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Ready or Not - Words in red

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/1) This weekend we honor and remember the men and women who have given their lives in commitment to their country. I hope that in your picnics and relaxation, you will do three things.

1. First, pause and thank God for those who have died to preserve freedom for us and to fight for the freedom of others in the world.

2. I hope as well that in your prayers you will remember the moms and dads and children and spouses of those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones in our current conflicts.

3. I hope that you will pray for our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, who are currently in harmís way in Iraq and Afghanistan

For the last 40 plus years America has operated with an all-Volunteer Military. Prior to that young men 18 or older could be drafted in serving in the military. Each soldier, sailor, airmen, and marine knows that even if he or she enlists during peace time there is the possibility of being called to face danger. That is why everyone goes though basic infantry training and periodic drills and training times. When someone joins the military, they may be thinking about the benefits of serving, that is, skill training, college money, a career, character building, health insurance, a steady income, an early retirement. Or, they may be thinking solely of serving the country they love. Yet, everyone knows, as does every police officer and firefighter, that the possibility of dying in the line of duty is a potential reality. We thank God for our military and we pray for those who are grieving over or worrying about their loved ones today.

Since the wars in Irag and Afghanistan began in 2003, if I am correct, nearly 7000, American service men and women have died either in combat and non-combat incidents and another nearly 60,000 have been wounded. In Vietnam over 58,000 of our military died and another 150,000 were wounded. And there have been numerous smaller conflicts in between such as Bosnia, and the first gulf war. Over 400,000 Americans were killed in WWII and 630,000 were wounded. In Korea, over 36,000 were killed and over 92,000 were wounded.

All total nearly 1 Ĺ million Americans have died and over 2 million have been wounded in service to our country. They deserve to be honored and we need to pray for their families and for those who are serving today.

Letís do that now. (Poem and Prayers)




When I was a child, I would often stay at my best friend house. It was my grandfatherís house, and my uncle who was just 3 weeks older than me was my best friend. My mother was the oldest of ten, and her youngest siblings, though my aunts and uncles, were more like brothers and sisters to me. There were only a few channels on the TV and my grandfather liked to watch the Orioles or Lawrence Welk. There were no hand held devices or play stations. We were expected to play outside. Sometimes other neighbor kids would come over. We played baseball during the day and at night we would play hide and seek or a version of that game called kick the can. I always wanted to be a hider and not a seeker. Do you remember what the seeker was required by law to say after counting to whatever number, and before he or she left the home base? "Ready or not, here I come."

Today, our Words in Red, is a call to reality. It deals with a promise that our blessed Lord Jesus made to us. Ready or Not, He is coming!

To set that stage, let me remind you that every Jew, in our Lordís time period, understood History as being like an Oreo cookie.

ē There is the present age, a dark age, in which there is no lasting peace, death, disease, wars, disasters, evil, and self-centeredness exists. Work is hard, life is tough. Theologians remind us that we live in a fallen world, which is dominated by sinful people. This is the dark side.

ē Then, there is the future Golden age, the age of the kingdom of God, when the Messiah would sit on the Throne in Jerusalem and rule the world and there would be peace, harmony, and righteousness in the world. There would be no more disasters, diseases, or distress, no more hunger or pain. This is the Blessed Hope that God has given us from Genesis 3:15 and on throughout the scriptures. It would be a Golden age with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in residence, in Jerusalem.

ē But sandwiched between the dark present age and the future Golden age lies a time period known as the Day of the Lord. This would be the most terrible time imaginable on earth. There will be cosmic upheavals, disasters, and destruction as the wrath and judgment of a Holy God are unleashed on an unholy world. One of my college professors referred to this as the Preparatory Purging Process of the planet, for the return of Jesus and His Kingdom. Look at Isaiah 13:4-13. The Books of Joel, and Zephaniah are about this terrible time period that will come at an unexpected time like a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10 and 1 Thess. 5:2). Revelation chapters 6-19 deal with this time period in great detail. God will judge the earth and purge it before He ushers in a new Heaven and a new earth and the Golden Age of His Kingdom.

You need to know that the world as you know it will not be the world that will be when the King returns.

This then is the back ground for Matthew 24-25. The disciples were admiring the temple that Herod the Great had begun beautifying for over 40 years. They were saying, "Wow, Look at this. Isnít this beautiful?" Though Jesus had just said to the Pharisees in His lament over the city, that the temple would become desolate (Matt. 23:38). Our Lord could see the day when He knew, it would be destroyed. (Vv. 5-6) Everyone has seen before and after pictures. Often they are before and after some improvement. Before and after a diet, or exercise with a Bow flex. Or before and after hair restoration treatments. But have you seen the pictures where the before and after is of a disaster. Before the hurricane and after; before the tornado, flood, fire, tsunami, and pictures of what the place looked like after it hit. Pictures of a city before the bombs fell and pictures of after the bombing. Jesus could see that there was going to be an after and it wasnít pretty.

