10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
January 1, 2017
The beginning of each new year can be a big deal for people. Some may reflect upon the past and look forward to the future. Others may seek to turn the page and start things over or make commitments and do better in the new year. Gym attendance goes up. Bad habits are out. And fireworks and festivities and food and football are thoroughly enjoyed.
And then there is the countdown. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. Happy new year!!!” Countdowns are quite profound if you stop and think about it. There are countdowns for good things. A child counts down to his or her birthday. A couple counts down to their wedding date. A soldier counts down to coming home. But there are also countdowns for bad things. An rescue worker may count down to the impact of a tsunami. A boy may countdown to when he’s too old to be adopted. A patient may count down to dying from cancer. Whether for good or for bad, countdowns can be profound and dramatic.
But there is a countdown of all countdowns that should always be on your mind. I am talking about the return of Jesus Christ. The Day of the Lord. The end of redemptive history. The final judgment. The beginning of the new heavens and the new earth. And the end of all suffering and crying and sin and death. Soon and very soon, this countdown will reach zero.
Jesus will come back. And he tells us what his return will be like. On the day of his return, you will know what to look for. And you will know what to do.
First, what to look for. Jesus says that his return will be clear. Instant. Unmistakable. His return will be like a flash of lightning that lights up the entire night sky.
This is important. This means that you will know when that day comes. You will know. Nobody will have to tell you that it happened. You won’t need to check the news. You will not need to text me just to make sure. When Jesus comes back, you will know. The whole world will know. So if someone comes up to you and says, “Look, there’s Jesus,” don’t follow them. Jesus will not return quietly or in secret. His return will be clear, instant and unmistakable.
Second, what to do. Since Jesus is returning, be ready… and don’t turn back.
Jesus says that his return will be like the stories of Noah and Lot. Judgment came for the neighbors of Noah and for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. But they were not ready. They didn’t listen to God. They didn’t repent and believe. Instead, they were eating and drinking and getting married. They were buying and selling and planting and building things. They were basically doing their own thing. But not Noah or Lot. Noah built the ark. And Lot ran away from his city. On the most important day of their lives, on the day of God’s judgment, they were ready.
When Jesus Christ returns in judgment, you also must be ready. So start today. Be in an alert posture. Be a person who is waiting and looking forward to Christ’s return. Practice this. And do not do your own thing. Do not be like Noah’s neighbors or like Lot’s city. Be ready. Start today. Read the bible, grow in faith, and invite others to repent and believe in Jesus. Be ready!
Jesus also tells us to not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. She also ran away, but she turned around and looked back. People remember that she turned into a pillar of salt. But that’s not the point. It’s not that she turned into a pillar of salt. It’s that God killed her. She came under God’s judgment and died with the rest of her city. She died because she turned back.
Brothers and sisters, do not overthink what I am about to say. If you turn back, you are not going to make it. You will die. Jesus says, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” So when you are tempted or tried in life, do not turn around and look back. Do not become worldly. Do not compromise your faith. Do not love anything or anyone more than God. Do not be influenced by your non-Christian friends. No turning back. No turning back.
And do not do your own thing. Many people around you right now are doing their own thing. Like the Old Testament stories, they too are eating and drinking and marrying and buying and selling and planting and building. I’m not saying that such things are bad in and of themselves. What I am saying is that such people are badly unprepared for what’s coming. Either they do not know what is going to happen, or they just don’t care. But you are different. Do not do your own thing. Instead, love the King. Look forward to Jesus’ kingdom. Have treasures in heaven, not on earth. Do not do your own thing.
Jesus says, “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” When Jesus comes back, he will gather his people into his kingdom. And those who did not repent and believe in him will be left behind. They will not enter. They will face judgment. And they will suffer a second and eternal death in hell forever. “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” There will be much death when Jesus comes back.
But praise God for his grace and mercy on us! Thanks be to God for saving us in Jesus Christ! In him we are forgiven of our sins. In him we have resurrection life. In him we have a guaranteed place in heaven. All glory and honor and power to Jesus!
Let us desire for Christ’s return. A Christian looks at the world and is not impressed. There are a lot of nice things about it, for sure. We have many responsibilities to it, no doubt. But the bible tells us that the world will be destroyed and replaced with a new one. This old and fading world is not our home. So Christians look forward to a new heavens and a new earth. We desire for Christ’s return. We believe in his promises about the future kingdom. And above all things, we countdown to this.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, I ask you two simple but deep questions. First, what are you counting down to in your life? And second, do you ever consider what Jesus is counting down to as he sits at the right hand of God?
Let us mark and measure our time on this earth with the countdown of heaven. In the spirit of Psalm 90:12, let us “number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” In the spirit of Hebrews 10:24-25, let us “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” In the spirit of 2 Peter 3, let us live holy and godly lives, casting off sinfulness and worldliness. In the spirit of Revelation 22, let us cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
The King will soon return. In the blink of an eye, the ball will drop to zero, and then the present form of this world will completely pass away and make way for a final kingdom, an exaltation that Adam never experienced, and a and new heavens and new earth that will be beyond our greatest imaginations. And when we get there, no one will think much about 2016 or 2017 or any year of the past. Rather, when you see the Lord face to face, I can only imagine what your first words will be to him. And I can only imagine what his first words will be to you.
Why don't you figure out what you're going to say to Jesus when you see him? Why don't you get ready?