One afternoon while we were camping in the sequoias fo California, we started to notice that the clouds were beginning to look a little heavy and ominous. As evening began to fall, we started feeling a drop of rain here and there. As experienced campers, my wife and I knew that we needed to take a few precautions before we went to bed for the night. We folded up our camp chairs and put them into our car, and then we took down all of our towels and clothes off of our clothesline and put them into the tent. We made sure that anything that could be damaged by the rain was in a safe and dry place. There’s something romantic about being in a tent while its raining, but there is nothing fun about having to run out in the middle of the night in a rain storm to cover and move things out of the rain.
In Matthew 16:1-12, Jesus spoke about observing the signs of the weather, and the activities that are affected when we are good judges of what will occur. Even today, we still read signs. We read the stock market to see whether or not stock prices will go up or down. We forecast the trends of politics and the real estate market. Some people are involved in watching the trends of fashion and technology.
But, what about the big picture? What about the signs of the times that point to the end of the world? The only person the world sees warning about the end of the world is the homeless guy in the movies who holds up a sign warning of the end of the world. The unbelieving world demonstrates its willful unbelief when it can read the signs of the culture while rejecting the signs of the end of the ages.
Of course, Jesus’ comments were to unbelieving Jews who were absolutely rejecting the Messiah and the clear signs that he had been sent from the Father. But as I meditated on how I could apply this text to myself, I realized that we, even as Christians, sometimes can demonstrate willful unbelief much like the Jews did. How do Christians demonstrate our willful unbelief by rejecting those same signs? I think there are at least three ways:
1. By Failing to Live Holy Lives-2Pet 3:10-13
Like practical atheists we can say we believe that Christ is returning, but act like his coming is a long way off–probably beyond our lifetimes. Peter recognized that since the day of the Lord is assured, his coming should affect our striving after holiness and godliness.
2. By Failing to Live For Heaven instead of Earth-1Cor 3:10-15
Paul instructed the Corinthian church to stop living for worldly pleasures and to think ahead to that day when they would stand before the Lord and give an account for the sort of life they lived. Would their efforts burn down and blow over like the straw house of the three little pigs or would it stand the refining fire and come forth as refined jewels? Everything that we do in this time frame we have been given will count for eternity–and for some Christians, they won’t have much to count.
3. By Failing to Evangelize the Lost (Acts 20:24-27)
Paul was pretty sure that he was heading for rough times when he headed for Jerusalem. He stopped in to say goodbye to the Ephesian church elders on his way back, and he felt that this might be the last time he would see them. He wasn’t thinking about Jesus’ return as much as the fact that he might go to see Jesus first. So, when he assessed the effectiveness of his time with these brothers in Christ, he was confident that he had done everything that a faithful servant of Christ can do, including preaching the truth of the gospel without any reservations. Paul’s conscience was clear, and his hands were clean.
Jesus’ return may come before we die, or after we die, but what’s the difference? We’ll still be called to give an account as stewards of the gospel treasure. How will you fair?
The signs that Jesus spoke of regarding the end times are true. As Jonah illustrated, Jesus died and rose again. But that isn’t where the gospel ends. He is coming back. Do you believe that? Can you read the signs around us that show us that it will be soon?
Do you have enough sense to get out of a storm?
We need to respond to Christ, not out of fear, but out of faith. Jesus IS coming soon. We need to be prepared.