Faithlife Sermons

Matthew 24:36-44 - Are You Ready?

Advent 2019  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:38
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You cannot know when Jesus will return, but you can know you are ready.

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Introduction

So Christmas Day is three weeks from Wednesday—who’s ready? Isn’t it remarkable how Christmas seems to “sneak up on us?” Christmas Day is on December 25th every year, right? How do we miss it? I mean, it’s not like the advertisers haven’t been reminding us about it since October, right? And if that weren’t enough, we even have calendars that are specifically designed to count down the days to Christmas Day! How many of you have Advent Calendars in your house? Each day has a little flap or door you can open (sometimes with a piece of candy inside) to count down the days until Christmas. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning
“Advent” (Latin, adventus) - To come or arrive
So an Advent calendar is a calendar that counts down to the “arrival” of Jesus Christ into the world, which we celebrate on December 25th.
In some ways, I think having a date on the calendar to count down to might actually work against us in terms of being ready for Christmas. “Oh, Christmas is two months away, we’ve got plenty of time…” And then, “Oh, it’s not until the end of the month—we can get our shopping done later...” And then, “It’s NEXT WEEK!! Aaacckk!” And then we rush around in a mad dash for the last 72 hours.
But what if we didn’t have any calendars to tell us what day Christmas was coming on? What if we knew Christmas was coming, but didn’t know the exact day? We wouldn’t be able to procrastinate, would we? We would have to be always ready for Christmas to appear! (I don’t have any Coast Guard vets here, do I? Anybody know the Coast Guard motto? Semper paratus—always prepared!)
I want us to think deeply about this today, because that is the point of today’s passage. You see,
Our celebration of Jesus’ first coming should remind us to be ready for His second coming.
If you are not ready for Christmas, the worst that can happen is someone goes without a present or two, or you have to buy a pie at Walmart because you ran out of time to bake one. But beloved, Jesus warns us here in this passage that if you are not ready for His Second Coming, you will be lost for all eternity in Hell.
So as you are in the midst of busying yourself to be ready for Christmas Day (as indeed you should be!), listen to what God’s Word says here in Matthew about being ready for the Day on which Jesus returns to judge the world:
Matthew 24:36–44 ESV
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
These verses appear here in Matthew towards the end of what Bible scholars call “The Olivet Discourse”—Jesus revealed these things to His disciples as He sat on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. At the beginning of the chapter Jesus was walking out of the Temple, and the disciples had been “oohing” and “ahhing” (like the small-town tourists they were) at all the massive and imposing buildings of the Temple complex that King Herod had spent forty years building.
Matthew 24:2 ESV
But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Which threw the disciples for a loop, for sure. (Imagine, in our day, hearing someone tell you that by the year 2060 the US Capitol Building will be utterly leveled!) So when they crossed the Kidron and were sitting together on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city, they came and asked Him what He meant by that comment.
Matthew 24:3 ESV
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
So from verse 4 all the way through our text this morning, Jesus is answering their questions of when this judgment is coming, what signs will signal His return, and about the end of human history. In His answer Jesus addresses two different issues: The destruction of Jerusalem by Emperor Titus in A.D. 70 (about 40 years after His death), and His Second Coming at the end of human history when He returns to judge the earth.
Now, most every Bible-believing scholar agrees that those two events—the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the Second Coming at the end of human history—are what Jesus is foretelling here in Matthew 24. What they don’t all agree on (and what we are not going to try to sort out this morning!) is which verses are talking about which event! Some read particular verses one way and some another, leading to different conclusions about the timing of these events.
But everyone who takes the Bible seriously—whether they’re premillennial dispensationalists or amillennial covenant theologians, pre-trib rapture or historical preterist or some odd shade of eschatological jiggery-pokery in betweenall Bible-believing Christians agree that that Day is coming! And the greatest tragedy of all would be to spend so much time arguing over when Judgment Day is coming that you never prepare for it, and you are not ready when it comes. Don’t you ever forget that these things weren’t written so that you could be right about Judgment Day—they were written so that you would be ready!
Jesus says it over and over again here in our verses—be ready! In verse 39, He warns us not to be unaware. Verse 42 He says
Matthew 24:42 ESV
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
And in verse 44:
Matthew 24:44 ESV
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Jesus warns us to be ready for that Day. And so He shows us three things about that Judgment Day—three things that will enable us to be ready when He appears:
First of all, Jesus tells us in verse 36 that it is

