Jesus Is Coming Back
Well, good morning. LINCOLN PARK! My name’s Dan Osborn, the campus pastor for the Saturday Night community here at Park.
We’re going to be doing texting this morning. like we’ve been doing for the past several weeks. So if you have any questions that come up from the message—and I’m assuming there will be a few this morning.—or even about anything else, maybe a question that’s come up in your small group or in a conversation at work, this is a great place to ask. The way to text in is in your texting app you write ‘Ask LP’ and then your question, and you send that to the number 62953.
A couple weeks ago, Courtney was away on vacation visiting her parents for a couple of days in Springfield. And on the day she was coming home, she sent me a text that sent me in to a bit of a panic.
Now you have to understand that I got married a couple weeks after I finished undergrad, so I never really had a long bachelor season in my life. So when Courtney’s away for a couple days, it’s not that I’m a different person or anything like that…but more like some of the cleanliness standards and ‘best-practices’ I adopted when I got married……slip….a little.
Normally, I love cooking dinner for Courtney, it’s actually something that’s really enjoyable for me and even a bit of a creative outlet. But when Courtney’s gone…I’ll make like an entire bag of frozen chicken tenders on the first day…and then eat it for lunch and dinner everyday for the week.
I’m normally fairly quick get the dishes done after dinner when she’s home because I know Court doesn’t like to leave dishes sitting out very long—and it’s not that she’ll get mad if I don’t do them, it’s just that she’ll get up and do them if I don’t…so it’s just one of the ways that I can serve her when I’m home…But when when she’s gone…if I’m honest…the dishes sit out…for most of the time she’s gone! I mean, why wash the plate if I’ve got 7 more I can use before I run out…
And so by the time it was Friday, let’s just say that the state of our apartment was not at what it should have been in anticipation of her arrival.
So, back to the text that sent me into a panic. It was two words long. “Almost home.”
‘Almost Home.’ I didn’t know what that meant…i didn’t know if almost home meant, ‘I’m down the street….a couple miles away…or something more like, ‘just under and hour now’.
And I can’t ask her to clarify because that’ll give it away…she knows me too well. And so I respond with an ‘Okay great—smiley face’….
And then jump in to get done mode, right? I’m running to make the bed…light a candle…fold the blankets on the couch…fluff the pillows on the couch—because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to sleep (or nap) on them…SCRUB the dishes…like really scrub the dishes…turn on some light background music…so that it smells nice, looks nice, and sounds nice when she walks in…
Why am I telling you this.
When we believe the one we’re waiting for is coming back, it creates an urgency in what we are doing…it builds an anticipation for their arrival…it actually changes what we do, and even the way we live when we believe their on their way. We live differently when we know the one we’re waiting for is coming back. Friends, the reason I bring this story up tonight is because in the text we’re looking at, Jesus tells his followers:
Be ready…because I’m coming back.
What does that make you think about?
I’m just curious…what pops into your mind first when you think about that idea of Jesus returning?
Does it sound absurd? A bit too si-fi?
Is it something to be afraid of?
Friends, in our text this morning, Jesus begins to explain what His return means for us…why it’s important…what difference it makes for the way we live.
So if you you have a bible with you, you can open up to .
It’s on page 849 in the house bibles.
Let me pray and we’ll get started.
Alright, let’s get started. Look with me starting at v. 1, “And as he [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’” It’s an understandable thing for this disciple to say…I mean the Temple was a beautiful building! The leadership in Israel at the time was pouring resources into a massive renovation project on the temples and so it was an incredibly building at this point. Let me show you a picture of what it would have looked like [SLIDE]. people do this kinda thing all the time. If you’re ever in the Loop, you know there’s always an easy way to spot the tourists who are visiting our city—they’re the one’s walking around, looking up! And that’s the same amazement the disciples have in v. 1! But look at Jesus’ response in v. 2, “ And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”Now, let’s put that in our time frame for a moment, imagine Jesus had said this to you while you were walking through the Loop with him and he said, ‘do you see these great buildings? The day is coming when you won't see anything left here that’s not in a pile of rubble.’ Just picture what that would look like…what it would feel like to walk through the city like that, seeing the Willis, the Hancock, Merch Mart…all in rubble, right? I mean it naturally begs the question, ‘what would have to happen to make that a reality.’ And that’s exactly what the disciples want to know.
