Reign, Return, and Rapture (Part 3): Awake and Ready
A Day and Hour No One Expects
In Matthew 24, Jesus warned four times of the ignorance we will have concerning the time of his return.
He said in verse 36, “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 away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
Then he said in verse 42, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Next, in verse 44 he said, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
And lastly, in verse 50 he says, “the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know.”
So there’s this warning that knocks us down like ocean waves four times in a row. You and I do not know when the Lord will return. One, two, three, four times! Which is why I always sit in disbelief when predictions are made concerning his advent. You don’t know, I don’t know, the angels don’t know, Jesus [didn’t] know. It will be totally unexpected.
Because we don’t know when that day will come, Jesus gives two admonitions, and I want to leave them with you today.
“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (v. 42); “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 44).
The commands are, wake up and get ready! Those commands should represent your every day as a Christian and your whole life as a Christian. Each day you should ask, “Am I awake? Am I ready?” Because if just one of those things is not an absolute “yes!” you’ll be left outside of the ark. Or your house will be broken into. Or the master will find you off guard, and it’ll be too late. So let’s spend some time looking at these two admonitions.
Jesus said, “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.”
That strikes me. If the master had known the exact hour, he would have stayed awake. But on the contrary, Jesus says to us, essentially, “because you don’t know the hour, then stay awake all night!”
Now, let’s ask three questions: (1) How does one know he’s awake? (2) How does one know he’s asleep? (3) How does one wake if he’s sleeping?
Signs of Wakefulness
So how do I know I’m awake? Well, when I’m awake, I’m not dreaming. I’m conscious, aware, perceptive, active, thinking, planning. My eyes are open and I see. In a word, wakefulness is sobriety! Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5, “6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober.”
So, being awake means being sober. That means your mind is primarily set in reality. It isn’t lost in dreams of riches or fame or 401k’s or other worthless, fleeting things. Your mind is keenly aware of the invisible spiritual realm, the true things of God revealed in Scripture, not deceived by philosophies of men; you are keenly aware of the dangers of temptation, your own spiritual state, and you are waiting, anticipating, daily, the coming of Christ.
Is that where your mind is? If so, you’re awake! Wakeful people are not meandering around, wondering what their next move is. They are confident in Christ, they relate spiritual concerns to their spouses, they teach their children about Christ, they hasten the day of his return.
Marks of a Sleeper
Now, the trickier question is, how will you know if you’re sleeping? When I’m awake, I know I’m awake. But when I’m sleeping, I sometimes think my dream is real! Now, if I were sober-minded, I’d think, “Okay, it’s not normal for Miranda to be popping wheelies on a motorcycle. This must be a dream.” But in dreams, you’re not thinking about what is or isn’t normal. So how do you know if you’re sleeping?
When I’m sleeping, I turn off the lights. I am alone. I get comfortable. I cease from laboring.
Spiritual sleep is no different. Spiritual sleepers are in darkness and like its pleasures, its anonymity, its secrecy. Spiritual sleepers live in a different place in their mind than in real life. Paul said in Ephesians 5, “11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
So, Paul means, sleepers like the unfruitful works of darkness. If they for one second saw the glorious Jesus watching them in their nighttime works, they’d totally cease them. But they’re sleeping, so the pleasures ensue.
Secondly, Sleepers do everything they can to be comfortable. Don’t get comfortable—yet! Let us run with endurance the race set before us. Don’t stop laboring—yet! We sing, “We’ll work till Jesus comes!” Are we working or sleeping?
Lastly, Sleepers keep to themselves, which is to say, they aren’t serving anybody. Sleep is for me, not you. I sleep because I need it. It is self care. Spiritual sleepers keep from serving others.
Learning to Wake
Now, lastly, how do I wake if I’m asleep? As far as I can gather, only five stimuli wake sleepers: (1) A voice; (2) a shake; (3) light; (4) a bad dream; (5) complete restfulness.
Three of those forces are totally external, namely, a voice, a shake, or light. One of those forces happens frequently, but without light and a voice, the sleeper will go right back to sleep. I’m referring to bad dreams. And one of those forces is impossible in this life—complete restfulness.
Now, first of all, for those who are awake, you are, by God’s design, those first three stimuli. Be a voice! Shake men from their slumber! Shine light! It ought to be that everywhere we go, we are stirring people from their slumber.
And if you’re sleeping, when somebody comes along and speaks life into you, or shakes the foundations of your beliefs, or puts a flashlight right into your eyeball, then wake up! Don’t stir, tell them to leave, turn off the lights, and go back to sleep.
Some people wake up from bad dreams—this is of their own. They’re cruising through life, and one day it just dawns on them that something is totally totally wrong. Their life is a nightmare. A lot of those people will wake, and they’re primed and ready for the gospel, but if there’s no light around; if there’s no voice, they’ll toss and turn a few times and maybe coddle themselves back to sleep.
There are stimuli beyond the sleeper, which serve to stir and wake the lost soul. When that stimuli is activated, then arise o sleeper!
Jesus said, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
What is readiness? Well, it’s more than just wakefulness, because, in the very next chapter, Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins, five of whom woke up just before the return of the bridegroom, but they weren’t ready. Their torch had gone out, and so they hurried to get some oil, but it was too late.
So what does it mean to be ready? What does it mean to not be ready? I think the last six verses of chapter 24 give that insight:
45 “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? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
According to verses 45-46, what is readiness? It involves not only calling Jesus “master”—Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household—but it involves calling Jesus master and feeding those in his household. Blessed is the servant whom Jesus finds actively giving food to those in his household.
Based on that description, are you ready for Christ’s return? What is your presence in the household of God bringing not to God but to God’s people? I wonder what the people would say your presence is bringing.
So important is this aspect of readiness that Jesus said as some of his last words before being handed over to Pilate: 31When the Son of Man comes…34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
It says, “Whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine,” literally. He first has in mind his church. Are we feeding, giving drink, showing hospitality, comforting, clothing, welcoming, visiting the brothers? That’s readiness!
Unreadiness, then, is spoken quite clearly in 24:48-49: “But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow bondservants and eats and drinks with drunkards.”
Unreadiness is hostility toward the servant of God and friendship with the world. Unreadiness is mistreating God’s servant, never building up, never encouraging, never giving them that which is good.
When Christ returns—who knows when—be awake and be ready. That means, be sober-minded, walking in the light, and serving your brothers and sisters.
Blessed is such a servant.