36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:36-44)
In 1878, the Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end of the world would come. They were sure. Absolutely certain. Did it? No. So they recalculated. Next, the Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end of the world in 1881. Nope. So they pushed it back a little further—1914. No, but with World War I starting, it seemed close. So 1918. Nope. 1925? Nada. 1975? Nothing. Finally, the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped predicting. But others didn’t. Y2K. Remember that? I can remember the anxiety on December 31, 1999. Nothing happened. One of the latest was 12-21-2012—the end of the Mayan calendar. The world would end, right? No. We always want to know when. When is Jesus coming back? But it seems like people are always wrong, doesn’t it?
So maybe we should try listening to Jesus. He says, “but about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” When is Jesus coming back? “No one knows.” Could Jesus possibly be any clearer? When is Judgment Day? “No one knows.” Amen…. We could stop this sermon right there. No one knows when Jesus is coming back!
But there is still a lot to know. Starting with this: How come even Jesus doesn’t know when he’s coming back? “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” How come Jesus doesn’t know? The Bible tells us that when Jesus become a human being, he humbled himself. He never stopped being God. Jesus is God! As God, Jesus knows everything. But he humbled himself. Jesus let himself be hungry and thirsty and tired and die—and not know the date of Judgment Day. It’s ironic that Jesus humbly says he doesn’t know the date, but we people proudly claim we do! Jesus couldn’t be any clearer. “No one knows.”
But trying to guess the date isn’t the only way to get Judgment Day wrong. You know who else gets it wrong? The movies! I know it’s hard to believe, but movies get Judgment Day all wrong too. Movies about the end of the world are everywhere, aren’t they? Apocalypse. Zombies. Armageddon. All the movies have a similar plot. Some terrible disaster wipes out almost all people on earth—an asteroid, a tsunami, an illness. People see it coming but are powerless to stop it. Only a few people somehow survive, and the movie ends with them looking out over the devastation on earth. Bum bum bum… You’ve seen end of the world movies, haven’t you?
They get it all wrong. First, every movie misses the whole point of Judgment Day. Jesus is coming back to take believers to heaven! That’s what it’s all about! But every movie gets something else wrong too: Judgment Day is going to be unexpected. Nobody will see it coming. Listen to Jesus: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
What’s different than the movies? The end is going to come suddenly. There’s no warning. No impending disaster. Jesus points us back to the days of the flood. In Noah’s day, the unbelieving world had no idea the flood was coming. Life went on as normal until the very day of the flood. The flood sirens didn’t go off. People were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” when it started raining. And it didn’t stop. Not until the waters swept them all away. It was sudden. It was unexpected. From normal, everyday life to eternal judgment in a snap.
“That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Human life will go on as normal until the very day of Judgment Day. Listen to Jesus: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” When Jesus comes back, people won’t be holed up in bunkers. They will be working at their jobs. They will be cooking supper in their kitchens. When suddenly, “at an hour when you do not expect him,” Jesus will separate believers from unbelievers in a snap. Believers will be taken up to heaven, and unbelievers will be left for judgment in hell. Just like that. Suddenly.
So don’t follow date setters. Don’t believe the movies. And someone else has Judgment Day wrong too. Have you heard of the “Left Behind” books? The “Left Behind” series is one of the most popular Christian book series ever. Over 80 million copies have sold. “Left Behind” books focus on the “rapture.” Do you know what the “rapture” is? It’s the idea that Jesus isn’t coming back right away to judge the living and the dead. Instead, all believers will suddenly be snatched up to heaven. Unbelievers will be left behind on earth for seven years to have another chance to repent and believe in Jesus. Then Jesus will come back, but still not to judge. Jesus will rule for 1000 years on earth from Jerusalem. Finally, the third time around, Jesus will judge the world.
