1. Learn (verses 28-32).
2. Be Alert (verses 33-37)

Most of you here today know that I have five children. I consider this to be a large family. Some may not, but I do. Having a large family is a great blessing. Psalm 127 says that, "children are a gift of the LORD". And, "How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" (Psalm 127:3, 5). Psalm 128 describes a house of blessing. "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house. Your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD" (Ps. 128:3-4).

Now, although a large family is a great blessing, it brings with it some difficulties as well. One of the difficulties is getting ready to go someplace. Not only do you have to get yourself ready. But, you have to arrange for everyone else to be ready. It means different strategies for different children. For young ones, this means dressing them, putting on shoes or boots, and in some cases even carrying them to the car.

For the older ones, this means constant reminding. "Hey, we want to leave in half an hour, OK?" "We are leaving in 10 minutes. Are you ready?" "Five minutes...". " Two minutes...". "Gotta go!" In our home we have teenagers to toddlers. (We have found the teenagers to slow us down more than the toddlers. But that's for another time.)

Such is the battle to go someplace. And about the time some are ready, you discover that others have become unready. You know what I'm talking about? Of course you do. I know that I'm preaching to the choir here.

But, let's get real here. It's not merely those who have children who have difficulty getting ready. In my own life, I struggle to be ready. I have a meeting of some sort or trip I'm taking, and I need to leave at 6:30. But, I keep busy until the very last moment. I go to my bedroom about 15 minutes before I need to go. I change my clothes, brush my teeth, gather a few things. And I'm ready to get out the door. But then, the phone rings. Or one of the kids needs help with something. Or I forgot one last detail, like a map that I'm going to need, or a document that I need. And I'm late again for my appointment.

It's hard to get ready. It's hard to be on time.

I'm sure that you all have your own story about being late. Here's my story from this past week. I took my family downtown Chicago to Moody Church this past Friday for their Founder's Week Celebration. John MacArthur was preaching. He has made such an impact upon my life and my wife's life that I wanted them to hear him preach in person.

We were planning to leave at 4:00, but those inconveniences got in the way. I came inside about 3:30 to see if everything was in place to leave at 4:00. Yvonne had some errands for me to run before we could go. I had a few letters to put in the mailbox. I had to fill up our car. I had a few things to purchase at Walmart. Knowing that I was late, I was literally running through Walmart to get my items. I had to pick up Amanda, who was joining us. We ended up leaving at 4:30. Yvonne and I, our two teenagers, a cousin and Amanda. And then we hit traffic on our way downtown. We were stop and go for about an hour on the Kennedy coming into Chicago.

By the time we arrived at Moody Church, things were just about to begin. The place was packed. Thousands of people in their seats. I heard several people talking about how we needed to go to the overflow room, where you would watch a video of the event. But, that's not what I wanted for my children. I wanted them to experience the thousands of people singing together and hearing the preaching of the word in one room! By God's grace, with help of some ushers, we were able to find six seats scattered throughout the very edge of the top balcony.

If we had been on time, we would all have been able to sit together. But, being late, we all had to sit in separate seats. Despite the inconvenience, we were thankful to be in the main room. But, such were the consequences of being late.

There are always consequences of being late. Sometimes the consequences are small: It may mean that you simply need to apologize to those who were waiting for you to arrive. Sometimes the consequences are large: It may mean that you miss your flight and your meeting altogether.

But, when it comes to the return of Jesus Christ, the consequences are eternal. They make a difference regarding your eternal destiny. If you are prepared for His coming, you will be with Him in glory forever. If you are unprepared for His coming, you will face His wrath for all eternity. You want to be ready. You want to be ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

My message this morning is entitled, "Are You Ready?" Are you ready for the Lord Jesus Christ to return? That's the big question for today.

Today we will be in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 13. We come this morning to the very last section in this chapter, verses 28-37. In our portion of Scripture this morning, Jesus is calling us to be ready for His return. I want to begin reading in verse 1, ...

