David Jeremiah - At Any Moment
Robert Murray M'Cheyne was a brilliant, highly influential pastor. He was a poet in the 19th century, and he died of typhus before his 30th birthday, and many people thought that his life was wasted because he lived for such a short time, yet in those brief years, God used him to accomplish more than most of us would accomplish in a lifetime. He conducted evangelistic campaigns. He set up a missionary program to reach the Jews in Israel. He was really on fire for the Lord, and I'm told that he wore a special wristwatch on which he had engraved these words: "The night cometh". Every time he checked his watch, he was reminded that a time was coming when he would no longer be able to spread the news of God's love, and this reminder made him work harder than he ever would have worked otherwise because he knew there was coming a time when no man could work.
M'Cheyne believed in this phenomenon called imminency. This is connected to the Rapture, and it's really important that we wrap our minds around this concept because one of the key teachings about the Rapture recorded in several places in the scripture is related to this truth. When something is imminent, it could happen at any moment. I'm highlighting this term because the Bible presents the Rapture as an imminent event, one that could take place at any moment, and this will show you why that doctrine is so important. First of all, let's talk about some of the passages that introduce this truth. "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God Believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions, and if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also".
Now, look specifically at the two action verbs in that passage. "I go to prepare a place for you". And after the Resurrection, Jesus didn't remain on the earth. Instead, he went to heaven. And the second of those promises is still to come. He said, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself". He didn't say, "After this happens, I will come again. After that happens, I will come again". He just said, "I'm going to heaven. I'm going to prepare a place for you, and sometime in the future, I'm going to come back". And that event is imminent because it could happen at any moment.
Paul emphasized this when he wrote his first epistle to the believers in Thessalonica. Here's what he wrote. Listen carefully. "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We're not of the night nor of the darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to the salvation through Jesus Christ".
Now, what is he saying? Paul emphasized the salvation of his audience. He's talking to believers. Really important that you understand that. All of the language in the Rapture passages are addressed to believers. There's no language for the unbelievers. Paul wants us to know, Peter wants us to know, God wants us to know that Jesus Christ is coming back, and it is imminent. And he exhorts the Thessalonians to watch and be sober. It is unrealistic that the church is going to go through wrath, but we need to be ready for the Rapture. Finally and appropriately, Jesus's last words in scripture are Revelation 22:20. Do you remember those words? "Surely I am coming quickly," Jesus said. That is the mindset we should live by as believers. He told us he is coming quickly. That means sooner rather than later.
When I was working on this message, one of my church members gave me a card and it read, "I'm not looking for a sign. I'm looking for the Savior". And I think that's the way we should be about that because he could come at any time. Now, here are some words that help us understand it. This is not just the product of one or two or three passages. Every time you open the Bible and you read about the coming of Jesus, you can't help but notice what I'm teaching you tonight. First of all, Luke 21:28. "Lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near". What does that say? It could happen at any time. Romans 8:23, "We groan, eagerly waiting". We're waiting for the resurrection. We're waiting for the adoption. 1 Corinthians 1:7, "Eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ". And on and on.
There's 20 verses. I could read them all to you one after the other. What do they all say? They all say Jesus is coming back. Our task is to be looking for him to come at any moment and not looking for something to happen before that time, but just know it could happen. Nothing has to happen before the Rapture occurs. Can I get a witness to that? Now, the Bible doesn't give us specific information on the date of the Lord's return. If people tell you they know when Jesus is coming back, you should run away from them as fast as you can because they're not telling you the truth. The Bible tells us no man knows. The Bible tells us the angels don't know. The Bible tells us when Jesus was on the earth, even he did not know.
So if you know something Jesus didn't know when he was on this earth, you're quite a person, and you should not be let loose for anybody to be hurt by you. Right. St. Augustine said, "The last day is hidden so that every day should be regarded". Now, let me show you some interesting things about the pronouns that insist on this. Every word in scripture matters, I mean, every letter. The Bible says every jot and tittle in the Bible is important. There's a world of spiritual treasure to be found when we even look at the most simple things in the scripture and in the letters of the Bible. For example, in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 17, I want to read these words. I'm going to emphasize a word.
You see if you pick it up. "We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with the Lord in the clouds. And so shall we ever be with the Lord". Emphasized word is what? We. Now, why is that important? 'Cause Paul is talking about this like it could happen to him. He is saying in essence, "Because we know the Rapture could happen at any moment, we believe it's going to happen to us". When the apostle Paul described the Lord's coming for the church, he used personal pronouns that show that he clearly was convinced that he himself might be among those who would be caught up.
So we've had the passages that tell us he's going to come at any moment, we've got some pronouns that teach us that in the word "we," and thirdly, we have some parables that illustrate it. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells some stories. Don't you love Jesus because of his stories? Jesus was the initiator of stories. Whenever Jesus wanted to teach something important, he would tell a story. Well, he told some stories about the imminency of Christ. I'm going to remind you of the stories. We don't have time to read them all. But then at the end of each of his stories, he made a very powerful point.