By the way, this is a good life lesson. This is a good reminder of everything we spend so much time accumulating and maintaining as monuments to ourselves, we are going to leave behind or it is going to be destroyed. Peter says it like this (2 Peter 3:10-13), "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

The 12 didnít understand how all of this would play out. They assumed that soon and very soon, Jesus would stop being like Clark Kent and would become Superman and bring in the Golden Age of dominance, and righteousness, and peace on earth with Jesus sitting on Davidís throne in Jerusalem. Perhaps they believed that the destruction of the temple would all be part of His triumphing over the nations and necessary before the temple that Ezekiel speaks of (Ch. 40ff) can be built. Letís notice

The Questions Ėv.3 Ė When would these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? They believed it was so close they could taste it. The word for, coming, is a word that means appearing and presence. They were not thinking of a rapture or of Jesusí going away and then returning. They were thinking of now. Their question was more on the line of this. When will you take off the Clark Kent cloths and become Superman to the Israel and the world? (Cp, Acts 1)

He answers with a second life lesson. "Take Heed, or Beware, or Keep your eyes open, and donít be deceived." Because there would be:

ē Deception in Religion (v.5, 11, 23-24) There will be many false messiahís, people claiming to be the truth or having new truth, or being the true Christ. From the very beginning of Christianity, there have been false teachers claiming either to have new information, special insight into Godís Revelation, or claiming to be God. Some have tried to date and pinpoint the return of Jesus. Nearly every book in the New Testament warns us to watch out for these false teachers. Their new doctrine or liberal views of old doctrine or introduction of new books or lost books, are designed by Satan to deceive and to draw you away from God and not to bring you closer. Some simply want to pick your pocket. Consider in the last 200 years Ėthe arrival of such as the J.W.ís, Mormons, M.B. Eddy & the Church of Christ Science, the Milleriteís that eventually led to the Seventh Day Adventist; Sun Myoung Moon with the Moonies, or Unification Church, are just some examples of multiple thousands of Christian Cults. Or, on the other hand, the liberalization of Christianity that occurred in the late 1800-1900ís and is still present today. Then, there is the extreme Faith-Prosperity movement today that says God wants everyone to be healthy and wealthy now. All are new (relatively) and all designed by Satan to keep you from focusing on the desires of Godís heart and the purpose for which He has saved and called us; or to simply keep you from knowing and following the truth.

ē Donít be deceived by disturbances in Nations (vv. 6-8) The world wars, and even the current world unrest are held by many to be sure signs that the end is at hand. But there has never been many days without war on this earth.

ē Donít be deceived by Disasters and Diseases in the Earth (v.7b) Aids, the Bubonic Plague, the flu, and other pandemic illnesses are often considered as sure signs of the end. So, are hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and more. I have seen studies showing that the intensity of earthquakes and buzzards as being a sure sign of Jesusí soon return.

ē Donít be deceived by Persecution (vv. 9-10). He speaks of this throughout His ministry (Matt. 5:10-12; Ch. 10. John 15). His followers can expect no less than what happened to Him. Every year over 200,000 people are killed in this world for no other reason than following Jesus. Conversion in many countries means the possibility of death.

ē Donít be deceived by Displays of Cosmic upheavals in the Heavens so says Luke in 21:11b. There are books and teachings by John Haggee about the four blood moons and their relationship to things happening in Israel. Many see these red moons as signs of Jesusí coming.

ē Destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (vv.20-24), perhaps referring to 70 A.D. when over 1 million Jews were killed as the Romans under General Titus leveled the city, destroying the temple and carried thousands away captive. But, this is also a possible reference to the future when the world will want to destroy the Jew. Do you know that the whole world is focused today on one major city? Jerusalem!

Now we see all of these things and have seen them all along, but the book of the Revelation reminds us as does Matthew 24:21-22, that the intensity of these signs will be unequaled by anything in history. I am reminded of the song by a Rock group from the early 70ís- BTO- "You Ainít Seen Nothin Yet." All of this is revealed in greater detail in the books of the Revelation, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zephaniah and others.

Here is what will happen. There will be a period of world unrest, followed by a period of peace as the world will see a leader that can unite the whole world and solve its economic, religious, and governmental problems. He will sign a 7 year peace agreement with Israel and allow her to re-build her temple that was destroyed in 70 A.D. as Jesus tells her in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. But after 3 Ĺ years, this leader that we refer to as the antichrist will break his treaty with Israel, and desecrate the temple by declaring that he is god in the flesh. This is what v. 15 from Daniel 11:36, Rev. 13, and 2 Thess. 2:4 refers to. He will then demand the immediate execution and destruction of all Jews and Christ-Followers. This will begin 3 Ĺ years of hell on earth (vv. 16-22). More than Ĺ of the earthís population will die from wars or disasters, these judgments of God as Revelation tells us. That will be between 3 Ĺ and 4 billion people by todayís population numbers.

Then Jesus will return. And when he does, no one will read about it in the newspaper, or see it on the evening news on TV. But, just as a bolt of lightning, the whole world will see and know at once that He has returned. And they will know who He is, and the nations will weep and wail.