Mark 13:1-4
As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down." As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?"

These words set up all of what Jesus says in this chapter. As they were leaving the temple, Jesus' disciples expressed their amazement at the wonderful buildings in the temple complex. Jesus responded by saying that they would be torn down -- every one of them would be torn down, not one stone would be left. After a 20-30 minute walk down and up the Kidron Valley, Jesus and His disciples were seated upon the Mount of Olives, looking down upon the city of Jerusalem. It was there that they asked Jesus about these things, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?" In other words, "When exactly is this temple going to be destroyed?"

Jesus uses the opportunity to tell about the destruction of the temple. But, He also uses the opportunity to tell about His coming. He begins by describing the trouble that will come first. ...

Mark 13:5-13
And Jesus began to say to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He!' and will mislead many. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

"But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

Jesus tells of false Christs (verses 5-6) Jesus tells of wars (verse 7) and earthquakes (verse 8) and famines (verse 8). He tells of persecution (verse 9). Through all these things, Jesus tells His disciples not to fear (verse 7). He tells them not to worry (verse 11).

Let's continue in verse 14 (which we looked at last week). In this verse, Jesus gets specific about the destruction of the temple.

Mark 13:14-20
"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that it may not happen in the winter. For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

At this point, Jesus tells them than when they see the abomination of desolation, they should flee. Get out of there, and head for the mountains! Once the holy place is defiled, the temple will soon be destroyed. But, it's not something that you want to watch. So, don't take any time to go back into your house to get anything, not even your coat. It will be a terrible time.

In verse 21, Jesus continues by describing His own coming.

Mark 13:21-27
And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.

"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

When Jesus comes, there will be no doubt that it is He who is coming. There will be those who will try to lead you astray. But, there will be no mistaking the return of Christ. All will know! The sun will be darkened. The moon will be darkened. The stars will be darkened. Jesus will come on the clouds "with great power and glory" for all to see!

And if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, He will gather you to Himself! You will be saved from His wrath. Oh, but if you don't know Him, you will face a wretched end. And so, the obvious question at this point is this: "Are You Ready?"

In our text this morning, Jesus gives us two lessons: Learn (verses 28-32) and Be Alert (verses 33-37). The good news is this. You may be confused as to the exact details of everything that you have seen in Mark 13. You may not really understand much of what we have looked at in this chapter. But, if you are ready for His return, you will be just fine.

You say, "Steve, how can I be ready?" Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Trust in God! Trust in Jesus Christ. Trust that His atoning work on the cross is all that you need to be righteous before the Lord! Don't trust in your righteousness. Don't trust in your righteous deeds. Trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as sufficient for God to forgive all of your sins, many though they be.

Let's look at the two lessons that Jesus gives us in our text. The first is this, ...
1. Learn (verses 28-32).

Learn from the fig tree.

Mark 13:28-30
"Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

The parable is really quite simple. Jesus is simply talking about the change in season, using the fig tree as an example. During the days of Jesus, the fig tree was a very common tree in Israel, much as it is today. In those regions of the world, fig trees put forth their fruit for nine months of the year. They are dormant during a few winter months, but come out in blossoms during the early spring. It was one of the first plants to put forth its buds. When it does, you know full well that summer is near.

In our climate, you might well say, "When you see the snow melt, you know that summer is near. Or, when the tulips come up, you know that summer is near. Or, when you see the robins outside, you know that summer is near." This is the extent of the illustration. The explanation comes in verse 29, "Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door." Just as you can look upon the change in seasons and can tell when summer is near, so also can you look upon the situation in the world and realize when the Lord is near. It's that simple.

And when you see these things, it shouldn't turn you to panic or fear. It shouldn't turn you to worry about the coming new world order. It should lead you to trust in the Lord. Summer is coming. Jesus is coming to restore all things!

