Bible Prophecy
7/8/11 at 10:48 AM 2 Comments

The Suddenness of Christ's Appearing

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It was in 1972 that the End Times Christian film 'A Thief in the Night', which centered on the return of Jesus Christ, began making its way around the various churches and their youth groups. The title of the movie was drawn from verses in the Bible penned by both Apostles' Peter and Paul. I remember the film coming to the small church I attended in my hometown in southern Illinois. The movie's theme song "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", originally written by Larry Norman and re-released in recent years by the Christian band DC Talk, still echoes in my mind. The lyrics, though catchy and memorable, had a sobering effect on that 10 year old boy. Why wouldn't they, considering the words were put to a movie where millions of people had disappeared from Earth in the Rapture, leaving behind the unsaved.

I watch the movie now and smile, as it's a little dated - bright orange and yellow clothes, young women with either long parted straight hair or short hair with 'pigtails', and young men with Beatles haircuts, long sideburns, and bushy mustaches. Now 40 years later the 1972 film has less of an impact on me, but the message itself has not diminished. The Apostle Paul wrote "For yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Nearly 15 years later, with some of the same words, Peter would write "But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night..." (2 Peter 3:10). The message remains unchanged. Jesus is coming soon. When He returns, it will be sudden. For some, it will be unexpected.

In the first half of Matthew 24, Jesus told those with Him the signs of the end of time. Then beginning in verse 37, Jesus compared the time of His return to the days of Noah. Jesus said, "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be". At first glance, we are quick to remember that the days of Noah were so wicked that God wiped out mankind with the Great Flood and it seems we could look for similar times just before His return. But that is not what Jesus was saying in context. In fact, He states what he meant in verse 38. There Jesus said, "For as in the days that were before the flood THEY WERE EATING AND DRINKING, MARRYING AND GIVING IN MARRIAGE". This they did up until Noah entered the ark.

Do you see the point? There were no signs! Those people were living their ordinary everyday life like they always had, albeit ignoring the warnings. Meteors were not streaking toward earth. The stars were not falling from the sky. No Antichrist. No pestilences. No regathered Israel. No cataclysmic signs in nature like we tend to look for. They were getting together with their families and with friends for a meal or a small party. People were getting married just like they did the day before, the week before, and the year before. Now fast-forward to the present. They were going to Wal-Mart to get groceries. They were getting married on the weekend. They were going to the mall to shop. They were at the ball fields watching their kids' games. They were attending family functions on the holidays. Life was 'business as usual'. And that was Jesus' point. His return will occur suddenly during the normal course of life when we least expect.

Can we then know when He will return? Many predictions have been made over the last 2,000 years. All have failed without exception. Listen to the words of Jesus during this same dialogue. He said, "But of that day and hour KNOWETH NO MAN, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (v. 36). He continues, referring to the people who "...KNEW NOT until the flood came...so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (v. 39). Jesus then said to be watchful for His return precisely because we don't know when it will be, as He said, "Watch therefore: for you KNOW NOT what hour your Lord doth come" (v. 42). Finally, Jesus stated, "be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye THINK NOT the Son of Man cometh" (44). Again, in the Parable of the 10 Virgins in Matthew 25:13, Jesus said,  "Watch therefore, for you KNOW NEITHER the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh". Seems pretty clear, don't you think?

Funny thing about a thief. He doesn't tell you when he is coming. No prior notice. No phone calls. No text messages. He doesn't even 'private message' you on Facebook. At least a normal thief doesn't. It's without warning. It's usually quick. It is unexpected possibly for a variety of reasons. And when the thief leaves, something is normally missing. At Christ's return, something will have been taken – something will be missing. Jesus said, "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (Matthew 24:40-41). There is a way to prevent this. Jesus went on to say, "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into" (Matthew 24:43). We are never told when Jesus is coming, but we are told to be watchful, ready, and expectant.

Larry Norman is dead now, but the words he wrote in that famous song are not. In fact, they still possess a power that causes one to pause and think about the implications of Christ's return. Consider a couple of phrases. "...a man and wife asleep in bed, she hears a noise and turns her head, he's gone...I wish we'd all been ready. Two men walking up a hill, one disappears and one's left standing still...I wish we'd all been ready. There's no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you've been left behind...". I know, thought-provoking if not disturbing. But for those who are ready, watchful, and expectant, Jesus Christ's promise in John 14:1-3 brings confidence, peace, and comfort. "Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

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