For the Love of God, Volume 1/January 24

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Genesis 25; Matthew 24; Esther 1; Acts 24

IN TUMULTUOUS TIMES, Christians have often been tempted to set dates as to when the Lord would return—almost always saying that he would return within a generation of the one making the prediction. In Matthew 24:36-44, however, Jesus insists that the time is hidden. We cannot know it, and we should not try to know it.

More precisely, the passage emphasizes two things.

First, not only is the hour of the end a secret preserved by the Father for himself alone, but when the judgment falls it will be unexpected, sudden, and irreversible. That is the point Jesus is making when he draws a comparison with the sudden onset of the deluge: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (24:37). The point is not that the people at the end of the ages will be as wicked as people were in the days of Noah. That may or may not be true, but it is not what Jesus says. Jesus draws attention to the sheer normality of life in Noah’s day before the Flood: “People were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark” (24:38). The Flood took them by surprise, and utterly destroyed them. “That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (24:39). Two men or two women will be laboring together in some joint task, and the judgment will snatch one away and leave the other (24:40-41). The end of the age will be sudden and unexpected.

Second, it follows (“Therefore,” 24:42) that faithful servants will always be ready. Obviously a homeowner in a dicey neighborhood doesn’t know when a thief will turn up. Rather, he takes such precautions that he is always prepared. The point is not that Jesus’ return at the end of the age is sneaky—like the approach of the thief—brutal, or exploitative. The point, rather, is that although the timing of his return cannot be predicted, he will come, and his people should be as prepared for it as the homeowner in the insecure neighborhood is prepared for the arrival of the thief (whose timing is equally unpredictable). “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (24:44).

What would you like to be doing, saying, thinking, or planning when Jesus comes again? What would you not like to be doing, saying, thinking, or planning when Jesus comes again? Jesus tells you always to “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (24:42).

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