And when they get up to the mount of Olives in v.3, we’re told that 4 of the disciples come up to Jesus and want Him to give them a few more details about what’s going to happen. Look with me at v. 4 “[and they said to him] Tell us, when will these things be and what will be the signs that these things are about to be accomplished?” Fair questions, right? The same ones you and I would have had! ‘Jesus, when will this happen and what will be the signs of them!’ Now, these two questions seem a little redundant at first, because if Jesus just tells them when this will happen, it doesn’t much matter what the signs leading up to it are, right? But we’ve got to read between the lines a little bit and see that that in asking about the signs, the disciples are asking, ‘when do we need get ready for this?’ Right? When’s this gonna happen, and when do we need to start getting prepared?
And, so typical of Jesus, he doesn’t directly answer the questions the disciples are asking, but instead, he answers the question they NEED TO BE asking! And in , Jesus hints at something much more than just the destruction of the Temple. He begins to tell them about the the Last Days…Jesus actually begins to tell them about his Return…
Now, the disciples already have a couple things they believe about the last days. So when Jesus begins to talk about his return, he doesn’t need to fill in as many gaps for them as he would for us…if He were talking directly to us.
So at this point, I think it will be helpful for us to pause in the story a little and clarify a few things to help us understand what Jesus is teaching here because we don’t get a chance to talk about this stuff very often as a church! So we’re gonna look at this from 30,000 feet and spend the rest of our time together answering a couple questions from that point of view that come up from the text.
And as we do that, we will begin to see why it’s important for Jesus to tell us these things and how we’re supposed to live differently because He says he’s coming back.
Jut to get us started The word theologians use to talk about Jesus’ return is Eschatology. So the first question is this:
What is Eschatology?
What is Eschatology?
Here’s what it means: Eschatology is made up of two greek words; eschatos meaning ‘end’ or ‘last things’ and the word logos meaning ‘study’ of. And so when you put it together it means the Study of the End….or the study of last things.
Now, like I said a second ago, the disciples already have a framework for what they believe about the last days. They already had an eschatology before Jesus said any of these things to them.
Based on the Old Testament, they believed two big things. 1. that in the last days, God would set up an everlasting kingdom that would bring universal Peace over all the whole world! And 2. they believe
God would bring his final judgment over Sin—that he would punish those who were disobedient to Him and
reward for those who were in right relationship with Him. So they were waiting for a Kingdom and a Judgment.
The thing is, the disciples were expecting Jesus to do all this while He was with them. Remember what we’ve talked about already in the book of Mark, that Jesus has been going around showing that He is the King! And so it makes sense that they’d expect Him to do these things…But what they didn’t understand is that these things wouldn’t FULLY happen until the Jesus would return again…
Now, to be fair, there are a lot of different opinions and disagreement on what exactly the Bible teaches says about eschatology…so this naturally leads to the second question for us tonight…
What do we know for sure?
What do we know for sure?
What are those things that the bible is ABSOLUTELY clear on in regards to eschatology…what are those things that all followers of Jesus really agree on? What do we know for sure?
Three things. These aren’t the ONLY three things but these are big ones.
Look with me starting at v. 24, “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 in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
This is the first thing Jesus says we can bank on…that the Jesus, the Son of Man, will return…that he will be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
And what will he do when he Returns?
Exactly what the disciples had expected him to do:
1. To fully establish his kingdom.
2. To bring judgment for those who were disobedient to God and reward those who were in right relationship with Him.
To bring judgment for those who were disobedient to God and reward those who were in right relationship with Him.
This is what the Bible says we can know for sure will happen in the last days.
Now, the mechanics of how all these things takes place…or what happens in between is up for discussion…we have some of the details, but not all of them. I don’t want to sway you to a particular position on these things right now, but what we have to come back to are the things the bible says we can know for sure:
That Jesus will Return, that He will establish his kingdom, and He will bring a final judgment.
Now we can look at the questions the disciples ask. Remember, they say to Jesus in v. 4. “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”
So our next question is:
What are the signs of Jesus’ return?
What are the signs of Jesus’ return?
What are the things that will happen leading up to his return? How will we know when it’s about to happen? This would be very helpful information for us, right?!
But remember, when the disciples ask for the signs, the question behind the question is ‘when do we need to get ready for these things to happen’, right?
That’s exactly what I wanted to know when Courtney told me she was only most home! I really wanted to know when I really needed to start getting ready.