Some have tried to say that the fig tree in this parable represents Israel. So that the budding of the nation of Israel in the last fifty years represents the coming of the end of the age. I believe that such an interpretation goes far beyond the intentions of Jesus, who was simply talking about the change in seasons. "You are able to discern the change in seasons. You ought to be able to discern a thing or two regarding the season in which the Lord will return."

The illustration is easy. The explanation is easy. But, its application is difficult. What exactly are the changes that Jesus is referring to? Jesus said that when you look at "these things," you should be able to know that the time is near. What are these things?

Jesus has spent much of His discourse describing the things that will take place before He comes. Wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution, defilement of the temple -- these are the things that must take place before Jesus comes! In verse 23 Jesus made this clear, "Behold, I have told you in advance."

These are the things that Jesus would equate to the branch becoming tender, and the leaves coming forth. These things are preliminary to the second coming. So, when you see all of "these things" take place, then you ought to learn that "He is near, right at the door" (verse 29).

When you see all of "these things" take place, then you ought to know that His coming is soon to come upon us. You ought to know that the day will soon come when the sun and moon will be darkened and the stars will fall from the sky (verses 24-25). You ought to know that the Son of Man will soon appear in the clouds (verse 26). You ought to know that the angels will soon be sent forth to gather together His elect (verse 27).

Now, here's the million dollar question: Have "these things" taken place? Has the branch of the fig tree become tender? Has the fig tree begun to put forth its leaves? If they have, then summer is near! I believe that "these things" that Jesus described have taken place. I stand on the authority of verse 30 to say that they have taken place. Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

Many people stumble at verse 30, because they think that "these things" refers to everything that Jesus spoke about (from verse 5 through verse 27). But, I don't think that Jesus is speaking about everything in these verses when he speaks about "these things."

The illustration that Jesus uses in verse 28 connects the "these things" with all of the indications leading up to the coming of summer (i.e. the tender branches and the coming forth of the leaves .. summer is "near"). In verse 28, Jesus doesn't talk about the actual coming of summer as referring to "these things." Rather, he is talking about the events that indicate that the coming of summer is near. And so, likewise, I believe that in verse 30, Jesus is referring to everything that is leading up to, but not including, the coming of the Son of Man. In other words, I believe that Jesus was referring to verses 5-23 when He spoke about "these things." He is talking about the things that were leading up to His coming.

And I believe that they have all been fulfilled! There have always been deceivers (verses 5-6). There have always been wars (verses 7-8a). There have always been disasters -- famines and earthquakes (verse 8b). There have always been persecutions (verse 9). There have always been defections (verses 12). The gospel has always continued to spread (verse 10). The abomination of desolation took place when the temple was defiled by the Romans (verse 14). Great tribulation took place when Jerusalem was sacked (verses 19-20). False Christs and false prophets have always been around (verses 21-22).

"These things" took place in the days just after Jesus. Jesus said that they would, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (verse 30). They did. Many of "these things" have continued to take place since the generation who was alive in the days of Jesus.

Since the ascension of Jesus (as recorded in Acts 1), I believe that the days have been primed for Jesus to return again. The lesson of the fig tree is this: "know that summer is near!" The lesson for us today is this: "know that the Lord is near!" This is the language of the New Testament writers. In Philippians 4:5, Paul wrote, "Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near!" Peter wrote, "The end of all things is near" (1 Peter 4:7). James said, "Be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. ... behold, the Judge is standing right at the door" (James 5:8-9).

James uses almost the exact same terminology has did his divine brother. Jesus said, "the Lord is near, right at the door" (verse 29). We need to learn this lesson. When we think of the coming of Jesus, we ought not to think that it is a long way off. We ought to think of the coming of Jesus as soon and near.

We stand on the authority of Jesus. Jesus said, ...

Mark 13:31-32
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

These are two very curious verses, which happen to be placed side by side. On the one hand, you see Jesus being very certain of these things. And yet, on the other hand, you see Jesus being a bit uncertain of these things.