I. A Secret Day (v. 36)

Matthew 24:36 ESV
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
This is one of the best reasons to stop wrangling over being “right” about the timing of the last days--
We cannot know it!
None of the books, articles, websites or TV shows claiming to pinpoint the return of Christ will ever get it right. And I think that this is for our own good, isn’t it? I mean, just look at the way we procrastinate around getting ready for Christmas, right? If we had the date marked on a calendar: “This is the day that Jesus Christ is returning to judge the earth”, everyone would be saying the same thing about that Second Advent that we say about Christmas: “Oh, we’ve got plenty of time...” But there is no room to be complacent, no room to put off the holiness and obedience that God calls us to, because that day is secret—we cannot know when He is coming back!
But there is something else Jesus says about that day—we cannot know it, and this verse says that
Jesus did not know it!
Matthew 24:36 ESV
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
Now this catches us off guard here a bit, doesn’t it? If, as we affirm, Jesus Christ is God Himself in human flesh then how can there be anything He does not know? How can he have such an astonishing ability to predict the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and yet not be able to know the time and day of His own return?
These questions are answered by the Bible’s teaching on what we call the incarnation of Christ:
Incarnation - The act of God the Son being made flesh (John 1:14)
John 1:14 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
As we celebrate Advent, we are celebrating the “enfleshment” of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. So what does Matthew 24:36 teach us about the Incarnation?
When Jesus Christ became a human being at His birth, he remained completely God while becoming completely human. His divine nature took on human nature, and both of those natures were united together without being mixed, confused, separated or divided (Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD).
And so this is why we see that Jesus, in His human nature, could become tired, hungry and susceptible to physical pain. We see in Luke 2:52, for instance that He could learn things He didn’t know, He could grow.
Luke 2:52 ESV
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
On the other hand, there were times when Jesus knew things that no human being could ever know (cp. John 4:29), and He could perform miracles that no human being could possibly perform. But throughout His life, both Jesus’ divine nature and His human nature were both under submission to His Heavenly Father.
John 5:19 ESV
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
So if we understand this, then Jesus’ ignorance of the timing of His return is easily explained, isn’t it? Why didn’t Jesus know when He would return? Because His Father hadn’t told Him, and He submitted to Him! He didn’t need to know when Judgment Day was coming, because He could trust His Father for when that day was coming!
So Jesus tells us to be ready for that Day of Judgment because it is a secret day. But he goes on in verses 37-39 to say that it will also be

II. A Surprising Day (vv. 37-39)

Matthew 24:37–39 ESV
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Jesus compares the great flood of Noah’s day (which, clearly, He believed was an historical event, and not a myth!) with the Day of Judgment that is coming when He returns.
And he refers to the Flood because the Day of His return will be just like the day of the Flood—it will come as a complete surprise
For those who ignore God’s warnings.
He says that people in Noah’s day were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage”—in other words, they were just living their lives. There was no indication that anything was going to happen; no terrible premonitions, no dark portents in the sky or rumblings of nature.
There was nothing to indicate that maybe they should put off that wedding or alter their daily lives in any way—except for the fact that Noah had been warning them about the coming of the Flood for one hundred years! The Apostle Peter calls Noah “a herald of righteousness” in 2 Peter 2:5, meaning that he had been proclaiming God’s righteousness and the coming judgment for the whole time that he was building the Ark—but that judgment still came as a complete surprise to them, and they were swept away by the destruction of the Flood.
The Day of Jesus’ Second Advent will come as a surprise to those who ignore His warnings, but at the end of Chapter 24 Jesus warns that His Second Coming will come as a surprise
For those who deny Him by their lives (cp. Matt. 24:48-51)
Matthew 24:48–51 ESV
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus is warning people who claim to be His servants—people who say they are Christians, who make a show of their religious fervor, but whose hearts are full of wickedness—that they will be taken by surprise on that day. The Old Testament prophet Amos issued a similar warning centuries before Jesus:
Amos 5:18–19 ESV
Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.
Jesus says be ready for that Day, so that it does not take you by surprise.
The Day of Jesus’ Second Advent is a secret day, it is a surprising day, and it is