Got all that? Here’s the better question: Is that how Jesus describes it? No way! According to Jesus, Judgment Day is simple. There’s no rapture. There are no second chances. There’s no millennial kingdom on earth. It’s not complicated. One day, when people least expect it, Jesus is going to come back once and for all to judge the living and the dead. Those who believe in Jesus will be taken to live with Jesus forever in heaven. Those who don’t believe will be left for destruction in hell forever. That day is unknown. It’s sudden. It’s final. But it’s not complicated.
It’s just that there’s one other group that often gets Judgment Day wrong. We do. We hear people make predictions, and we assume: “Judgment Day is way in the future. Someday.” We watch apocalyptic movies and think, “When I see it coming, then I’ll get ready.” We hear about the “rapture,” and we think, “There will always be a second chance.” What’s the result? When was the last time you actually thought about Judgment Day? It’s not on our minds, is it? Instead, who are the Packers playing today? Have you started Christmas shopping yet? Did you get a deer? Judgment Day? Someday. There are way too many other more pressing matters right now.
Can you see the danger? It hit me as I studied Jesus’ words. “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” What if you’re at your job when Jesus comes again, and you’re not ready? Can you imagine your co-worker being taken up with Jesus to heaven and you being left for hell? What if you and your mom are cooking in the kitchen when Jesus comes back? Can you imagine your mom being taken up to heaven and you being left for hell? Isn’t that an awful thought? People talk about FOMO—Fear of Missing Out. Imagine missing out on heaven. That’s why there’s no room for spiritual laziness. There’s no putting off Jesus. When is Jesus coming back? “No one knows.” But it’s going to be sudden. Unexpected. I don’t want to miss out!
You know who else doesn’t want you to miss out on heaven? Jesus! That’s why he tells us all of these things. Jesus doesn’t want you and me to miss out on heaven! There’s a verse later in the Bible that says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9). If it seems to us like it’s taking a long time for Jesus to come back, God has a reason: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God’s goal for every one of us is to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus.
Because Jesus doesn’t want you to miss out on heaven! Not you or me or anybody else. He wants Judgment Day for all of us to be a joyful day. That’s why he humbled himself and died on the cross to forgive all of our sins. That’s why he rose from the dead and promises eternal life to those who believe in him. Jesus didn’t leave heaven and suffer and die on earth so that he could go back to heaven and sit there alone. Jesus wants you to be with him in heaven.
That’s why he gives us these warnings—because he loves us! Jesus says, “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” He says, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” If no one knows when Jesus is coming back, when is the day to repent of our sins? When is the day to trust in Jesus? I like what a lady said in a Spanish Bible study recently. I asked when we need to be ready for Jesus, and she said, “Since yesterday.” The last day is hidden from us, so that every day matters to us.
You know that God’s done all this before, right? He’s promised that Jesus was coming before. He told Abraham, 2000 years before Jesus was born. “Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). He told Moses, 1500 years before Jesus was born, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites” (Deuteronomy 18:18). He told Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son” (Isaiah 7:14). No one knew when Jesus was coming. It seemed like God was taking a long time. But he came! “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son,” (Galatians 4:4). When Jesus was born to save us that Christmas night, it was unknown. It was sudden. It was just like God said.
And the shepherds were ready. Oh, they were surprised. But they were ready! On a normal night, as the shepherds were at work, the angel suddenly appeared and declared: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). And the shepherds didn’t say, “Who?” They said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Luke 2:15). “He’s here! God kept his promise. Jesus is here!” A sudden surprise? Yes! But the result was joy they had never felt before. “He’s here!”
That joy of Christmas is the joy Jesus wants you to have on Judgment Day. The joy of “He’s here!” There will be surprise. It’s going to be sudden and unexpected! Nobody’s ever going to be able to predict the date. But when God keeps his promise again, Jesus wants your heart to be filled with joy: “He’s here!” So here’s what Jesus says. “Keep watch.” “Be ready.” When’s the time to repent of your sins? Since yesterday. When’s the time to hear Jesus’ Word and treasure his promises? Since yesterday. When’s the time to loosen your grip on this world and look forward to heaven? Since yesterday. Because when is Jesus coming back? “No one knows…”