Yesterday I preached at Becontree avenue Baptist Church in Dagenham (http://www.becavebaptistchurch.org.uk) as the pastor Sue Millar was at the annual Baptist Assembly.
I felt led to preach about Jesus’ promised return to this earth and about the signs that God has given us. Although no one but God the Father knows the day that this will happen. Many people have tried to work it out and have failed.
However what is very clear is that it is getting nearer every day. So we should be prepared and not completely surprised as the Bible tells us happened to people in the days of Noah.
You can hear a recording of this talk at: http://www.becavebaptistchurch.org.uk/Morning%20service%20recordings/6.5.12%20Message.mp3 This does differ slightly from the written version given below:
36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
Have you noticed that there are signs everywhere?
We saw a few minutes ago that there are several types of road signs. Road signs are there to:
Direct us and
Most road signs are there for our own benefit, not just because the Highways Agency or local council want to spoil our fun. Speed limits are there to keep us and other road users safe particularly in built up areas and where the road is considered dangerous.
About a mile out of Rainham as you go through the lanes you come across a sign that says “Road liable to flooding” Most of the time there isn’t a problem but when it rains heavily as it did earlier in the week. the road can disappear under water.
Of course signs are only any good when they are correctly observed and acted upon. You have probably heard the saying that people only read what they want to read.
Up Whalebone Lane North there is the Chadwell Heath Cemetery with a large sign at the gate telling anyone who reads the sign that this is Chadwell Heath Cemetery. The staff there tell me that people drive into the cemetery which isn’t very busy and find the chapel locked. They demand to know when their loved one’s cremation service is going to take place. These dear folk are adamant that they are at the Forest Park Crematorium in Hainault because the sign says “Chadwell Heath Cemetery”.
Of course sometimes people ignore the signs and go on what other people have told them. Years ago in the early days of my banking career I was a cashier at Barclays Bank in Beacontree Heath sometimes nick named “The Fiddlers Branch” because it was near to the infamous Merry Fiddlers public house. I would regularly have customers come into the bank asking for stamps or postal orders or trying to cash their child benefit or pay for their TV licence. I would explain that they would have more success with their transactions in the Post Office who did those sorts of things. In return the customers would assure that their friend got a TV licence stamps or whatever in the bank last week!
The Bible is full of signs, which also can Warn us, Inform us, direct us and order us. God has caused the Bible to be written for our good, so that we can read just how much he loves us and cares for us and also we read about his plan to save us from sin, death and the evil one. God doesn’t want anyone to miss out on eternal life. That does not mean everyone gets into heaven, only those who come to faith in Jesus. The Bible is very clear about that.
But I am sure we all know people who ignore the signs, misinterpret them and go their own sweet way or blindly follow what other people tell them.
The other week I took my eldest son Tom and his wife Layla to Gatwick airport. They were flying to Orlando for a holiday. The departure board listed all the flights and their destinations. It was no good boarding a flight to Rome or Ibiza or any of the many other destinations. Only the flight to Orlando would do.
Similarly the Bible informs us that there is only one way to God, through faith in Jesus. All other religions and philosophies may be fine sounding and involve you in lots of religious activities and good works but the bottom line is as Jesus said in John 14:6 “ “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In our Bible reading from Matthew’s gospel Jesus is talking about his return. At the beginning of chapter 24 he had told his disciples that the temple which had taken many years to build would be destroyed and not one stone would be left on another. This indeed happened some 40 years later when the Roman army conquered the city and sacked it.
Jesus is then asked “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus in the following verses gives his listeners certain signs to look out for. He also warns them about false prophets and those who falsely claim to be Jesus. And of course over the years there have indeed many who claim that they are Jesus and have come back to rule the world.
And we see people try desperately to make all sorts of calculations as to the precise day that Jesus will return. We had last year that American preacher who predicted two days that Jesus would return and got them both wrong.
Similarly the JW’s have given us several dates over the last century that will see the return of Jesus. All of which were false.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So it will do us no good adding up dates and trying to interpret numbers, as we are clearly not to know when Jesus is returning. All that is certain is that he will return and that it is a day nearer than it was yesterday!
We can see from the signs posted in Matthew 24 that we may not have long to wait. As the old gospel song puts it “Soon and very soon we’re going to see the King” For those of us who love the Lord Jesus and have put our trust in him it is going to be a wonderful amazing experience. But for those who have rejected the gospel, or ignored it or indeed decided to go their own way it is going to be an awful day.
Jesus tells us that his return is going to be like the flood that wiped out all but eight people on the earth. He says in Matthew 24:37 – 39 “ As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. “
Some people say that the story of Noah is a myth or even just made up. However clearly something catastrophic did happen. After all we all saw the TV news reports of the Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred on 26th December 2004 when a wall of water 30 metres high swept all before it. We have also heard reports of the terrible floods in Pakistan in 2010 when some 307,000 square miles of land were flooded. That’s about 3 ½ times the size of England, Wales and Scotland!
But in Noah’s day people were not paying attention to God. This is condition of mankind in Genesis 7:5 & 6 “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”
They were just carrying on with life as if the party was never going to end. Just paying attention to themselves and never mind what God is saying. Sounds like society today.
Whilst this was going on Noah listened to God and built the ark. I don’t know how he felt about leaving the rest of mankind to their doom. But he obeyed God, built the ark, collected the fodder and then brought the animals into the ark. You wonder if his neighbours and friends asked him what he was doing and why he was doing it. Perhaps he told them and they laughed at him or just ignored him, much as folk today often do when presented with the good news of Jesus.
Often people tell me that they don’t like to talk to others about their faith because they are worried that the person may reject the message. Our job is to tell people about Jesus and not to worry about whether they accept or reject the message. As long as we play our part which is to tell people about Jesus we have done what is asked of us.
Because we have freewill everyone when presented with the gospel has the choice to say “yes” or “no”.
Just over 100 years ago the Titanic set out on her one and only voyage. She was her builders claimed unsinkable. Yet she hit an iceberg and began to sink. My friend Tony Ward wrote in the online magazine “Christian Today” (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/the.fascination.with.the.titanic.draws.its.power.from.the.gospel/29657.htm) about this last month and I’m just going to quote from his article:
One of the secrets of the magnetism of the Titanic episode is its parallels with the Gospel. So many of the events on that fateful night mirror the spiritual peril that faces a world seemingly oblivious to where it is heading. Even after the Titanic struck the iceberg, the crew couldn’t persuade passengers to take to the lifeboats when they had paid enormous sums of money for luxurious accommodation. After all, only days earlier the ship’s builders had boastfully told reporters that “God Himself couldn’t sink this ship”. The Titanic symbolised the world’s sense of achievement, enterprise, invincibility and arrogance. Confidence in human ability and technological prowess convinced people to believe in the ‘unsinkable’ rather than the ‘unthinkable’. As a result, many of the ship’s lifeboats that were designed to hold up to 60 people left the ship with only a quarter of that number aboard.
And there is a parallel today in that people don’t see the need for a saviour. All is well and its business as usual. But as in the days of Noah God sent the flood, so some time soon Jesus is returning to put and end to the current system.
You’ll find in Genesis 7:16 “Then the Lord shut the door behind Noah.” So God decided when the time was right and he will decide on the day when Jesus will return. On that day those who have come into the kingdom through faith in Jesus will be saved and those who for whatever reason are outside will face eternity without God.
God has given everyone the chance to be saved through faith in Jesus, to come into the ark. Many have come but sadly many chose not to do so.
If there is anyone here today who hasn’t come to faith in Jesus don’t leave it for another day as we may not have another day.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”