out in penalty or reward.
In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus emphasized that we do not know the day or hour when the “Son of Man” will come back in power and glory. The three parables say we should be alert, watchful. The essential elements of “watchfulness” are (1) being prepared and (2) working faithfully at the mission the master assigns. If we watchfully work, the when fades in importance.
Living in Light of the Second Coming
As stated earlier, relationship and responsibility are the two essential elements in being ready for Jesus’ Second Coming.
While we wait for Jesus’ return, more than 2,000 years after this instruction, He expects us to deepen our relationship with Him and be faithful in our mission for the Kingdom. We need to trustfully wait and faithfully work. Then we will be ready for that day to come.
As our pledge of loyalty to Christ, let us affirm our faith in the classic three-part statement:
“Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
“Even so, COME Lord Jesus!”