Verse 31 indicates a certainty in the words of Jesus. What He spoke will be accomplished! There is no doubt that everything that Jesus spoke will indeed come true. There is no doubt that His words will endure throughout all time. On the other hand, verse 32 indicate an uncertainty in the words of Jesus. He is uncertain regarding the timing of these things. He said that He didn't know when they would take place. He said that the angels didn't even know these things. From these two verses, I want to pull out two lessons for us to learn. One lesson from each verse.

From verse 31, we are to learn that these things are certain. Admittedly, one of the things about the words of Jesus in this chapter is that they are difficult to believe. I think especially regarding the parable of the fig tree. Jesus said that when you see these things happen, you know that His coming is near. You know that His return is soon! And yet, it has been some two thousand years!

This very observation has led many to renounce the faith. Bertrand Russell once wrote a little pamphlet entitled, "Why I Am Not a Christian." It was originally a lecture that was transcribed and slightly edited to make it acceptable for print form. In this lecture, he made many points against Christianity. One of points was that he saw "Defects in Christ's Teaching." The main defect that he pointed out was that Jesus was mistaken about His own return. Russell said, "he certainly thought that his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. ... In that respect, clearly he was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise." Thus, Russell refused to believe in Jesus.

I feel the tension that Russell expressed in His writings. You read the words of Jesus. You see the things that have happened in the first century. And you easily think that Jesus was coming back in the first century. But two thousand years have elapsed and He still hasn't come back.

Peter anticipated this very objection to Christianity in 2 Peter. He wrote, ...

2 Peter 3:3-4
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation."

It is almost as if Peter was addressing Bertrand Russell's complaint! "Where is the promise of His coming?" they say. Where is He? He said that the Son of Man was "right at the door." Why hasn't He opened the door? Surely He was wrong. He's not coming back. The whole thing is a sham!

Peter went on to say that it wasn't a sham. He said that everything hasn't been the same from the beginning. It was once destroyed with a flood! "But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (2 Pet. 3:7). It was by the word of God that created the world (2 Pet. 3:5). It was by the word of God that flooded the world (2 Pet. 3:6). It is by the word of God that the present world is being kept as it is (2 Pet. 3:7). It will be by the word of God that the present world will be destroyed someday by fire (2 Pet. 3:7).

This is exactly what Jesus says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Mark 13:31). He is coming back! This is certain!

So, how do you deal with the long delay? Our concept of soon isn't God's concept of soon. In 2 Peter 3, Peter continued His writing, "Do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8). He says those things in the context of coming judgment.

When we think of "soon," we think that it will be the next thing that we do. In some circumstances, "soon," could be next week, or possibly next month. But certainly in our minds, "soon" doesn't mean two thousand years! That is where God is different than we are. For us, eternity is 70 years! And so, soon is this year, this month, tomorrow, or even right now! But, for God, eternity is eternity! And so, for Him, soon can be ten thousand years. All eternity will make any delay (however long it is) seem as if it were but a day. " With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8).

So, how long has the Lord delayed in coming? Two days! The days of delay have a purpose! They are for repentance! "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). The return of Jesus has been delayed to give opportunity for repentance. This is so kind and so gracious of Him.

The teacher that pushed back the deadline is kind and gracious to his students, giving them more time to study. The business man that allows the shipping date to slip without penalty is kind and gracious. The judge that delays the trial to give the defense more time to gather the evidence is kind and gracious. And, the Sovereign One of the universe who delays His coming is kind and gracious. It's the "kindness and forbearance and patience ... of God [that] leads you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4).

Any delay in His coming is an expression of His kindness toward the unrepentant. As the Lord has chosen not to judge the world with finality for two thousand years is a declaration to all of His great kindness. It's another day given to us to repent! Perhaps the Lord is being kind to you! Perhaps today is a day when you need to repent of your sin and bow to the Savior!

