It's time to look up─redemption draweth nigh! Didn't you feel this way listening to the news this week? Did you notice how the news people spoke of Gorbachev's visit to Rome as a pilgrimage and how Catholicism is portrayed as synonymous or representative of Christianity?
Did you notice, that when Dan Rather asked Billy Graham if Gorbachev was using the pope in all this, Graham said, "Perhaps they're using each other. And if that's the case, my money's on the pope."
And what do you make of the summit meetings between the superpowers, their proposal for disarmament, and the Biblical warning of when we hear the cries of "peace and safety"
Please turn in your Bibles to Revelation 19:1-9 "And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord of our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, s─aying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!"
Revelation 22:7, 12-14, 20, 21 "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of thisbook. . . . And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. . . . He which testifieth these things, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
When? Soon! That's all we know─and all we need to know. There are those who believe they can come very close to pinning down a date. They figure their charts on world political and religious events, or economic indicators, or a prophetic theory of Old Testament feasts, holidays, and jubilees.
Some have had to set later dates when the five years or so they had allowed for the return of Jesus passed into history. Others are waiting for their forecast to be tested.
There is an amazing variety to the theories, from interesting to ridiculous─from scholarly to dependence on dream communication from a supposed heavenly angel.
Occasionally in the newspaper you'll see an ad regarding the coming of some "messiah," or a block ad claiming significance to what they believe to be the first year of the seventh millennium coming in 1992.
Some believe in a 6000 year theory; will give you a list of references, a chart of the sanctuary and religious feasts and supposed jubilees─concluding Jesus will come in 1994.
Hasn't it occurred to you that the devil, who certainly is not stupid, could undoubtedly be laying the groundwork of deception for his counterfeit of Christ's coming? (For every truth there is a counterfeit.)
The urgency, the specifics, the sensational always appeals to enough people and creates scoffers and doubters at the same time.
I believe the words of Jesus─for whatever reason, He said it this way─"Behold I come quickly."
When? Quickly! That's all we know and that's all we need to know. It was Jesus who said, as recorded in Matthew 24, "When ye shall see these things (the signs of My coming), know that it is near, even at the doors (verse 33) . . . But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only (verse 36) . . . Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh (verse 44)".
If I were to ask you this morning, if you believe that Jesus would come back this month or perhaps before the end of the year you'd probably vote "NO."
If so, it's possible that in the back of your mind you have a vestige of the idea of "getting ready" rather than "being ready." I don't know when He will come, but I know He will come! He is coming soon!
DO YOU want Jesus to come soon? Are there things you want to do first (get an education, get married, have a child, live in financial security . . .)? Or perhaps you want the Lord to come before something particular happens─before you need to have surgery, before you need to face the world and fend for yourself, before you die? And are you ready for Jesus to come? . . . Would your heart be right, if He came tonight? The Lord is coming, are you ready?" Would you "love His appearing?"
Do you really want Jesus to come? The Bible says, "And every man that has this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3:3).
The burden of our message is given in our text for today─it's the Everlasting Gospel─that God is just and the Justifier of everyone that believes on Jesus Christ. We preach it in the context of the advent so that His Kingdom may come when His will is "done on earth as it is in heaven."
Jesus may be waiting for a people to come and claim as Hisown. He did say, "When this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, then shall the end come."
It's estimated that there are 18-20,000 unreached people groups in the world today─groups of people who have not been reached with the gospel by any Christian. This translates into about 80,000 people who die every 24 hours or 55 every minute who have never heard the sweetest name on earth─who have never heard the story of Jesus. What are we doing for them?
To His followers Jesus says, "You shall be witnesses". After healing a man, Jesus said, "Tell what great things the Lord has done for you". That's what witnesses do─they tell what they know. Now there are some professed Christians that more closely resemble, or try to act the part, of the judge; some the prosecuting attorney; some the defense attorney. Some like to pass sentence; others find fault; others defend the truth. Jesus wants you to be a witness. (Begin to speak, then sing, motioning congregation to join: "I Love to Tell the Story.")
A witness is not very effective if they simply tell what they heard other witnesses say─they are not asked to share what they think or have ideas about─they are not to speculate or guess─they are to tell what they know. Do you know Whom you have believed?
I know not why God's wondrous grace,
To me He hath made known,
Nor why unworthy─Christ in love,
Redeemed me for His own.
I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.
But I know whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able,
To keep that which I've committed,
Unto Him against that day.
This much you need to know─"Jesus loves me, this I know!" And, "when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!" "We have this HOPE that burns in all our hearts─HOPE in the coming of the Lord."
"When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be." It will be quite a day if we all get to heaven, won't it? But will we all get there? Would that surprise some of you?It may surprise you who isn't there.
Oh, there will be some surprises there. But I doubt if it will be the kind where you are surprised that so-and-so made it, because if that is your thinking, chances are you won't be there. For Jesus said, "Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." (Matthew 7:1, 2)
If you, with the knowledge of Christ that you have, make it to heaven, it doubtful will be a surprise─because if you believe the words of Jesus, that He's coming again "to receive you unto Myself: that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3), where's the surprise? It will surprise those who didn't have the hope─those who didn't know the love of Jesus, or the promise of heaven as a home.
Sitting beside a bed-ridden shut-in this week, I listened as she spoke of her love for Jesus, and her faith in His promises. She then said, "I'm not going to die─I'm just going to go to sleep."
"Yes, even so, come, Lord Jesus." The disciple John knew some of the distance between promises and realization because of evil and its effects in our world. Perhaps that's why he ends his letter to the churches, wishing the grace of our Lord JesusChrist to be with us.
When trouble would tear away faith, when disaster tries to have us cast away our confidence, when death tries to rip away from us all hope─I can hear Jesus say, "Behold, I come quickly." When you cry over the loss of a friend, when you think of human suffering, when you battle with temptation─Does Jesus hear you pray, "Even so, Come, Lord Jesus"?
For you and I to live is Christ and to die for Him is gain. Whatever happens is okay, as long as we are there to crown Him Lord of all.
(SONGS: "Hail Him The King of Glory" Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, number 202)
"We are not to know the definite time either for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or for the coming of Christ" (Evangelism, page 221) "our only safety is in being ready for the heavenly refreshing" (Selected Messages, Book 1, page 192).
"Why has God not given us this knowledge?─Because we would not make the right use of it if He did. A condition of things would result from this knowledge among our people that would greatly retard the work of God in preparing a people to stand in the great day that is to come. We are not to be engrossed with speculation in regard to the times and the seasons which God has not revealed" (Evangelism, page 221).
You can't possibly believe that Jesus is waiting for this world to get any worse, before He comes, can you?
He certainly is not waiting for a specific date in history. How else could Mrs. White record in 1898, "Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory" (Desire of Ages, pages 633, 634).
"Instead of exhausting the powers of our mind in speculations in regard to the times and seasons which the Lord has placed in His own power, and withheld from men, we are to yield ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit, to do present duties, to give the bread of life, unadulterated with human opinions, to souls who are perishing for the truth" (R&H, March 22, 1892; Evangelism, page 702).
Mark A. Heisey is a pastor in North Carolina.