First story he told is about an unexpected thief. This is a story about a house that was broken into by a thief because the master was not watching. The point that Jesus makes is this. If the master of the house would have watched, he would have kept the theft from occurring, but since the master did not know the hour of the day when the theft would occur, his house was unexpectedly robbed. Now, watch how Jesus concludes this story. This is what he says. This is what this means. "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not know". How many of you know a thief doesn't send you a letter and say, "I'm going to rob your house on Thursday night. Just be sure"? No, the Bible says the thief comes unexpectedly.
Then he tells a second story. This story is about two servants. This is a more complicated story but with kind of the same emphasis. He talks about two servants who worked for the same master, and one of the servants was faithful and the other was unfaithful. The master of them both is away from home, and he's left them in charge of everything. So the good servant faithfully serves his master and provides food for the master's house, and the bad servant has convinced himself that his master is delaying his coming, so he gets drunk and he beats up some of his friends. And both of the servants were caught doing what they were doing when the master came back. The good servant was rewarded with a promotion, and you don't want to know what happened to the bad servant.
In the story, Jesus says that we should always be ready for the Master to return. And then the next story is about wise and foolish virgins. It's a little bit longer and even a little bit more complicated. There were ten virgins. Five were foolish and five were wise. When the bridegroom came unexpectedly in the middle of the night for the parade, the foolish virgins didn't have any oil for their lamps. By the time they purchased oil, it was too late, and they found themselves locked out of the wedding where the wise virgins had been admitted. Neither group knew when this is going to happen. They had no advanced notice, but the thing that was true was the one group was ready no matter when it happened and the other group was unprepared.
What does Jesus want us to learn from this parable? Here are his words immediately following. "Watch therefore; for you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man is coming". In another context in the book of Luke, Jesus said something similar, even more powerful. He said, "Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you he will gird himself and have them to sit down and eat and come and eat with them". Jesus is coming back, and we need to be ready. That's the parables that Jesus told, the stories. So we have passages that tell us that. We have pronouns that illustrate that. We have parables that teach us that.
Now, here's the principle that's involved in it. This is really a critical principle as you look at the whole story of the Rapture. The imminency of Christ's return is more than just an incidental truth about the Rapture. You may not believe this, but if you're a theologian, you will believe it. Major books and manuscripts have been written either to defend the imminency of Christ's return or to attack it. Simply put, if the Bible teaches that Jesus can come at any time and that nothing needs to take place before he comes, if the Bible teaches imminency, then the idea that the church must go through the Tribulation before the Rapture occurs is found to be false. You cannot have something be imminent if something has to happen before it takes place.
The Rapture is imminent. There is nothing that takes place before that happens. You cannot believe that you're going to go through the Tribulation before the Rapture and believe in the imminency of his return 'cause there's nothing that has to happen. You got it? That's why this is so important. The Tribulation is going to happen, but as we're going to see, the church isn't going to be in the Tribulation. Let me tell you something that's really important. One of the most organized books in the Bible is the book of Revelation. Jesus gave the plot for the book. He said, "Write the things you see, write the things which are, and write the things which shall be".
Now, here's the interesting thing. In the book of Revelation, the word "church" is found in the first three chapters 19 times. When you get to chapter 4 and you go from 4 to 18, it's not found one single time. You know why? 'Cause the church isn't there. How do you know they're in heaven? 'Cause when Jesus comes back in chapter 19 to settle things on the earth, he brings the church with him. How did they get there? They got there back at the beginning, right? So what I'm saying to you is if you study the Bible and you... and I have just immersed myself in this particular part of it, what happens is you get confidence about what you believe.
The Bible is given to us so that we can study it and figure out what it's saying. And you know what, guys? I'm going to tell you something. There's nobody here who's going to be able to ever make me believe that I'm going through the Tribulation. I just know it's not going to happen. I know it because it's in the Bible. And before we leave that subject, just let me make sure we understand. That doesn't mean we aren't going to have trouble now. The Bible is full of information about how... you know, all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We know that, don't we? We suffer. We have issues. I've had mine. But that's altogether different than the Tribulation. In this world we suffer difficulty.
In the Tribulation, it's the wrath of God coming down on the earth, and there's no way you can ever make it, any sense about the wrath of God being leveled against his own people. That's not God's plan. God has a plan for us, and here it is. There's nothing that has to happen before he comes back. He could come at any moment. We don't go through the Tribulation. We go to be with the Lord, amen. So how important is it that we understand that? It's important because it changes everything as to the way we think. Here are four words that describe what we should be like if we really believe that he's coming back at any moment.