And Jesus knows this is what they’re asking and that starts to become clear when you really look at the way he answers this question! Look with me starting at v. 5,
“And Jesus began to say to them, See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
And He continues in v. 9 to talk about how his followers will be delivered over to the authorities…how they will be beaten, put on trial, betrayed, hated, killed…and he says in v. 13 that all this will happen for his name sake, or on account of him!
But when you stop and think about these signs… they’re really not that helpful! I mean there have almost always been war and rumors of war throughout human history. Earthquakes, famines and other kinds of natural disasters, they’ve always been happening somewhere? And followers of Jesus being imprisoned, beaten, and even killed…these things have happened ever since Jesus first started talking about this. The book of Acts in the New Testament is the history of the earliest followers of Jesus and already they are experiencing all this…and that kind of persecution never really stopped. We don’t often hear about it, but everyday, people around the world are imprisoned, beaten, and even killed merely because they are followers of Jesus.
And so we look at these signs that Jesus gives, and thing is they’re really not great signs because these things are always happening.
But, what if that’s the whole point?! See, Jesus is answering the question behind their question of when they need to start getting ready, and his answer is RIGHT NOW. See, Jesus point in answering this question here is not actually to give us signs, but to tell us to be ready for his return NOW.
And as a way to illustrate this, while he’s talking to the disciples, he turns to a fig tree right next them and says this in v. 28, “…as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates…” He tells the disciples that the signs are happening right now and so you need to be ready, now. Friends, we can’t miss this, Jesus point here, in , is that they need to be ready, WE need to be ready for His return, now.
But that raises another question for us, doesn’t it? Because if Jesus said this 2,000 years ago, how much longer do we really need to wait?
When will Jesus return?
When will Jesus return?
And this is actually the easiest question for us to answer. We don’t know. We don’t know. Jesus doesn’t tell us when he will return. Look what he says starting in v. 32, “But concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come…” We’re not told anywhere in the bible when Jesus will return. Actually one of the things that we know for sure about His return is that we don’t know when it will happen! And anyone who claims to know is wrong.
And the way Jesus ends this discussion is brilliant. Because if he’s saying the signs of his return are happening now, but that we don’t know when he’s going to return, that means it could happen at any time. See, Jesus says here, be ready now, because I’m coming back…and you don’t know when.
Why is Eschatology important?
Why is Eschatology important?
Why are we even talking about these things tonight. Why does Jesus think it’s important to tell us, in part, about the last days?
Because knowing the end gives us hope in spite of whatever difficulties we’re experiencing in the present.
I’ve spent my whole life in Chicagoland—and the last 8 years in Chicago. I grew up going to Cubs games with my grandma every year…watching them with her on T.V…and we were a Cubs family. The night the cubs won the World Series, I went over to a friends house with Courtney and our daughter to watch the game. And you all remember how exciting it was to watch everything happen…all the suspense when things were delayed, and how it went on into the night. How could any self-respecting sports fan NOT stay up and watch baseball history, right? Well, I don’t know if it was something I ate while hanging out with everyone, but I really started to feel pretty sick. And I tried to stick it out, sometime around the 6th inning, I told Courtney that I thought it would be a good idea if we left and watched the rest of the game from home. And we got home, I just kept feeling worse and worse…I could barely pay attention to the game…and when the rain delay hit, I didn’t think I could make it any more! I was sick and REALLY tired. And I don’t know if I’ve really admitted this before, but I fell asleep…and missed the end of the game. I MISSED THE END! I remember waking up around 3 in the morning and asking Siri who won! And when I was finally feeling better, and went back to watch through the game and see a lot of the highlights, it took the suspense out for me! I didn’t have that nail-biting experience while I was watch any of it any more. I knew end, and so no matter happened up that point, while I was watching while I was watching the highlights, I knew it was going to end with a parade in Chicago!
Friends, in , Jesus tells us about the end because he wants us to know and remember the end of the story.
And so one of the great hopes that we have in the bible because God has shown us the end of the story is that the future is NOT OUT OF HIS CONTROL…that our futures are NOT OUT OF HIS CONTROL.
Friends, so many of us spend so much time being wrecked over what’s going to happen in the next couple months or even in next year…and I know that because a lot of times, I feel the same thing…we worry about where will we live…what will happen with my job…what about our kids…how will I pay off my loans…what will the doctor say…all of these things!
And I’m not trying to say that these are just trivial things and so we should stop worrying about them…but again, one of the reasons Jesus tells us about the end is because knowing the end brings hope in spite of everything we’re worried about now.