But because we are seeing a lot of these things, the instructions of our Lord are pertinent to us today as they will be to those when this all takes place in the future. Letís notice some.

1. Learn the lesson of the fig tree (vv. 32-33). When we see all these things happen, including the signs of the tribulation we know his coming is near. But understand that these signs are for those who will see the Anti-Christ and be around at that time. This is not for the church-The Bride of Jesus. While He does not mention it at all in these chapters, He will call His Bride to leave the world by what we call the Rapture before all of this happens. It will be a sudden and instant translation into His presence, of all Christians. This is the essence of 1 Cor. 15:51ff, and 1 Thess. 4:13-18, and some others. The Rapture of the Church is a mystery that is not mentioned in the Bible until Paul reveals it to us. We believe that just as God rescued Noah from the flood, He will rescue us from the Great Tribulation that Jesus speaks of here. Revelation 3 and the promises to the Philadelphian Church show us that. But here is the deal. Are you listening?

We, the Church are not looking for signs. We are looking for our Savior and listening for His shout as Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 15, and 1 Thess 4. There are no signs necessary for the Rapture. And here is what we know. We are 2000 years closer to this event than when they were promised. And though we are not looking for signs, God may be telling us to get ready. The talk of globalism, a world economy, the terrorism and Middle East conflicts; the return and restoration of the nation Israel. The dominance of China and Russia, and the growth of Islam ought to all be like the blossoms of the fig tree to us, saying, "People get ready, Jesus is coming, soon weíll be going home."

2. Rest in Assurance, these things will happen (vv. 34-35). Peter tells us that scoffers will mock the teaching of the Lordís return and say everything is continuing as it always has (2 Peter 3:1-9). But everything God says - will happen because He cannot lie. The world as we know it will end. There will be new heavens (stars and skies) and a new earth Ėremade like the one that was originally created.

3. Donít trust date setters. (v. 36) 3 years ago, Harold Camping thought he had the formula for the date of Jesusí return. He was wrong for the second and third time. When Jesus says no one knows, no one knows. Not John Haggee, not Hal Lindsey, not Harold Camping nor any other prognosticator.

4. Watch (v. 42) simply put, this word for watch means Ė donít fall asleep on duty. Donít let fatigue cause you to quit. Stay alert and be ready. Reminds us of the 3 with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He will emphasis this in Ch. 25. (Cp. Luke 18:1). Just like thieves that come when you donít expect it, so will Jesusís return. Make sure you arenít caught off guard.

5. Be Ready (v. 44ff)

a. Luke 21:34-35 says, Donít get Caught up in the affairs of this world. "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth." (Cp. 1 John 2:15-17, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the worldóthe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of lifeócomes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever".) This is basically to focus on the stuff more than we focus on Jesus and His plan and purpose for us as His Bride and Body. I wonder how many people would not be ready or want to leave if Jesus returned today. Lord, I have vocation plans, vacation plans, retirement plans, I have business plans, sports plans, money plans, wedding plans, family plans etc. Sometimes we are so busy with these plans, or maintaining our stuff, that we donít think about Jesusí return or our purposes as His people. Are you ready, because ready or notÖ?

b. Luke 21:36 tells us that being ready includes our praying. ĎWatch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." When we pray, we pray for His Kingdom to come and the world to be made right and whole again. We also pray to be clean and ready for His return. Counted worthy-literally means here to have the strength to endure. Warfare is not easy. It seems that there is not a front where there isnít conflict. You have often heard it said before, that the Christian life is not a playground, it is a battlefield. We need to pray, "God, I need strength and wisdom, perhaps rest. O, Lord, today, help me to stand strong as your soldier, to endure the hardships I may face, to be ready to give an answer or to tell others how to have hope in a hopeless world." We are to be trusting our Lord one day at a time as we wait for His return.

c. It includes Personal Holiness as Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3:11 -14, "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Be Steadfast 14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and Paul reminds us in Titus 2:11-15, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.

d. It includes being busy about the Lordís business. We will talk of this in two weeks when we look at Ch. 25. This means being disciple makers. We have the responsibility of telling people not only how to be forgiven but how to escape the wrath that is coming, so they too can be children of God and heirs of eternity.

e. May I say that being ready also includes resting in the promises of God? Those promises include all He has prepared for His family either in heaven or on the earth when he established His kingdom when He returns. Do you know these promises? Thatís why I love the last two chapters of the Bible. No more night, no more painÖ.

The world that is, is the dark side of the cookie, it will pass away.

The world that is coming is the light side of the cookie; a golden age of peace and righteousness when Jesus returns and reigns as King of Kings.

But in the middle, there will be a horrible time of judgment as God purges His earth before He creates a beautiful new world. And, we have a job to do as we serve our Lord; a search and rescue operation. Are you ready? Because Ready or Not He is coming?

Do you know Jesus as your Savior and Lord? It is the only way to escape Godís Judgment.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior and Lord? Everyone is susceptible to tough times, but only those who know Jesus have the certainty of forgiveness and the promises of God. Would you open your hearts and invite Jesus in? Let's pray.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman