Watch and be Ready
Christ said He would return. He warned us to watch and be ready. We won’t know the exact hour. But we will be able to determine when the time is nigh. Have you been watching? Have you been preparing? Are you ready for His return?
Christ told us to watch, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42). And to be ready, “…be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44).
Have you been watching global trends? Have you noticed? This world is undergoing changes on an unprecedented scale. It is struggling to stave off financial melt-down. The threat of terrorism is ever increasing. There is a growing refugee problem. And the increase of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change is causing havoc. Could these be early warning signs leading up to Christ’s return? Will they shape the end-time scenario we are expecting?
Do these changing global trends set the stage for the end-time events described by both Daniel and John? Christ said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” (Matthew 24:32-33). Should they be setting off early warning alarms for those who are watching?
The world is in denial and will not heed the warning signs, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:37-39).
We do not know the exact hour He will come, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36). But it is wise to be ready at all times.
Ready or Not
Christ said that the faithful and wise will be ready, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” (Matthew 24:45-46).
Those who are not ready are described as hypocrites, “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:48-51).
They are ‘evil servants’ because their attitude and actions prove that they have not yet overcome their evil nature. Being hearers of the law, but not doers they are considered to be hypocrites, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13 and James 1:22).
After warning His disciples Christ then went on to predict that up to fifty percent of the church could be considered hypocrites because they were not preparing spiritually for His return, “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 25:1-13).
What does this parable tell us about being ready for Christ’s return? The oil which was used in ancient time for anointing symbolises the Holy Spirit. Christ had previously talked about being anointed with the Spirit, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach…” (Luke 4:18). Peter confirmed this, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power…” (Acts 10:38). Having our lamps primed with oil indicates that it is important to be actively using the Holy Spirit we have been given and not letting it be quenched.
That same Holy Spirit with which Christ was anointed has been made available to those who are Christ’s, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Spirit)” (Acts 2:38). It is a portion of God’s Spirit given as an earnest, or promise of eternal life, “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 5:5).
It is the same Spirit that is the divine nature that is in both the Father and Christ, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5). It is given to us with the expectation that changes will take place, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2). We are to become a new creation, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17).
We are to come out of Satan’s kingdom and prepare to be a new creation acceptable as a son, or daughter, for God’s Kingdom, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17-18 see our article “A Tale of Two Cities”).
Overcome and Cleanse
We are to cleanse ourselves, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Corinthians 7:1). With the help of the Spirit we are to overcome evil, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7).
Those who fail to cleanse themselves and overcome evil will like the five virgins without oil be regarded as the ‘evil servants’ and ‘hypocrites’ mentioned earlier in the same conversation Christ had with His disciples. They will have received God’s grace in vain, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (II Corinthians 6:1).
The parable of the ten virgins implies that up to fifty percent of brethren in today’s church may not be ready for Christ’s return. If we are not yet ready then we must redeem the time we have left wisely, “Awake thou that sleepest… …See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:14-16).
If we have been drifting, if we have been asleep it’s not too late! All is not lost! But we need to redeem the time wisely by focusing on what God requires of us in the time we have left.
To redeem the time wisely we need to concentrate on overcoming evil in our lives. God expects us to grow spiritually to the fullness of the stature of His son Jesus Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13). He has given us a portion of His very essence and divine nature in the form of His Holy Spirit and expects us to become the fruit of that Spirit, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;” (Ephesians 5:9). We are to take on the characteristics it imparts to us, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith” (Galatians 5:22).
We become partakers of His divine nature by adding these divine characteristics to our faith, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… …give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:5-11).
Peter says that if we follow this formula diligently our salvation is guaranteed.
Notice carefully that the only doctrine Peter mentions is faith. And he makes no mention at all of prophecy. While it is important to have a basic understanding of the principles of doctrine and have a general understanding of prophecy it is not a wise use of time to focus on these subjects if we are trying to redeem what time is left.
Most of us have been in the church long enough to understand the principles of the doctrine of Christ mentioned in the sixth chapter of Hebrews, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” (Hebrews 6:1-2). These are the essential doctrine we need to understand God’s plan of salvation.
Having already studied these basic doctrines we are to move on to perfection. It is not profitable to become engrossed in endless debate over other doctrines especially if they cause division. Divisions and arguments so often lead to bitterness and hatred which is opposite to the love we are commanded to have for each other, “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;” (I Timothy 1:4-6, see also I Timothy 6:20, II Timothy 2:23-26).
Nor is it profitable to spend our time trying to interpret prophecies that God has only revealed in part, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (I Corinthians 13:9-10). What He has revealed in part is a general guide to the future so we can get on with what is essential for salvation knowing that He has everything under control. Prophecy is going to be fulfilled whether we have interpreted it correctly or not. And as Paul said, once it has been fulfilled it is of no further use to us, “…but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail… …whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (I Corinthians 13:8-10).
Doctrine and prophecy reveal God’s plan and provide a foundation from which we are to ‘go on to perfection’. Once we have reached perfection their function will no longer be necessary. The focus of our attention should be on reaching perfection. Our goal is to become the first fruits of the Spirit, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:18). Christ is the first of the first fruits and we are to become like Him.
God is building a team to work with Christ in bringing the rest of humanity to salvation. He looking for those who have become, “… poor in spirit… … they that mourn… … the meek… …they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness… …the merciful… …the pure in heart… …the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:3-9). These are characteristics of Christ to be perfected in us for the future, “…they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6).
He wants us to focus on the development of these characteristics even under the threat of persecution, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).
It is imperative that we understand the implications of what Paul said, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52). To be given the reward of eternal life when Christ returns means that we need to be judged and found worthy before He returns. Our judgment is taking place right now! “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” (I Peter 4:17). Every time we pray we come before the judgment seat of Christ and He is looking to see what changes we are making and how we are overcoming evil.
We are to be patiently preparing, not working against and grieving each other, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.” (James 5:7-9).
Christ warned us to watch and be ready for His return. Will you be ready when the incredible event draws nigh? It’s not too late to redeem the time! Concentrate on overcoming. Perfect the fruits of the Spirit. Use your time wisely and you will be ready!