Michael Youssef - Are You Ready for the End Times?
Whenever there is something of global nature, events that grasp the news, you find that a lot speculation starts. But those of us who have their faith anchored firmly in the Lord Jesus Christ know for certain several things. Here are several things that we know for absolute certainty. Number one, that this world as we know it one day is going to come to an end. Secondly, we know that our ultimate home is not here. That we are placed here at this time to serve, and to minister, and to bring as many people to salvation as the Lord will allow us. The third thing is we know that one day, the Lord Jesus Christ will come back to take us home.
Fourthly, we know that the Lord himself gave us certain indications, certain signs, particularly in Matthew 24, where you hear him in details give us details about the signs of the nearness of his coming. Not the time, but the nearness of his coming, the nearness. And five, that every true believer in the Lord Jesus, everyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ longs for that day to come, longs for his return. And number six is we know that the day of his return should be our motivation in this life to live for him, and to give to him, and to serve him with all of our hearts. And that is why perhaps, or at least from my biblical worldview, there is no greater test for a person genuineness of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and confidence in him than the preparedness for the return of Christ.
That preparedness is manifested in our daily living. Not in the talk and not in the passing of emails of speculation of who, what, where, and all that stuff. No, whether we place him first and foremost in our lives, regardless whether we go to see him first or he comes to take us home first. When you have your spiritual bags packed, you are going to be busy serving, and giving, and doing, and making a difference in the lives of those whom the Lord brings your way. The preparedness of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the clearest indication of the genuineness of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to me, I did not say that. I did not say that, Jesus said that. The Lord Jesus said that, not Michael.
And so, I want you to turn with me please to Matthew 25, the first 13 verses. Here, Jesus tells a profound, brilliant story to illustrate this test. In schools, all of the students have a lot in common. They're in the same grade, they have the same teacher, they're about the same age, they have the same school, they have the same curriculum. They have all of that in common except one thing. Those who are prepared for the test and those who are not, right? In many ways, the story that the Lord tells here is the tragedy of those who look like Christians, lookalike Christians. The tragedy of those who are merely professing Christians. It's the tragedy of those who confess one thing with their lips, but then they live a different life.
More than 64% of the confessing Christians, I'm talking about the Christians, say there are other ways to God other than Jesus Christ, which is contradict everything Jesus said. Forty-four percent of professing Christians said Jesus sinned, that he committed sin, which is a total contradiction of the plan of salvation. How can a sinner save sinners? The reason he's sinless, because he can save sinners, and that's the only reason he can save us. Which makes me personally wonder if we are not living in that period of time that our Lord Jesus Christ talks about in details in Matthew 24. And immediately before the return of Christ, there's going to be a great falling away from the faith. The falling away from the faith will take place immediately before the return of Christ, particularly chapter 24, verses 10 and 11, the Lord makes it very clear.
And then the Apostle Paul picks it up and expounds on it in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. And that is why today, I will be challenging you like I have never challenged you before. Everyone at the sound of my voice, wherever you are, whatever country you're in, and for those of us here in this sanctuary, I'll challenge you like I've never challenged you before to be prepared to pass the test. So, what is the question, what is that test? Here it comes. Am I prepared? Am I prepared today to meet the Lord if he comes or not? That's really the question. Am I living and giving and serving in such a way that I will not be ashamed on that great day? Or, "Oh, I wish I've done this, or I wish I've done that. If I knew it was going to be so soon, I would've done something else". No, no, now I come to this amazing story that our Lord Jesus gives in Matthew 25.
Here Jesus, hear me out please, this is important, he makes it very clear that no way whatsoever... let me repeat this. No way whatsoever somebody else can take that test for you. The test is so individualized, every single person, no one, no one, no one can take the place of another. We will see that very clearly in a moment, I'm going to show it to you. The story of the ten virgins is so realistic in its details, it is so poignant in its application, it is so profound in its teaching. And I pray Holy Spirit, please open our minds. Father, I pray in the name of Jesus that you would not allow any distraction to take place. Help us to focus to the point of coming to that test and taking the test in Jesus's name. Ten young women who were invited to participate in a wedding party. Five of the ten were wise, five were foolish.
Now, there's a reason for that description. This is not characterizing them, but there's a reason for it. The wise, the five wise, revealed their wisdom in living of their lives as if the bridegroom is coming today or tomorrow. They were totally prepared. They were ready in a moment's notice. They had oil in their lamps. But the foolish ones, on the other hand, they were totally unprepared. They got so distracted by other things in life, they neglected the most important thing in life, which is working while waiting for the bridegroom to come. Both the wise and the foolish, physically they went to sleep. We all sleep at night, everybody sleeps at night. And suddenly, the cry goes out, "The bridegroom is coming, the bridegroom is here".