Jesus is coming back. Of this, there is no doubt. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Mark 13:31). He will return, because He said that He would return. From verse 31 we need to learn that these things are certain. But, from verse 32 we need to learn that the time of these things is unknowable. Jesus said, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (verse 36). The exact day in which Jesus will return to earth is unknown.

There is no problem here to believing in the deity of Christ. His ignorance at this point was wrapped up in the mysteries of the incarnation. When God became a man, certain limitations must have been placed upon Him. Jesus wasn't omni-present -- He was located in one place. Jesus wasn't Spirit (1 John 4:24) -- He had a body. Jesus wasn't immortal -- Like every other man, He was capable of dying. And, as this verse shows, Jesus wasn't omniscient in the days of His flesh.

Jesus didn't know the day of His return. Nor do any of the angels in heaven right now know the day of His return. Nor do any of the saints in heaven right now know the day of His return. God, the Father, alone knows the day of the return of the Son of Man. That Jesus will return someday is certain (verse 31). When Jesus will return is uncertain! (verses 32).

It's not that it is impossible to know. It's not that it is extremely difficult to know. It's that God the Father, has chosen to keep the day a secret, until He comes.

Here is where it comes down to apply for us. If God, the Father, has chosen to keep this knowledge hidden from His only begotten Son, we ought to be content in not knowing as well. If God has chosen to keep such knowledge hidden from us, we ought to be well-content that it is for our good.

If people would learn this fact alone, there would be far fewer eschatological preachers leading others astray. But there is something in us that always wants to know. The teachers of prophecy often seek to satisfy this itch to know when Jesus will return. Often, they will attempt to show us through the current events of the day how the return of Christ is near. They say that we ought to expect it soon, because everything is lining up!

But Jesus has already told us this same thing! We are to learn from the fig tree. It's all lined up. You can go to Jerusalem today and walk upon the temple mount and see that there is no temple there. You say, "What happened?" The Romans came. They defiled the holy place. They destroyed the temple. They left no stone. All was torn down. Jesus is coming soon. You don't need some prophecy expert to tell you these things. "Are You Ready?"

So, first, Learn (verses 28-32). Secondly, ...
2. Be Alert (verses 33-37)

Listen to Jesus.

Mark 13:33-37
"Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert -- for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning -- in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, 'Be on the alert!'"

Notice three times here in these 5 verses, Jesus says, "Keep on the alert." You may not understand the full meaning of what Jesus says. But the application couldn't be more clear: "be on the alert!" In other words, "Be ready!" "Be ready for the return of Christ."

Let's look at the story that Jesus tells. It's really very simple to understand. There are several characters in the story. There is the master. There are his servants. Now, for some reason, this master is planning on leaving his household for a time. Perhaps business draws him away. Perhaps pleasure draws him away. We don't know. But, in his absence, he leaves his servants in charge of his household. These servants are to oversee the affairs of the house while his master is gone.

Each servant has his own task (verse 34) This master also gave one of the servants to play the role of doorkeeper (verse 34). He was to "stay on the alert" (verse 34). He was a watchman, looking for the return of the master.

Clearly, each of these servants were to fulfill their duties. Some were cooking. Some were cleaning. Some were farming. None of the servants in the house knew when the master would return. The implication is that they need to be about their duty, so that when the master returns, he might find them faithful.

Here's the reality. We all have a master in heaven. His name is Jesus. We are His servants. Like the master in this parable, Jesus has gone away. We know that He went away to heaven. His disciples saw Him leave. The Bible tells us that Jesus "was lifted up" in the presence of His disciples, while "a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9).

Like the master in this parable, Jesus is coming back. These disciples, who watched Jesus departing, were told, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
He will return "in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).