How should we live? Here's the first one. It's the word "consolation". Paul concluded his teaching on the Rapture with this admonition: "Therefore comfort one another with these words". The word "comfort" is a word that can also be translated "encourage". Paul communicated the truth of the Rapture to the Thessalonians so that they would not sorrow as others who have no hope. The message for the Thessalonians and for us is this. If you lose a loved one and they're a Christian, they're in heaven, and you will sorrow, but you don't sorrow as others who have no hope. Don't let anybody tell you that you're not a good Christian if you cry when somebody you love has died. That's a bunch of silliness.
The Bible doesn't say we don't suffer and that we don't grieve. It just says we don't grieve like other people. The Bible says if you believe that Jesus can come back at any time and that you're going to go be with him and that the Rapture is true and the resurrection is true, encourage one another with those words. And, you know, it's interesting, pastors from that day until this have been standing in cemeteries as people have laid to rest people that they love and they've been reading these words. Jesus is coming back. The resurrection is going to happen. And they've been comforting others with those words, and we do that because we know God has it. He's got this all in control, amen.
So if we believe that Jesus is coming back, which we do, we also believe that we should be expecting that. We should develop a... and this has been kind of the whole gist of this message... if we believe he could come at any time, don't act like he's not going to come in your lifetime. Imminency almost requires that you have a sense of expectancy about his return. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who was the great English pastor, believed the Lord could come at any time, and he repeatedly urged his people to cultivate an attitude of continual expectancy. Here's a sermon. I can't preach like him, but I'm going to try.
"O beloved, let us try every morning to get up as if it were the morning in which Christ would come. And when we go to bed at night, may we lay down with this thought: 'Perhaps I shall be awakened by the ringing out of the silver trumpets heralding he is coming.' And before the sun arises, I may be startled from my dreams by the greatest of all cries, 'The Lord has come! The Lord has come!' What a check. What an incentive. What a bridle. What a spur such thoughts as these would be to us. Take this for the guide of your whole life. Act as if Jesus would come in the act in which you are engaged. And if you would not wish to be caught in that act by the coming of the Lord, let it not be your act".
What he was saying was learn how to live with expectation that Jesus is coming back. We have to get over the idea that the Rapture is a doctrine, that it's some kind of thing we believe, it's a part of the church's creed. It needs to be a motivation to us. We need to learn how to expect Jesus Christ. The more Christians are caught up in enjoying the good things of this life, the less they are going to be caught up in looking for the Christ to come. Many Christians who are experiencing suffering and persecution, if you went to those nations, you would know they talk about Jesus coming back every day.
Dr. Gruden suggests that the idea is not merely to watch for Jesus coming but to actively engage in preparing for his coming every day. Consolation, expectation, consecration. Many New Testament passages use the return of the Lord to motivate us to be greater in our service for him. I'll just give you one illustration. Here is 1 John 3:2 and 3. Listen to these words in light of what we've been talking about. "Beloved, now are we the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure".
In other words, if you really believe Jesus is coming back, you're always looking to be more ready than you were before. You know, sanctification is not something that happens all at once. You don't become godly in a moment, but over the period of time. As you reflect upon who he is and what you're going to be when you see him and life as it is, you should be noticing changes in your life, things that once were a part of your life that are fallen off like scales and you're living in a different way. As followers of Jesus, our life is a continual journey of getting more and more ready for his return. Then finally, we should be examining our own hearts. We don't do that very much anymore. We don't take time to do it.
It used to be when I was growing up when we had Communion at church, they would have pauses between the delivery of the elements, and you would be told to take some time to examine your own heart. Anybody remember that? Now we rush through it. Ten minutes later, Communion is over. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong, I'm saying if that's not it, there needs to be some time in our lives when we take some moments to examine ourselves. Suppose the Lord Jesus chose this very moment to return. Would you be ready? He warns us that he's coming quickly. When that moment strikes, there is no time for you to get ready.
So the question you must ask is this: "Have I committed myself to Jesus Christ"? You may be listening to this as an unbeliever, perhaps out of simple curiosity, and you've never recognized Jesus Christ as your Lord. I hope you will do it today. Do you know the people of Taiwan understand the doctrine of imminency? They truly do. For more than 70 years, Taiwan has been under the threat of invasion by the Chinese Communist Party. The question is not whether China will attack Taiwan but when. Taiwan must be ready for a conflict at any time, says their defense minister... noting that Taiwanese military is capable of mobilizing more than 200,000 soldiers within 24 hours. That's the kind of readiness we need to maintain as followers of Jesus.
We need to be ready. We are on the cusp of an invasion, not a hostile one but a friendly one. Jesus is coming back, and we need to be ready, amen? And I hope you're ready, and I hope you will use these thoughts on this truth to examine your own heart. If you're not a Christian, you need to become a Christian. You have no guarantee that you have a long time to think about that. The Bible is filled with truth that today is the day of salvation. If you're a Christian and you're just playing around with your Christianity, stop doing that. Get serious. Realize you could meet the Savior. The one who died for you on the cross could be standing in your presence at any moment, and don't be embarrassed when he comes. Can I get a good witness for all this truth? Amen.