And the wise women got up, put the oil in their lamp, and they were prepared, and they were ready. The foolish ones said, "Oops, ha ha, we don't have oil, we don't have oil. We have lamps, but not oil. We have religion, but no power. We have tradition, but not a new life. We have church membership, but not salvation". So, they asked the wise women, "Give us your oil. Give us some of your oil". The wise women said, "No, I'm sorry, we can't give it to you". Beloved, listen to me, salvation is a personal experience. You cannot inherit it. You cannot buy it. You cannot earn it. You cannot give it to another. You can tell others about it, but you cannot give it to others. Each individuals has enough oil just for themselves. And the foolish ones thought they could buy oil anytime. They could get it in the last minute.
Well, they will just pray before they die and they'll make it. Oh, at this point, they come to realize there is such a thing as it is too late. It is too late. It's in the middle of the night, stores are closed. It's illustrating that the time has passed. And so, they cry to the bridegroom, "Open the door". "I don't know you". Oh my goodness. Jesus said, "Keep watch because you don't know the day or the hour what moment I'm going to come back". Please put yourself in the place of the original hearers, the people who are hearing those words from the lips of Jesus at that time. And now, here we are 2,000 years later reading it, but put yourself in their place and what they were thinking. Because in Israel at that time, in the Jewish tradition, a marriage has three stages, three stages.
The first stage is when the parents of the groom and the parents of the bride get together, make an agreement. That's how it was back then. In fact, that's how it is in some cultures even today. The second stage is the betrothal. The betrothal is more than just an engagement, it's binding. It's binding in every way. The only thing does not take place until you get to the third stage is the consummation of the marriage, when you have the festival, you have the feast. But it was binding. You remember Mary and Joseph? Mary was betrothed to Joseph, it was binding in every way except there was no consummation of the marriage.
What happens between the time the groom betrothed his bride and the time he comes to get her to attend the wedding feast, the festival, the celebration, is that he goes home and he builds an addition in his father's house. 'Cause that's how it was, you bring your bride to your father. But you don't take her into your father's and parents' house, you build a special addition that is specially built for your bride. So, he's building an addition for his bride. And that is why Jesus said, "I go to the Father and I prepare a place for you". He's building that addition for every one of his children. You see, when that addition is ready, the groom will march toward the bride's house. And in that street in this celebration as the parade takes place from the groom's father's house to the bride's house, and the dancing and music and shouting.
The groom is coming, the groom is coming. And everybody in town will get up and they look out the windows and out of the balconies because this parade, a celebration of the groom going to fetch his bride to come and join him in the festival, in the celebration. In fact, the shouting, "The groom is coming," gets louder in volume and intensity as the groom gets closer to the bride's house. And when he fetches his bride, the same parade takes place even with more intensity, music, and dancing, and celebration. And he takes her and process all the way to the groom's father's house. Now beloved, Jesus is telling us in this story, he's letting us know that in his first coming, he invited whomsoever to come and be part of his bride. In his first coming, he betrothed all those who have truly accepted his invitation.
In his first coming, he issued the invitation, but only betrothed those who come to love him with all of their heart and put their whole faith in him. And he betroths them. He betroths all of those who are in love with Jesus. But then there are other group of people who might like the bridegroom, who may admire the bridegroom, but never surrender to the bridegroom. Those who have joined a local church, but never joined the church of Jesus Christ. Those who might be wearing clerical vestments and clerical garb, but they do not have the robe of righteousness that's absolutely necessary for you to go to heaven.
Those who have attended church on occasions and never been born again. Those who have warm and fuzzy feeling toward Jesus around the time of Christmas, but Jesus was never born inside of them. Those who go through the motion of Christianity, but they live the lives for themselves. Those who have not lived for that great day in mind, these are the foolish ones. Listen to me, these foolish ones are not the atheists, they're not the agnostics, they're not the anti-Christians. They are not the pagans. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, these were in the church. If you look closely, look closely, now I hope you go and spend a little time with that story when you go home. If you look closely at it, you're going to discover there are seven things in common between the wise and the foolish, seven things.
I'll give them to you very quickly. Both groups were invited, both heard the invitation. Both responded probably positive to the invitation. Both groups were part of the visible church. Both had affection toward the bridegroom. Both groups confessed Jesus with their lips. Both groups believed in his coming. Both groups physically had fallen asleep. Seven things, but as soon as the bridegroom shows up, the similarity ended. Both groups went to church. Both groups claimed to be Christians. Both groups claimed to believe. Both groups all said the right things. Both had warm feelings toward Jesus. But they were not born again. The oil here is the symbol of the inner change that has taken place in the life of a true believer. The oil is a symbol of the inner transformation that takes place in the life of the true believers. The oil is the symbol of being sold out to Jesus.