III. A Separating Day (vv. 40-41)

Matthew 24:40–41 ESV
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.
Jesus says that when He returns to judge the earth, He will once and for all separate His people from the wicked—they will be
Separated from judgment (Matt. 24:31)
Matthew 24:31 ESV
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Jesus’ Second Advent will be the day when He comes for His people, to gather them out of this sorry, broken world once and for all! It doesn’t matter where they are or what they are doing, He will find them and gather them to Himself:
John 14:3 ESV
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
And they will be with Him forever, and they will escape the judgment that is coming on that day.
But for others, they will not be separated from judgment on that day—they will be
Separated from their false hope (cp. Matt. 7:21-23)
For people who think that they will gain heaven because they are married to a Christian spouse, they will be separated from that false hope on that day. One will be taken, and the other one left. For those who believe that their name on the membership roll of a faithful church is enough, they will be separated from that hope on that day. For those who believe their works of charity and sacrifice and religious duty will earn them a place among God’s people—they will be separated forever from that false hope. Jesus warns earlier in Matthew:
Matthew 7:21–23 ESV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
So Jesus says, be ready for that Day, so that you are not separated from Him forever!
That day is a secret day, it will be a surprising day, and it will be a separating day—but Jesus goes on in verses 42-44 to assure you that you can

IV. Be Ready for That Day (vv. 42-44)

Matthew 24:42–44 ESV
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Even though you cannot know when this Day is coming, beloved, you can know you are ready for it! Jesus says that you can be ready! You can know that when that Day comes you will be able to stand! And so how shall we be ready for that day?
It is a secret day. You cannot know when it is coming—Jesus Himself didn’t know. But you can be like Jesus in this, that you can
Be Ready in your Trust
in your Heavenly Father! You can leave that Day to Him—He has decided that you don’t need to know, and that means you are free from worry over it! When you hear the anxious voices all around you predicting doom and gloom and fire and ruin, fretting over “What’s going to happen, how are we all going to survive??!?”, you can respond the same way Jesus did: “I don’t know the day or the hour, but I know it’s coming, and I trust my Father with all of it!” You don’t need to know when it is coming, you need to know that you are ready!
And when you are ready for that Day because you are trusting your Heavenly Father, you can
Be Ready in your Work
in light of that coming Day. Make it your aim, Christian, that when that Day comes and the Son of Man returns in power and glory that He will find you hard at work! At the end of the chapter, Jesus says
Matthew 24:45–47 ESV
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.
How will you be ready for that Day to appear? Get to work! Be about your Master’s business—He has given you your marching orders to
Matthew 28:19–20 ESV
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Make it your aim that your Master will “find you so doing” when He comes!
Be ready in your trust, be ready in your work, and finally this morning, beloved,
Be ready in your repentance
Don’t let the coming of this Day take you by surprise—don’t ignore God’s gracious warnings and calls to turn from your sin! I don’t know when that Day is coming, but I know this: That day is closer now than it was at the beginning of this sermon! And you have no idea when that Day will come! Are you ready now? If that Day were to arrive before the end of this service, would Jesus Christ find you ready? The Old Testament prophet Malachi prophesied about that Day, warning
Malachi 3:2–3 ESV
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.
As Noah was a herald of righteousness in his day, God’s Word speaks to you here this morning: Stop ignoring His warnings, stop pretending this Day isn’t coming. Jesus Christ offers to refine you, to purify you, to wash you clean from your sin and rebellion and wickedness this morning. When you come to Him in repentance, He promises to wash all of it away! To free you from the penalty and power of your sin, to give you His own righteousness and holiness so that when that Day does come, you will be able to stand! Right after the service this morning you can come down front and find someone who will pray with you and will help you call on the Name of Jesus Christ for salvation, so that even though you don’t know when it will be, you will know that you are ready! Make sure today—now is the acceptable time, now is your Day of salvation! So come—and welcome!—to Jesus Christ!
BENEDICTION
1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 ESV
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

What are some ways that you see people fretting over the future? How are you tempted to worry about what the future holds? How does this passage help you place your trust in your Heavenly Father?
Why is it good for us not to know the exact day and time that Jesus will return? How does not knowing when He will come back help us to live holy, obedient lives?
What are some kinds of “false hopes” that people have when it comes to salvation? Do you know that your hope of eternal life is a real hope? How do you know that?
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