And see, I wonder if many of us actually believe that. Does the reality of Jesus return actually produce hope in us, or is this just part of the bible that we easily forget or don’t really buy…?
And yet, I think we also have to ask the question, how does Jesus return give us Hope? Because here’s the thing…the message of Jesus’ return..by itself..is not good news. It’s not. Remember, one of the things we know for sure He will do when He returns as King over an everlasting kingdom is bring judgment on all those who did not live up to God’s standards—that he will punish all those who have lived in sin, evil, and injustice. And even as we’re talking about these things, we need to be quick to remind ourselves that ALL of us fall into that category, because NONE of us have fully lived up to God’s standards…we’ve all fallen short of what God expects at some level. And that does not mean that we are all as bad as we could be, but friends the bible tells us that if we have any sin, any act of disobedience, in us at all, then we are not as good as we should be!…and on our own, we would ALL fall under the just judgment of Jesus.
It’s the story of the gospel that reminds us that while you and I have failed to be obedient to what God has called us to do…Jesus was perfectly obedient to all of what God commanded. And it is the gospel that tells us, Jesus stood in our place to stand condemned instead OF us...taking the punishment that we deserved because of our sin…that He is the one who was first betrayed, beaten, and killed. And that he did this FOR US. And the good news is that by faith in Him and His death and resurrection, his obedience is credited to us! And so as followers of Jesus, we don’t need to fear Return, but it is the Gospel the gives us hope for Jesus’ return!
It gives us hope that He has not forgotten us.
It gives us hope that He is not finished with us.
It gives us hope that one day He will right every wrong…
It gives us hope that all of what we’ve done—and even what’s been done to us—will be redeemed.
Friends, his return is important for the way we live now because it gives us hope in midst of things we are experiencing now! And because of the hope we have, we live differently knowing He’s coming back! We know the end of the story!
That text Courtney sent me that said, ‘Almost home’…sent me in to a panic. I had to rush to get up and get all that stuff done before I heard the key turn in the lock.
And by the way, I did end up getting all the stuff done before she got home…I finished it all like 2 or 3 minutes before she walked through the door…everything was perfect.
But after a few minutes of her being there, she looked at me and said, ‘You just rushed to pick up the whole place, didn’t you?’
See, I got all the work done…but when she walked in the kitchen, she saw that ALL the dishes were still wet!
And that brings up our last question tonight.
What does it mean to ‘Be Ready’?
What does it mean to ‘Be Ready’?
Friends, for me to have been ready for her to get home would have been for me to have been doing what I was supposed to be doing the whole time she was gone!
And the same thing is true for now, as we wait for Jesus to return. See, in , He tells us 7 times—in a couple of different ways—to be ready for his return…So the question for us to end with is, ‘what does practically mean to ‘be ready’?
Simply put, It means for to do what he’s called us to do while he’s gone…to Know God, and Make Him Known. Friends, for us to be ready for Jesus return is for us to Know God and Make Him known.
For us to know God means that we are people who are actively engaged in God’s Word, in reading the Bible…because this is the way that He’s revealed Himself to us! It’s in reading and engaging with his Word that we begin to know more of Who God is…This is one of the most important things we can do to ‘Be Ready’ for Jesus return!
And perhaps some of us just need to here this tonight: stop watching Netflix, and pick up your bible! And it’s as we are regularly reading the bible, and being in God’s word that we begin to get more clarity on what it means for us to Make Him Known.
And one of the ways we make God known is through having spiritual conversations with people around us who aren’t followers of Jesus. Friends, Jesus reminds us that we don’t know when he will return…and if that’s true, then there is an urgency that we ought to have in making God known.
Let me ask you this. Who is that one person in your life right now, who you care about? Who you love? But who’s not a follower of Jesus. Do you feel an urgency to make God known to them?
Maybe the first step for you will be to take that Easter postcard that you'll get on your way in and invite them to come to an Easter service with you. And that is not so that we can see a boost in attendance at Park on Easter but so that you can have a chance to start a spiritual conversation with them around the Gospel and what it means for them! Friends, the question for us is, do we feel an urgency to Make God known to those around us who don’t know God?
Friends, for us to be ready is for us to engage in the work of knowing God and making Him known!
Let’s close with this. Look how Jesus ends this whole discussion starting at v. 34. He says this, “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.””
Lincoln Park: stay awake. be ready, Jesus is coming back.