Listen to me, we're having preachers running around today and saying Jesus is nuts about you, Jesus is in love with you, Jesus is crazy about you. If Jesus has a fridge, he'll have your pictures on it. Huh? We know Jesus loved us, he died on the cross, but the question is, are you in love with Jesus? Are you nuts about Jesus? Do I live my Christian life working, serving, giving, doing with the expectation of that great day? Listen to me please, it doesn't matter what you call yourself. It doesn't matter whether you say, "I have my faith". The question is, do you anticipate with joy that great day of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you long for that day? Do you give and serve in anticipation of that day?
I'm not asking you if you have a religious experience. I'm not ask about religion. I'm not asking if you belong to a denomination or a certain church. No, no, no, no, no, the question is, are you born again? The question is, is your life lived in Christ? The question is, do you love to see Jesus? The question is, do your non-Christian friends think that you are nuts about Jesus? That's really what matters. Somebody may ask, "Well, Michael, how can I be sure that I'm not like these foolish women at the coming of the bridegroom"? I'm glad you asked. Jesus has the answer, and he gives us a self-administered test. And nobody can give it to you. The pastor cannot give it to you, Sunday school teacher cannot give it to you, your family cannot give it to you. It's a self-administered test. And here's the self-administered test.
Do I serve out of sense of duty, or out of sense of my love for Jesus? Do I long for his appearing, or that thought troubles me a little bit? Do I give of myself because it is expected of me, or do I sacrificially and joyfully and hilariously give out of gratitude for my salvation? Do I have a desire to tell others about him so they too can escape that great day? Do I tell them about the invitation that he's offering them and the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins? Do I use my Christianity for self-serving or for self-giving?
Just like a torch without the fuel is worthless, so is the professing Christian without the transformation in his or her heart. In the case of the wise young women, their outward profession was substantiated by their inward possession. On another occasion, Jesus told a story about a wedding crasher. He crashed a wedding. He did not wear the wedding gown that was handed to all the invitees so they know they were invited to that wedding. He decided to go in his civilian clothes, he's going to make it in his own strength. He's going to make it there because he thinks he's good. He's going to make it because he gave a few dollars here and there. He's going to make it on his own steam, not on the blood of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that person was thrown into the outer darkness, and that's exactly what was said of these foolish women. Now, think about this. In reality, Jesus is telling us that salvation cannot be borrowed, salvation cannot be shared, salvation cannot be inherited, salvation cannot be given. You can invite person to it, but you cannot give it to somebody else. Your father and mother cannot give it to you. Your son and daughter cannot give it to you. Your Christian friends cannot give it to you. Nobody can give it to you. You have to individually receive it as you respond to his invitation. Accepting that invitation by coming in humility and brokenness, thanking him for paying the prices and the wages of your sin on that cross.
Secondly, Jesus is teaching us that it is a lie. Listen to me please, listen, I'm going to close today, this is important. It is an absolute lie that is repeated in the media every couple of minutes. It is a lie to think that in the last day, God is going to let everybody in. No, a million no's. Jesus's hearers are saying here there is such thing as too late, too late. It's not too late now, as long as you have breath, it's not too late. But when that time comes, it's too late. A student might get away with cramming for exam, but it is an absolute gamble with your eternity to wait, to wait. Because when the door is shut, these foolish ones tried to borrow salvation, couldn't. Tried to buy salvation, they couldn't. And that's why the Bible says the time is now, the hour is now. Don't put it off.
Now, my beloved friends, I don't know about you, I think you can tell from my reaction that I grieve for anybody who's putting it off. The worst thing you can do is say, "There is time, there is time". That's what Satan wants you to believe, there's time. Now, in case you're thinking that I'm suggesting that the believers ought to put on white robes and head for the mountains, wait for Jesus, that is the most unbiblical thing you can do. That's not what I'm saying at all. In fact, those who are waiting for Jesus, they work the hardest for Jesus. When Jesus said, "Occupy till I come," he said, "Work hard until I come," not head for the mountains.
When people asked C.S. Lewis about people who were so heavenly minded, they are of no earthly good, he said, "Let me tell you something. History will prove again and again that only those who made the difference on earth are the ones who are heavenly minded". And I'm reminded of a man by the name of Lord Shaftesbury. Lord Shaftesbury established many reforms. In fact, more reforms than Wilberforce, who freed the slaves. He helped so many. He lifted so many poor out of poverty, thousands of people. He supported many missionary endeavors. His life was a life of giving, and serving, and doing. Lord Shaftesbury said the following, listen carefully, I'm about to close. He said, "I don't think that in the last 40 years, I've ever lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of the return of Christ". That is the mindset of the wise people, the wise person. Will you be wise? Will you be wise?