Like the master in this parable, Jesus has clearly given to us instructions while He is away. They are contained here in the Bible. And as faithful servants, we want to be about pleasing our master, according to His revealed will. First, the Lord has told us what to believe. We are to believe that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross justified us. We are to believe that His kindness to us has reconciled us to Himself. Second, the Lord has told us how to view ourselves. We are His servants! Anything that we have has come to us as a gift from Him! We merit nothing. All has been given to us. Third, the Lord has told us what to do. We are to "seek His kingdom and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). We are to "lay up treasures in heaven" (Matt. 6:19). We are to cultivate an inner holiness, which will flow outward (Matt. 6:10-15). We are to forgive others when they sin against us (Matt. 6:14-15).

Like the servants in this parable, we are called to be faithful, while our master is away. Here is the question of the day: "Are you ready for Him to return?" Are you a faithful servant to your master? Is your life one of such integrity that Jesus could return at any moment and find you doing His will? This is what it means to be faithful.

Listen to the words of the poem, "If Jesus Came" (by Reginald Patton). If Jesus Came, ...

Would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in?
Or hide some magazines, and put some Bibles where they'd been?
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in, or would you rush about? [1]

Would the truth be known, many of us would rush about, if Jesus came. But the faithful one has nothing to hide! He says, "Lord, come on in! I've been waiting for you. It's been a while, but I've been working on making my house a place where you would like to dwell."

The faithful child has no fear when mom or dad comes in the room, because mom or dad will find him doing his homework when they come! The faithful employee isn't worried about whether the boss will come and examine his work, because he knows that it will be found true. The faithful servant isn't concerned with the timing of his master's return, because he knows that he is doing his master's business. The faithful Christian has no fear regarding the return of the Lord. When he comes again, it will be a welcome time of rejoicing, not hiding!

But, there are those who flee at the sound of a rustling leaf (Lev. 26:36). There are those who shudder when the door opens upon them. There are those who will fear when the Lord returns, because they have not been about doing His will. They have been unfaithful.

More than 200 years ago, on May 19, 1780. There was "an unusual darkening of the day sky over the New England states and parts of Canada." While no one knows exactly what took place. "It is believed to have been a combination of smoke from forest fires, a thick fog, and cloud cover. The darkness was so complete that candles were required from noon [of that day] ... until the middle of the next night." So strange was this day, that it has come to be known as "New England's Dark Day."

Many thought that the day of judgment had come. This included many in the legislature of Connecticut. They proposed an adjournment, thinking it best for everyone to go home and prepare for the coming judgment. Abraham Davenport said, "I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought." [2]

This is exactly what Jesus is telling His disciples here in Mark 13. Be about your work. Be about your duty. That's how you prepare for the Lord's return. You are on the alert, knowing that He may return at any time. So, you are faithfully serving Him.

I am here to declare to you this morning that Jesus, the Lord, is coming back. Your welfare on that day will be determined by your faithfulness here on earth, today. If Jesus finds you doing His will when He returns, you will be blessed in great measure. If Jesus finds you ignoring His will when He returns, you will face incredible punishment. I guarantee you, that you went to be the one who is about doing the Lord's business when He returns.

The one who lives on the east coast, but ignores the coming hurricane has lost his mind. The one who lives in Kansas, but fails to seek shelter during a tornado warning is a fool. So also, the one who ignores the coming of Jesus, by living as if He were never coming back, is in great danger of eternal perdition.

"Are You Ready?" Learn (verses 28-32). And Be Alert (verses 33-37)

William Barclay shares a fable, which is most instructive. He tells "of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plant to tempt and ruin men.

The first said, 'I will tell them there is no God.'
Satan said, 'That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God.'

The second said, 'I will tell men there is no hell.'
Satan answered, 'You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is a hell for sin.'

The third said, 'I will tell men there is no hurry.'
'Go,' said Satan, 'and you will ruin them by the thousand.'" [3]

May God help us this morning to embrace the return of Christ and be ready for it.

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on February 10, 2012 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] Source unknown.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England's_Dark_Day

[3] William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 317.